3 years ago
Admissions Advice

how do i explain serious grade deflation?

Hi, I'm an international student applying to college this year. I think I'm not too bad of a candidate, with a SAT of 1540, solid extracurriculars, and good essays (so far lol).

The only problem though is my GPA, which lays around the 3.7 mark. My school uses the national curriculum, and therefore our grades are seriously deflated. To explain, I'm at the top 10% of my class and still have the GPA above. (no one in the class has a perfect 4.0, there aren't AP classes to bump up my grade, it's just the way that the grading system works here. I went to school in the US too, and I was shocked to see how easier it was to get a 'good' grade)

I'm afraid that the AOs might shrug my applications off with a glance at the GPA, however I don't want to see that I'm a whiner or like I'm making excuses for myself by writing excess things in the additional information section.

What would you advise I do? Are there any other international students in a similar situation to me? I would love to hear some advice.

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3 answers

Accepted Answer
3 years ago[edited]

First of all, you are making assumptions and generalizations about American grades and what college admissions officers know or don't know.

It's true that many public HS have egregious grade inflation but that's because their State and Federal Funding is tied to the performance or stats of their student population. Many students with straight As would be B or C students at other more competitive and rigorous schools.

One important fact you are unfamiliar with is that most Top US Private boarding schools have their own grading system that makes it virtually impossible to be a 4.0 student. Considering the intense course rigor which is often harder than AP or IB courses, I would say that their grade deflation remains unprecedented or unduplicated anywhere else in the country.

I just google-searched 2 well-known boarding schools profiles and will share them with you.

At Deerfield A., only 2 students out of 191 had a 95 or above, that's a 3.75 on a 4.0 scale, 10 students had a 93-94.99 or 3.65-3.75 and 50 students had 3.55 to 3.65. At Phillips Andover, it's similar. 7.7% of the class had a 3.84+, 13.7% had a 3.67-3.83, and 20.7% had a 3.51-3.66. Keep in mind they don't have AP/IB courses just their own difficult ones. And no grade weighting since everything is an Honors class.

But here's the catch. GPA is only important in the context of your school, your school district, your city, your country, and how you perform in relation to your peers. Each of these schools gets 20-25% of their graduating class into the 8 Ivy Schools each year. Compare that to an average size American public school that might get 1% of its class into an Ivy.

I know this is a long explanation but the fact remains that, high school students spend way too much time checking off the boxes and reading stats, and worrying about what they need to get into a Top College. The answer lies in the School Profile that your HS counselor has to submit along with your transcripts. If you rank in the top 5 or 10% of your class and have challenged yourself with the most difficult coursework and tried your best, it will be apparent on your application, especially if what you say is true and other students from your school apply to the same college as you.

College Admissions Officers will not penalize you for having a 3.7 GPA if that is considered a good GPA at your school. Context is everything.

Good luck. (You might want to get a hold of your own school profile and see how to give a heads up to the college admissions officers that will be reading in to give your narrative context).

3 years ago

Hi there @kiaa,

Your concerns are valid and many students often wonder this when applying to college. I'd like to start by saying that different schools, both internationally and domestically, can have wildly different grading scales. Some schools only give out unweighted GPAs, others only do weighted, and the scales can range from anywhere from a 4.0 to 5.0 to 100 point-based system.

When evaluating your application, several admissions readers will usually look over it to determine if you're a good fit for their school. At least one of these will be a regional officer, someone who has been assigned to specifically evaluate students coming from your area in addition to a few others that they are well-versed in.

This reader should be well-aware of any grading policies that your school has that differs from the norm, and should be able to evaluate your application with that in mind. Many schools also recalculate GPAs in order to standardize statistics across applicants. When they receive your transcript, they will most likely convert your GPA to include the metrics they look for, such as letter grades, course rigor, etc.

All this being considered, your application will be evaluated fairly despite your valid reservations about inconsistencies. You will also be considered against other students from your high school, so including your class rank will definitely assist you in the process as well.

If you're still feeling unsure about all of this, I recommend talking to your school guidance counselor to discuss how reports are sent over to colleges. I'd also reach out to your prospective colleges admissions offices to see if you can be put in touch with the team member responsible for your geographic area. They might be able to shed more specific light on what exactly their process is and how you might be affected by it. You can also use this information to better cater your application to schools and inform your future decisions.

Hope this helps and best of luck!

3 years ago[edited]

Hi @kiaa. I'm a student still in high school and I definitely understand your struggles. Compared to many people your GPA is very good. If you're in the top 10% then that's remarkable. If you're really trying to fix your GPA I can only suggest this: Talk to some of your teachers. Explain some difficulties such as you wanting to get into college. Tell them how you think the college that you want to attend feels about this grade.

The teacher might curve your grade. Sometimes teachers here give you a 5 point bonus paper. Ask the teacher ways that you can bring your grades up. I'm sure that they'll find some way to help you. Sure the AO's may shrug your application off but I know about some universities that would love your GPA. I hope my advice is appreciated. Happy learning! :)

What are your chances of acceptance?
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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