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Articles / Applying to College / Will Admission Officials Recognize My Improvement?

Will Admission Officials Recognize My Improvement?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Oct. 5, 2017

Question: Hello. I have a question about GPA's. I had an average GPA in my freshman year, and I took a few honors classes. It is almost the end of the first quarter of my sophomore year, and my grades aren't the greatest right now. I was wondering how cumulative GPA is calculated, and I was wondering if colleges are fond of improvement over time (meaning, if I got my grades higher as high school continues, would colleges like that). Thank you!

A cumulative GPA is usually based on all of the classes you took in high school. Your high school transcript will always include a cumulative GPA (unless you attend one of the handful of high schools—usually private schools or alternative schools—that don't compute it). Some colleges, however, will recalculate your GPA before evaluating your application. These colleges may eliminate grades in non-academic areas like gym and wood shop and health before they recalculate. Some will count only the “core" classes such as English, social studies, math, science, and foreign language.

While your overall GPA will play a starring role in your college outcomes, admission committees definitely do not view the GPA in a vacuum. Instead, they look at all of your grades through each year of high school and are quick to acknowledge when a student has a “rising record." Thus, if two students have the exact same GPA but one got her best grades in her freshman and sophomore years while the other got her best grades as a junior or senior, it's that second student who will get more consideration at decision time. So perhaps that will be YOU!

If you are disappointed with your current grades, then it's not too late to ask yourself WHY you're not doing better. Are you taking classes that are too hard? Do you pay attention in class or do you daydream and doodle? Do you ask questions when you're confused? Do you go to extra-help sessions when offered? Do you seem to understand the work but do poorly on tests (and thus might benefit from some tutoring and extra test practice)? Do you do your homework regularly and thoroughly? Are you simply bored with the subject matter?

If you can hone in on the reasons for your so-so grades, you may be able to raise them. However, not everyone is going to be an A student, and some teenagers who aren't at all excited about their high school classes will find passions later on in life (culinary arts? fashion design? graphic design? firefighting?) where they excel.

So do try to improve your grades but don't be too quick to tie your GPA to your self-esteem or to your hopes for the future. There are lots of routes to happiness and success in life that aren't connected to your high school report card!

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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