7 months ago
Admissions Advice

How to Explain Grade Deviations in Applications?


For a bit of background, I am a sophomore at the moment, and we are finishing up the second trimester. First trimester was REALLY difficult for me, I got a B in Honors Algebra 2 (I dropped the class), and a B+ in AP Chem. These grades were marked deviations from my GPA last year. At this point in the second trimester, I am guaranteed to get all A's. I am just wondering how I can explain these deviations in my grades when I go to apply to colleges, as I can't exactly tell them that my mental health was struggling because of the different learning environment. Also a bit of a digression, but does it look bad to colleges if I got a B+ first trimester but improved? Do colleges want to see improvement or will they discount me off the bat because I got a B? Also, how could I explain why I dropped the math class without making myself look bad?

Thank you so much and have an amazing day!

@randomemmy7 months ago

Sometimes on the college applications, colleges will let you explain unusual circumstances, so you can explain your circumstances if you like to. Also, they won't be mad at you if you got a B so do not worry so much! I can't say much about dropping the honors class, but a B really isn't that bad.

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2 answers

Accepted Answer
7 months ago

Hi there! This year has been a struggle for EVERYONE, and there's actually a specific place on college applications for you to explain how COVID impacted you and your grades. You can talk about everything from the decrease in grades you mentioned, to your struggles with your mental health. Just know that there are tons of students going through the same struggles you're going through, and it's nothing to be worried about. Colleges WON'T hold this against you.

For non-COVID related grade decreases, there's a 650-word additional information section on college applications. Your guidance counselor also has to write sort of a "rec letter" for you, and there they can write about fluctuations in your grades.

Colleges love to see improvement! I got a few Bs throughout high school, and I still got into Penn! When talking about your dropped math class, I would discuss that you needed to prioritize your mental health while adjusting to the new environment COVID cast upon you.

Best of luck with your high school journey, and have a great rest of high school! :)

7 months ago

First, I recommend contacting your guidance counselor. Ask them how your school's transcripts look. Most schools only report the final grades for a class. If this is true for your school then any low grades throughout the class wouldn't affect your admissions chances.

Also, AP Chemistry is notoriously difficult. When applying to colleges, admissions officers look at your grades in context. Since AP classes are amongst the most rigorous courses available, colleges will see that you are pushing yourself to be the best that you can be. Therefore, earning a B+ will not reflect super badly on you.

As for Honors Algebra 2, I can relate. I am currently a junior (class of '22), and I took that last year. I tried really hard but, still managed to earn a B+ as my final grade. I was very upset because it was the lowest grade I had ever finished a class with. However, after researching more about the admissions process, I learned that this is okay. Also, I have had to drop a class this year due to Covid-19. Many people are in this situation because of the pandemic. You are not alone and colleges will understand.

Overall, you are in a good shape. You get good grades (B's really are not that detrimental if you show improvement), you take the most difficult classes available, and you are starting researching about colleges early (sophomores still have plenty of time so don't worry). My biggest advice to you is not to worry because I know from my own experience that it only makes school more difficult.

Good luck with all of your applications and have a nice night!


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