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Articles / Applying to College / How Does High School Compute Transfer-Student GPA?

Nov. 29, 2008

How Does High School Compute Transfer-Student GPA?

Question: We have recently moved to the US (Texas) from Singapore and my son is a junior in HS. He pursued a challenging Pre-IB course for freshman and sophomore yrs and followed a different grading system (A=70+marks). Here in TX, a similar score would be a failing grade. In this case how will the GPA be calculated?

Have you already checked with your son's new school to ascertain whether or not the they will calculate a cumulative GPA for him that includes his grades from his school in Singapore? Some high schools do not include grades that a transfer student earned elsewhere, particularly if the student comes from a school with a very different grading system. If you know that the current school WILL calculate a GPA that includes your son's grades from Singapore, then you must present his current school counselor with a school profile or transcript key from the last school that explains the grading system, highlighting the fact that any grade over a 70 is an "A", etc. Presumably, if you can present this in writing from the old school, then the new school will count the letter grades that your son earned in Singapore and NOT the numerical ones.


If your son's Texas school WON'T be including his Singapore grades in his GPA, then when it comes time for your son to apply to college, he will simply solicit a transcript from his Singapore school to be sent to all his target colleges. Again, it is imperative that the transcript include a school profile or key to explain the grading system. (But, depending on where your son applies and how accustomed each college is to international applicants, it's likely that admission staff will already be familiar with this more stringent grading system.)

Another consideration, however, is class rank. If the Texas school is one that ranks its students, you will need to discuss whether the Singapore grades will be factored into your son's rank, and--if so--how they will be interpreted. As a pre-IB student, presumably his Singapore classes would correlate with US honors classes and should be "weighted" as such if a rank is computed. Again, this is something that you may need to discuss with the Texas guidance counselor. Be sure to provide as much documentation as possible to prove that the grading system is significantly different in Singapore and to also show that your son's classes there were comparable to honors classes here.

Hopefully the Texas school officials will work with you to provide a smooth and accurate transition from one grading system to the next. But if you encounter frustrations along the way, you can always send an explanatory letter to colleges next year that will spell out any problems you encountered when you relocated here.

Again, rest assured that college admission officials, especially at the more selective schools, are accustomed to dealing with variations among grading systems and with students who have moved from one type of system to another, even internationally.

Hope that this answers your question. Best wishes for happiness in your new home.

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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