4 years ago
Admissions Advice

How does a B- look on a transcript for a student looking to apply to top-tier schools?

I am having a very difficult time with a teacher at the moment who does not take into account the current pandemic and is not giving me the opportunity to get extra credit to bring up a bad grade I had received on her test (physics) even though I have been studying profusely. Therefore, my final grade in her class will most likely culminate to an 82, and I am beyond upset ( I also have an 87 in trig). I am an African-American female with all A+s in my other classes, and I want to major in sociology and psychology in college. I started my own social welfare non-profit, co-founded an organization for educational resources in anatomy, started my own political podcast, started a campaign in my school to get recycling bins and green materials for the large school population (2500 students), and I am on the board for a regional political chapter as director of diversity, I've been the captain of my varsity track team since sophomore year, and I've been in the local newspaper several times. I only have a 1400 on the SAT, but I am waiting to do the ACT, as I know it's the better test for me. Will my Bs cause me to be rejected by my top colleges like Duke and Yale? Or am I not qualified and likely to be deferred? I am scared that I can be rejected from my dream school because of these grades before my ECs are taken into account. Do you have any other advice for me to make my application stand out? Thanks!

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@DebaterMAX4 years ago

ask about pass/fail

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Accepted Answer
4 years ago

No, one B- is not going to screw you up for top schools. You don't need perfection for these schools (and conversely, perfection guarantees nothing either); you just need your academics to be good enough to cross whatever academic threshold those schools have for students of your background. At that point, your ECs and essays will become much more important. We usually talk about that in cumulative unweighted GPA, and I'd say as long as your overall GPA ends up around a 3.6 or above, you should be fine (and you might even be okay a bit below that). You shouldn't have any problems hitting that mark if you're getting A+s in all your other courses.

As a sidenote, if you're not qualified, you would not be deferred. Deferrals are not soft rejections; they happen when a college gets many qualified applicants and wants to compare those applicants against their RD applicants before deciding. That means that only qualified applicants that a college would truly consider admitting will get deferred—otherwise they would not put themselves through reading those applications a second time. Same for waitlists. Applicants that do not cross the academic thresholds are typically rejected almost automatically, but those thresholds are lower than people think.

Beyond that, you sound incredibly accomplished, and I think the thing that will help your application stand out the most is figuring out how your many activities and perhaps your overall academic goals fit together. Typically, successful applicants to these schools will demonstrate a cohesiveness through their main activities and (possibly but not always) what they want to study; usually, that cohesiveness really comes through in essays, and in your writing on the application itself. If you can figure out those links and lay out a compelling picture of yourself, that's the most powerful thing you can do.

So in short, don't sweat the B-. It happens. Just try to keep your unweighted GPA above a 3.6~3.7 or so. Moreover, I'd prepare for that kind of thing in the future—grading is usually harsher in college than it is in high school, and professors rarely ever give extra credit opportunities upon request. Small failures are a good thing to get used to and be able to roll with, because no one ever has success every step of the way.

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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