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Articles / Applying to College / Will Admission Officials Understand Rigor of an International High School?

Will Admission Officials Understand Rigor of an International High School?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | June 25, 2016

Question: I am an international student and the school I go to does not provide weighted GPA nor does it have AP or IB classes. The major courses we take do have much larger credit hour. We take 4 subjects 5 days a week and there are subjects with lower value but this is not stated on our transcripts so the colleges might be misled. All that is written is the subject and the grade. I calculated my weighted GPA according to the level of difficulty of each subject and it is very high. How do I show this to the colleges I am applying to? How do I show them that I am actually doing great on very difficult subjects since my transcript represents every class as if they were of equal value?

College admission officers try to understand the curriculum and level of rigor at each high school in their assigned territory. But, nonetheless, even admission officials who are very experienced can have trouble deciphering the curriculum at international schools, especially when an applicant hails from a high school that is rarely represented in their applicant pool.

If your high school frequently sends students to the colleges on your list, then you can be assured that there will be an admission official in charge of evaluating your application who does have a strong sense of the demands of your schedule. But, if not, you would be doing the admission folks—and yourself—a favor by providing a brief “primer." Use the “Additional Information" section of your applications or a separate letter to explain what you've told “The Dean" but in more detail. You can point out how you have “weighted" your own grades, even when this weight won't appear on your transcript.

Admission committees work hard to evaluate every applicant in the context of his or her high school, but sometimes they do end up making “apples versus oranges" comparisons because high schools can vary so greatly. So don't hesitate to provide extra insights that might make their job a little easier.

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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