3 years ago
Admissions Advice

How can I meet the academic threshold of top schools?

By the time I graduate, I will have taken around 10 AP classes and around the same number of honors classes. These 20 classes do not include my electives, non honors courses, etc. I added this information to my chancing profile and found out that I didn’t meet the academic threshold for some of my dreams schools. I was wondering if anyone had any advice as to how I can improve to meet the academic threshold at these schools.


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1 answer

3 years ago[edited]

All elite colleges such as Ivys and elite LACs use a holistic approach to evaluating your application file. So there are many data points and many criteria that are reviewed. The academic threshold is just 1 of many criteria. Others but not limited to this list are your ECs, essays, recommendations, race, gender, zip code (demographics), family income/assets (socioeconomic status relative to others), test scores, class rank, athletic ability, talent, unique spikes, intellectual curiosity or vitality, legacy status or another VIP status (development candidate, celebrity, recruited athlete, or deans list (that's the college, not your HS).


Your AP Classes are weighted much more in the chancing engine versus Honors Classes. In fact, I don't think Honors classes count for much in the admissions criteria or the chancing engine, only AP or IB or College Courses. So right off the bat, you have 10 rigorous classes, not 20. And it really doesn't matter if you have 8,9,10,11, or 12. What matters is that you meet the average amount of AP classes for admits at the schools you are applying to. So if for instance at Duke, say it's 7 APs, that's the academic threshold you want to meet or exceed. 10 is an arbitrary number that is not required by any elite college. Also, on a minor matter, if your school only offers 8 APs and you take all 8 APs that looks better than if your school offers 22 APS and you take 5 APs.

Also when you use the chancing engine, if you are submitting 6 AP scores with 4s and 5s, that looks way better than submitting 2s and 3s.

The main factor is your unweighted GPA relative to the course rigor. So if you have 4.00 UWGPA and 4 APs out of 22 available with average of 3 AP scores that don't look as good as having a 3.90 UWGPA with 8 APS out of an available 12 APS and an average of 4.5 AP scores. Once you fall below say the average UWGPA for that school you are applying to, then you need more APs and better ECs to make up the deficit. So if your UWGPA is like a 3.6 but you have taken 10 APS with a 4.5 average and have great ECs, that does make up for some of the difference but not all of it.

Submitting test scores like a 99% ACT or SAT percentile score will help if you have a weak spot in your academics. So let's use the last example of having a 3.6 UWGPA. If you submit a 35 ACT or 1540 SAT, that helps your narrative because it shows evidence of your aptitude and there is a positive correlation between having high test scores and getting good grades in college. But since tests are optional, that is something you have to decide for yourself to pursue. The same goes with submitting a high optional writing test score or an SAT II subject test score. These both are being phased out in a few months so this would only apply to juniors who are going to apply next admissions cycle who want to hedge themselves by having high optional test scores. Again, these are optional, and not submitting them will not hurt you however, let's read between the lines and understand that it wouldn't be politically correct for any college to say that optional tests may help you. I still believe submitting a high test score/s helps certain applicants.

Although this is now dated by 3 years, most of the facts of how Harvard reads one's application file remain intact and true. Therefore I'm submitting this as evidence that you do not need to have perfect test scores. What is most important is that you get like a 98%+ test score, preferably a 99% test score, and have some fantastic ECs and evidence that you are a good person that wants to make the world a better place. Character is a big deciding factor with many elite colleges because they would rather have someone that adds to the quality of the incoming Freshman cohorts rather than a bunch of book smart robots that have no personality. There are literally hundreds of colleges that can prepare you to be a proficient programmer, engineer, accountant, or biologist. I think your choice to attend a Top college should be about having an open mind to experience new things and become the best version of yourself who can think for yourself.



I applied ED to Columbia and got in. If I didn't, I'm sure I would have applied to most of the Ivys including Harvard. I planned much of my HS resume around what I thought Harvard wanted to see in a candidate because I think it is the hardest school to get into and the most complicated. That is why I'm sharing with you the articles so you can determine for yourself whether you are focusing too much on academics and not enough on other important aspects of your college narrative and resume.

Good luck and hope you learn something new from reading these.

What are your chances of acceptance?
Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
+ add school
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

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