In Ivy League admissions, getting great grades in the most challenging curriculum that your high school offers is of great importance. Getting good (but not great) grades in the most challenging curriculum your high school offers often doesn’t cut it. Getting great grades in a curriculum that is not your high school’s most rigorous often doesn’t cut it either. Many times, our students will not only excel in the most challenging curriculum their high school offers, but they’ll choose to take even more AP exams in courses not offered by their school. And they’ll excel on those exams, too!
But this post isn’t about getting great grades in the most challenging curriculum. This post is about grade grubbing and how it can impact your chances for Ivy League admission. In short, don’t grade grub. It jeopardizes your chances for admission. It paints you as unlikeable. It inspires nobody to want to fight for you if the admissions decision is a close call. Highly selective colleges — like the Ivy League colleges — want students who love learning. And they mean that. They want students who want to expand their minds, to learn new things, and to listen to what their classmates have to say because they think it might change their opinions. What they don’t want are students who only care about getting great grades. In life, there aren’t A’s and B’s. And college admissions counselors know this. It’s why they want students who love learning for learning’s sake.
If you’re not sure exactly what grade grubbing is, here’s an example: Bobby got a 92 on his chemistry exam, but he asks his teacher if she can raise it to a 95 so that he can get an A. What explanation does he give? That difference will change his life. If he gets a 92, he won’t get into Princeton. If he gets a 95, he will. This is a classic example of grade grubbing. It’s possible that teacher will feel so guilty for Bobby that she’ll give him a 95, but at what cost? She’s certainly not going to write as glowing of a letter of recommendation as she may have had Bobby not presented himself as someone who cares so very much about his grade. Nobody likes people who care so much about their grades. Be cool about it. Don’t grade grub. It’ll improve your odds of admission to Ivy League colleges.Categories: Grades, Ivy League Tags: GPA and Ivy League, GPA and Ivy League Admission, Grades and Ivy League, Grades and Ivy League Admission, Grades and Ivy League Admissions
There’s an interesting op-ed published by John Tierney, a former college professor and high school teacher, who believes that AP classes are “a scam.” We’re going to be discussing John Tierney’s post in future blogs (you might be surprised to know that there is a whole lot about what he wrote that we wholeheartedly agree with), but right now, we just want to share with you a story. Hey, keep in mind that we blog every single day Monday through Sunday, so we need to spread out the material like butter on bread! Anyhow, the story we’re sharing now is one that’s pertinent to Mr. Tierney’s op-ed.
There was a high school student several years ago who had been admitted Regular Decision to an Ivy League school. This student was not a math student by any means. He was strong in his other coursework — math was always a weakness. After the student had been admitted, AP tests rolled around and he was enrolled in an AP Calculus course. He had no shot of getting a 5. And the Ivy League college he was admitted to and agreed to attend the following fall would not give credit for a 3. Or even a 4. So here he was, paying money to take a test that was of absolutely no relevance to his life.
You bet that’s a scam! High schools are regarded as more prestigious when more students sit — and the key word is sit because a 1 counts for this too — for AP exams. This student’s parents had to pay for a purposeless test in which he doodled over the answer key and wrote a strongly worded letter to The College Board in the longer answer math questions kindly requesting a refund. Needless to say, The College Board never wrote back and over the summer, the student found out that he received a 1 for his doodles and strongly worded refund request. His parents never got a refund either. This student was Bev’s son.Categories: Grades Tags: AP Classes, AP Classwork, AP Courses, AP Coursework, AP Testing
If you’re a rising senior, don’t think for a second that your senior year courses don’t matter. They matter a great deal! Don’t think that your workload is over because you finished the toughest year of high school (junior year). Junior year is tough because you have SAT’s piled on top of your demanding coursework, but just because you might be done with your SAT’s, that doesn’t mean you can stop trying. Colleges care a great deal about the rigor of the courses you take during your senior year and, yes, your senior year grades absolutely matter.
Many students think that they can drop AP Physics and simply take the regular physics class. Maybe they’ll drop AP Calculus, too, and take AP Statistics instead. Don’t do it! AP Stat is not AP Calc. If you want to gain admission into a highly selective college — like an Ivy League college — you’ve got to keep up the hard work. You’ve got to keep excelling in the most challenging courses available at your school. And then some! If your school only offers a few AP courses, that doesn’t mean that you can’t take more AP courses (or AP tests only) outside of your school. It’s possible to do that. Many of our students at The Ivy Coach do just that.
So as the school year approaches, wipe that thought of easing up your senior year courses out of your head for good. Don’t even consider it. You’ve worked too hard for too long to mess everything up now. Now is not the time to slack. If during the fourth quarter of senior year you get a B+ instead of your typical A in a class, don’t worry about it. Your admission isn’t going to be rescinded over a B+. But that doesn’t mean you can get a B+ in the first quarter.
And while you’re here, check out this post on Senior Slide.Categories: College Admissions, Grades, Ivy League Tags: High School Senior Classes, Senior Slide, Senior Year Classes, Senior Year Course Selection, Senior Year Courses
If you’re a student who recently received an acceptance letter — or many acceptance letters — to the college or colleges of your dreams, be sure not to start slacking off. Why’s that? Because the very same college that may have once offered you a spot in their incoming freshman class may now choose to rescind their offer should your grades slip or should you get yourself into trouble.
About two-thirds of rescinded decisions are the result of slipping grades. Does that mean that if you get your first “B,” you’ll lose your offer of admission? No. That would be extremely unlikely. What if you get an “F” or a couple of “D’s?” In that case, yes, your offer of admission is certainly now in jeopardy. Why would you put yourself in this position? If you were able to maintain great grades for so many years, why couldn’t you do it for just a few more months? Is it really worth it to risk it all?
And what’s the other one-third of rescinded admissions decisions? Disciplinary actions. That could mean acting out at school, getting suspended, getting arrested, or even participating in senior pranks. Just because you got into college doesn’t mean you can become this whole new person who doesn’t have any regard for the rules and regulations of your school and society. Such disregard for the rules (or laws) can very well jeopardize your offer of admission. So stay out of trouble. Admitted high school seniors need to behave and keep their grades up or risk losing so much of what they’ve ever worked for.
Check out our newsletter on Senioritis.Categories: Grades, Parents Tags: Admitted High School Seniors, Admitted High School Students, College Admits, Seniors Admitted to College, Students Admitted to College
Jay Matthews of “The Washington Post” wrote an article that appears in today’s “Denver Post” in which he states that taking a ton of AP tests (and doing well on them) offers a student no advantage over an applicant who only takes, say, four AP classes and tests. We beg to differ. While Mr. Matthews writes a great deal on the college admissions process and has published books in the field, on this topic, he is misinformed.
Highly selective colleges like the universities that comprise the Ivy League seek overachieving students with great intellectual curiosity. They want students for whom learning and intellect come naturally. They’re not after the student who has to work really hard to earn that A. They’re not after the grade grubber. They’re after the student who goes home, reads a book for pleasure, and aces his history exam because he loves history…not because he pulled an all-nighter studying. And this kind of information is often conveyed in the letters of recommendation from teachers.
So you may wonder how Ivy League admissions officers can gauge which students have an easy time of it in school. Beyond the letters of recommendation, Ivy League admissions counselors can look at AP scores. What do they think about the student whose school only offers six AP courses but he chose to take 3 additional AP tests (not courses, just tests)? They think…he’s mighty smart! Just because your school only offers four AP classes does not by any means mean that you don’t have to take any more AP tests to stand out in a competitive field of college applicants.
When you read something like what Jay Matthews wrote (“If you like AP, taking 12 of them won’t hurt you but confers no advantage over a classmate who took just four and did well on the exams.”), read it with a great deal of skepticism! And while you’re here, check out our newsletter on AP courses and Ivy League admission.Categories: College Admissions, Grades, Ivy League Tags: AP Classes and Ivy League Admission, AP Course Count, AP Course Count and Ivy League, AP Courses and Ivy League Admission, AP Tests and Ivy League
If you’re a student at a school with an International Baccalaureate program, you may wonder if attending an IB school as opposed to a school that offers AP courses will hurt your chances for admission to top colleges. Rest assured, it won’t. As of 2006, 752 high schools in the United States offered International Baccalaureate programs while 16,000 high schools offered AP courses.
The IB program, which had its beginnings in Switzerland, is now utilized in 3,288 schools in 141 different nations. Over 950,000 students study under the IB program and the Taihu International School in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province of China recently became the 4,000th IB program globally, all according to a release by the International Baccalaureate.
The IB requires students to do volunteer work, write an extensive research paper, and complete six mandatory interdisciplinary courses. Unlike in the AP program, one cannot pick and choose which AP courses to take. And what do college admissions counselors at America’s top colleges think about students who complete their International Baccalaureate as compared to students who take AP courses? College admissions counselors at America’s top colleges just want to see that students are taking the most rigorous courses available to them and succeeding in them. That’s all!
According to a “New York Times” article by D.D. Guttenplan on IB programs, “Christopher Watson, dean of undergraduate admissions at Northwestern University, near Chicago, says that ‘while the various qualifications are definitely not all the same, one is not better than another.’ ‘Any credential is less important than what got you there,’ he said…’I think parents don’t realize how in-depth we look,’ Mr. Watson continued, adding that the choice of a particular qualification has little impact on college admissions decisions. ‘You really have to pick a community and an academic setting where your you think your child will be most comfortable.’”College Admissions, Grades, Standardized Testing Tags: IB Exams, IB Programme, IB Programs, IB vs AP Programs, International Bac, International Baccalaureate
At risk of stating the obvious, when college admissions counselors are reading through the plethora of applications, one of the central things they are looking for is whether or not they think the applicant will succeed at their university. It may seem quite obvious but the answer to this question may not be as easy to pinpoint: What is the best predictor of a student’s success in college?
College admissions counselors have a number of data points at their disposal from an application. They have an applicant’s SAT scores, Subject Test scores, AP scores, grades, courses, extracurricular activities, essays, and letters of recommendation, and high school profile, to name a few. Demographic information including ethnicity, occupation of the applicants’ parents, geographic region, and parents’ highest level of completed education are also significant information that college admissions counselors consider.
In Major League Baseball, as depicted in Michael Lewis’ 2003 “New York Times” bestseller “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game,” the General Manager of the Oakland A’s, a small-market team that didn’t have the budget to compete against a division rival like the New York Yankees, decided to change the game. Instead of going after the same players’ teams like the Yankees were going after, they found different predictors of success. So instead of trying to trade for an expensive player who leads the American League in home runs, a Harvard computer wizard by the name of Paul DePodesta who reported to Beane used computer algorithms to discover predictors of success like on-base percentage that could ignite an Oakland A’s dynasty. With this system, the Oakland A’s were able to win four division titles in ten years and, in doing so, changed baseball.
So, is there a Moneyballer like Paul DePodesta, now the VP of Player Development and Scouting for the New York Mets (hired by another Ivy Leaguer in Dartmouth’s Sandy Alderson, the GM of the Mets who trained Beane as his predecessor in Oakland), working in the field of highly selective college admissions? Are there algorithms that can have an impact on The Art of Winning the Unfair Game that is college admissions? In a 2007 study, two UC Berkeley professors, Saul Geiser and Maria Veronica Santelices, found that the best predictor of a student’s college grades is a student’s high school grades. Shocker! Not SAT scores. Not ethnicity. Not AP scores or parental occupations. As the College Board, the administrators of the SAT, admitted about the changes made to the SAT in 2005, “[it] did not substantially change how well the test predicts first-year college performance.”
Wrote Geiser and Santelices in their study, “High-school grades are often viewed as an unreliable criterion for college admissions, owing to differences in grading standards across high schools, while standardized tests are seen as methodologically rigorous, providing a more uniform and valid yardstick for assessing student ability and achievement. The present study challenges that conventional view. The study finds that high-school grade point average (HSGPA) is consistently the best predictor not only of freshman grades in college, the outcome indicator most often employed in predictive-validity studies, but of four-year college outcomes as well.
A previous study, UC and the SAT (Geiser with Studley, 2003), demonstrated that HSGPA in college-preparatory courses was the best predictor of freshman grades for a sample of almost 80,000 students admitted to the University of California. Because freshman grades provide only a short-term indicator of college performance, the present study tracked four-year college outcomes, including cumulative college grades and graduation, for the same sample in order to examine the relative contribution of high-school record and standardized tests in predicting longer- term college performance. Key findings are: (1) HSGPA is consistently the strongest predictor of four-year college outcomes for all academic disciplines, campuses and freshman cohorts in the UC sample; (2) surprisingly, the predictive weight associated with HSGPA increases after the freshman year, accounting for a greater proportion of variance in cumulative fourth-year than first-year college grades; and (3) as an admissions criterion, HSGPA has less adverse impact than standardized tests on disadvantaged and underrepresented minority students.”
This topic of using data to predict the college performance success of college applicants to highly selective colleges is one that we’ll be returning to quite often on our blog pages so tune in here for new news, information, and insight.
And check out the study by UC Berkeley professors Saul Geiser and Maria Veronica Santelices here.Categories: Admissions Process, Grades Tags: AP Scores, College Applicants, Grades and College Success, High School Grades, SAT Scores
With high schools across the country having different grading scales, one may wonder how colleges understand and interpret an applicant’s transcript. Some high schools have grading scales based on 100%, while others are based on 4.0, 5.0, and we’ve even seen 15.0. At some high schools, honors classes are given extra weight and AP or IB courses are given even more weight. So obviously a student who has a 4.0 GPA at one high school may not be comparable to a student who has a 5.0 GPA at another school.
When comparing students from different schools, a GPA can oftentimes be misleading. So what’s an admissions counselor to do? The GPA could be ignored and only the courses and grades considered or the GPA could be recalculated. In recalculating GPAs, some colleges only use core courses, some use other academic courses but eliminate music, art, health, technology, and physical education. And still other colleges eliminate all added weight.
In October of 2009, the University of Michigan reversed their policy of recalculating GPAs. Up until then, it was easy to figure out if a student applying to Michigan would get accepted. By using 10 core courses (English, history, science, math, and foreign language) in only sophomore and junior years and attributing 4 points for an A+, A, or A-, 3 points for a B+, B, or B-, etc., an applicant could do the simple math and know his/her fate.
While admissions counselors at Michigan would claim that they didn’t use cut-offs, a GPA of 3.7 or higher was a magic number. By reversing their policy on recalculating GPAs, Michigan is now taking the high school GPA (extra weight included) and using it as its measure. So if two students from different high schools have basically the same grades but one student has a higher GPA because of extra weight, Michigan is going to give more value to the applicant with the higher, ergo, inflated GPA. Other colleges have different formulas for recalculating GPAs, and without the college going public on its policy, there’s no way to figure out just how they do it.
While it may seem unfair that students from high schools that weight GPA currently have a competitive advantage over students from schools that don’t at the University of Michigan, it’s how it is. There remain ways of course to strategically improve one’s chances for admission, even if one wants to be a Michigan Wolverine.Categories: Admissions Process, Did You Know?, Grades, Other Tidbits Tags: College Admissions, College Applicants, High School Grades, University of Michigan, Unweighted GPA, Weighted GPA