3 years ago
Admissions Advice

GPA baseline for Columbia, Penn, HYP

Hello all,

My unweighted GPA is 3.84, with a huge upward trend (3.97 over the last 2 years). I have taken the hardest courses possible. I am concerned, however, because I have read that the top Ivies do not accept students lower than 3.85 GPA. Is this statement true? And if it is, will the .01 difference be a big deal because I do not cross the baseline?

Edit: my EC's and Test Score's are strong; I am just asking from a GPA perspective - will my 3.84 disqualify me from consideration?

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4 answers

3 years ago[edited]

My 2 cents.

Assuming that the avg. UWGPA at top Ivys and Elites is +/-3.90 which means that 50% of the students had a UWGPA of 3.91-4.00 and the other 50% had less than 3.90, perhaps down as low as 3.5 because there is no lower bound. So this assumption is completely incorrect. While the lower 50% are mostly within the 3.80-3.89 range, keep in mind that all elites usually have 1.) recruited athletes, 2.) legacies, 3.) development candidates, 4.) VIPS, and 5.) sons/daughters of employees which drag down the avg. or mean UWGPA.

Secondly, how marginalized you are as an applicant can help you significantly through existing affirmative action programs still in place at all the elites. Just today I watched a 2021 College Acceptance compilation video on SuperTutorTV that showed the stats of various HS student's college reactions. One young man wearing a US Army uniform got into Harvard with a 3.7 GPA. I can't tell if he is BIPOC or not. But even in the most competitive admissions cycle, Harvard accepted someone with a 3.7


If you are White or Asian and applying with a 3.84, that will be extremely challenging compared to being Black or Hispanic. Although some people will think that is unfair because admission is not based on merit. Keep in mind that elite college makes up their own rules like a private Golf Club on who they accept or not and the kind of image, reputation, freshman class they want to build.

The last thing I want to reiterate is that each HS is a unique institution and having a 3.84 UWGPA at one school might be the same thing as a 4.0 at another school. So it's very challenging for admissions officers to know for certain if your 3.84 is undervalued, overvalued, or just right. Other information like your course rigor, amount of classes, test scores like SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Tests, AP tests, Awards, etc all provide AOs the add'l information they need to determine if you coasted through HS or worked your tail off and got only 5 hours of sleep every night. GPA can't provide anyone with all the data points required to make an educated guess on the caliber of the applicant but it is the most important Base number to start with.

As you enter your final year of HS, what's going to get you in will not be whether you had a 3.84, 3.90, or 3.95 but the sum of all the hundreds of data points that either fully support your narrative as an exceptional student or question it. Work hard on all things you can improve the most. And continue to sharpen your spike as much as possible so you stand out from the herd of other applicants vying to take that spot away from you.

Good luck.

3 years ago

Considering that I'm not an admissions officer, I cannot speak on behalf of their application review process. However, as I've consulted a variety of sources throughout my entire college application process, GPA is not going to be the "end all be all" in college apps.

Obviously, the Ivy Leagues are going to take GPA into consideration when deciding on their next graduating class, but they also do look at the difficulty of the courses you're taking, ECs, Test Scores, and supplemental essays. That's what makes their admissions process what they call "holistic."

Since my school uses a 100 weighted scale for our GPAs, I don't quite understand what exactly a 3.84/3.85 translates to, but I assume it's around 96.8/97. Where exactly did you read that top Ivies don't accept students with a GPA lower than 3.85? There have been multiple cases where a student who gets accepted into an ivy doesn't have the most stellar GPA, and it's likely because of a multitude of factors:

1. The rest of their application stands out, either their ECs are super unique or they have wonderful supplemental essays that really communicate their personality, or even both!

2. My school's college counselor told me this: when you're applying to X institution, you're only competing against those in your own school, that means if your GPA/ECs/essays are better than another student at your school, you'll be more likely to get a spot at X institution. Hence, if you go to a certain school where the average GPA is lower, you're going to find a greater frequency of someone with a lower GPA than the apparent "baseline" getting into X institution. It's just like that sometimes.

However, don't let GPA be the only focus of your application; work hard & create good study habits, but also try to start practicing how to respond to college essays (those supplemental aren't going to write themselves!)

If you need help once college app season begins to roll along, CollegeVine also has resources such as the "peer essay review" section to check your essays :)

Best of luck! Please let me know if you have any further questions, or if I need to clarify anything.

3 years ago

As per my knowledge, I know people who got accepted into top tier colleges and ivy league schools with a gpa of 3.7! So I think you will be taken into consideration. Make sure you have strong extracurriculars.

3 years ago

I don’t know of any school that will reject someone purely because they got 3.84 GPA when others got 3.85. When its that close, they tend to look at other things and it seems like your “other things” are strong (ie. ECs, test scores).

TBH, if they were to reject you, it probably wouldn’t be because of ur GPA. With that in mind, make sure to write (a) strong essay(s) that truly showcase your abilities and why it doesn’t matter if you “only” got 3.84.

Hope that helps

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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