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Articles / Applying to College / Do Colleges Look at Quarter & Semester Grades?

Oct. 16, 2009

Do Colleges Look at Quarter & Semester Grades?

Question: My child's high school gives quarter and semester grades. Do colleges just look at just the end-of-semester grades or at all grades?

Most high schools put all grades on the transcript that goes to colleges; some high schools, however, will put only the final grade for each course. (For half-year classes or Block System classes, this is usually the semester grade. At schools with four quarters per class or three trimesters, it will be the cumulative grade for that class, as determined by the teacher at the end of the year.)


Assuming that all grades, not just the final ones, are indeed on the transcript, then college admission officials will look at them but they won't really "use" them except sometimes as potential puzzle pieces ... i.e., to help them to discern patterns or problems. For instance, if an A student ends the year with several B's, the admission committee may notice that he or she had one disastrous quarter (C's, D's, maybe even an F) and A's in all the others. If concerned, an admission officer might call the school to get more information about why that student slipped so much in that single term (Illness? Family crisis? etc.)

Occasionally, seeing the quarter grades may raise some flags. If a student is bouncing all over the place with up and down marks in every subject, the college folks may question this candidate's focus and work ethic.

More typically however, the grades don't vary egregiously from quarter to quarter. So if a "B" student has a "C" in one marking period, the admission committees will barely give this a second glance, and the focus will really be just on the final grade.

Hope that answers your question. Be sure to check with your child's school so that you'll know what the colleges will ... and won't ... actually see on the transcript.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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