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Articles / Admissions / Will Low Frosh Grades Hurt Ivy Chances?

May 28, 2020

Will Low Frosh Grades Hurt Ivy Chances?

Question: Do I have a chance of getting into an Ivy League university if I show them that I have improved tremendously academically from my freshman to senior year? How will low freshman and sophomore grades hurt my Ivy chances?

A "rising record," as admission folks call it, is certainly better than a tumbling one. However, low grades at the start of your high school career can damage Ivy-admission odds. This is largely true because so-so grades in the early years of high school make an impact on a class rank that is usually irreparable. In other words, in most high schools, even straight A's in 11 and 12 won't allow those who didn't start off with a bang to climb to the top of the class. Sad but true.


If you're lucky, your school doesn't rank, so you won't get totally torpedoed by your frosh and soph grades, but, nonetheless, you will be competing against tons of very strong students whose records boast only tip-top grades.

If you're really lucky (and talented and diligent, too), you may have unique strengths, interests, family background, etc., that will spur Ivy admission officials to look beyond your 9th and 10th grade record.

Are there are extenuating circumstances that led to your earlier marks (illness, family problems, etc.)? Sometimes it's appropriate to explain them to colleges. Make sure that you don't pass off minor problems ("My sister played her music too loud") as major ones, but do disclose serious issues, if appropriate.

You can also try the College Confidential Academic Index calculator (it's free at http://www.collegeconfidential.com/academic_index.htm) to see how your "numbers" stack up against those of other Ivy aspirants. (You'll need SAT I scores and three SAT II scores to do it.)

Good luck to you.

Written by

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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