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Articles / Applying to College / How Will My Son's Skewed Abilities Be Viewed?

How Will My Son's Skewed Abilities Be Viewed?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Sept. 10, 2014

Question: My son is truly gifted in math related subjects but struggles with writing, english and languages.  His SAT scores are almost perfect in math but low 600’s in CR and Writing. He plans to pursue engineering and is currently enrolled in AP Calc, AP Phys, and AP Stat, all of which are a breeze for him.  GPA is 3.7 due to B’s in the weaker subjects and unable to take math related AP’s until senior year.  Will colleges look closer at his math subjects given his interest in engineering or will they compare his overall package with other students for admission?  Also will his Senior fall grades count for admission consideration?

The answer to your first question … which may sound like something of a cop-out … is “a little of each.”

Admission officials will certainly realize that your son’s strengths are skewed. But if they feel that his gifts (both academic and extracurricular) outweigh his deficiencies, they will admit him. If, however, the admission folks see his strengths as being comparable to those of “competitor” applicants who are firing on all cylinders and feel that there is nothing else about his credentials that jumps off the page, then his news may not be good.

Several years ago I worked with a student who was, like your son, outstanding in math and science and much weaker in English and writing. His acceptance list was all over the map. For instance, Middlebury, Wesleyan, and U. of Chicago (among others) all admitted himbut Amherst, Carnegie Mellon, and Haverford did not.

However, many engineering programs will put the greatest emphasis on the math/science. This boy cited above was not applying to engineering majors so his English Achilles Heel may have hurt him more than your own son will be hurt at engineering colleges.

Because college officials will not see your son’s AP results until after admission verdicts have been issued, you should certainly encourage him to take math and science SAT Subject Tests to show off his strong suits.

Your second question is much easier to answer. Colleges will definitely look at senior grades and these grades can be more important than students (and their parents) often think.


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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