3 years ago
Admissions Advice

How do colleges look at grades?

I will have taken 16 AP classes by the time I graduate. The thing is, I took a few on-level courses over the summer to help with some prerequisites. This brings my weighted gpa down to a 4.3 -4.4 even though I have all As in all my classes and took a lot of AP classes. If you look at my complete course list you will see that I will have taken a few more courses than my peers. Will colleges (especially top tier ones) understand this and look at my entire course list and my grades in those classes or will they just look at my gpa and see that it isn't as competitive.

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Accepted Answer
3 years ago

As someone who got into a top Ivy, I really don't think it matters if you took 6 or 16 AP courses because they are evaluating your application on a very comprehensive holistic review process. While 16 APs is more impressive than 6, if you are not getting As in your APs and testing 3 and 4s rather than 5s, then taking a bunch of APs is not that going to make you more of a stand out candidate than someone who took 6, got As in all 6 and got 5s on the 6 APs. I think it's about quality over quantity.

With regards to your GPA, your weighted GPA helps applicants show evidence of their course rigor however all top-tier colleges care about your unweighted GPA more than your weighted GPA. It's a fine balancing act. Using the example above, if someone only takes 6 APs and has a UWGPA of 4.0 and a WGPA of 4.25 that still looks better than someone who has a 3.8 UWGPA and WGPA of 4.3 who took 16 APs. Although if you do the mathematical calculus taking 16s is very difficult and some would argue that the 3.8/4.3 candidate is the better applicant, I think colleges have high stats and stating on their Class of 2025 profile or CDS that the average GPA is like 3.96 makes the feel good about themselves. I feel most elite colleges may go with the applicant that made fewer mistakes.

One thing that your inquiry doesn't mention is the quality of your ECs, awards, honors, recommendations, essays, and sports, or other talents. It would be fair to state that if you have a "spike" or multiple "spikes" that will always give a candidate a tangible edge over someone who has perfect grades or test scores.

If you are just someone whose "spike" is loading up on courses and then that might not be aligned to what top colleges want in their cohorts. They are looking for the most intelligent, unique specimens to fill their Freshman Class because they want to have the best collection of incoming students, better than other schools.

Assuming you have time to make adjustments, I would make sure you do not forget about all the other important attributes of your application, not just your grades and course rigor.

Hope that helps.

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Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
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Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

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