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Articles / Applying to College / Will 9th-Grade B and C in Math Hurt Engineering Prospects?

April 2, 2018

Will 9th-Grade B and C in Math Hurt Engineering Prospects?

Question: If I had a C (in a half year, minor math class) and a B in geometry freshman year, but sophomore and junior year have been getting straight As in math classes, what are my chances of being accepted to a fairly competitive engineering school (given that my SAT score surpasses their average, as well as my regular grade point average, and I got above a 700 on the math Sat2), such as UMich or Purdue?

Although your C and B in freshman classes might have some negative impact on your overall GPA (and on your class rank, if your high school is one that provides rank), the college admission committees are going to be focused on your grades in your later, more rigorous classes and thus your 9th grade math grades will definitely not keep you out of competitive engineering programs, if you continue to earn the top grades that are you are earning now.


But do keep in mind that standardized test scores can play a bigger role in engineering admissions than they do in other academic areas. The more selective engineering programs will expect SAT math scores that are well over 700. At the U. of Michigan, for instance, the median SAT score is 1410. So any math score of 700—while certainly nothing to sneeze at and impressive at first glance—would actually put a student below the average there! And even when an engineering program doesn't require Subject Test scores, if you can submit high scores in Math II, Physics, and Chemistry, this will work in your favor.

So, when it's time to apply to college, don't worry about those two atypical freshman grades but do make sure that your college list includes a balance of “Reach," “Realistic" and “Safe" options, and pay attention to how your math and science test scores mesh with the medians.

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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