2 years ago
Admissions Advice

How important are upward trending GPA's?

I am a junior attending Marist High School in Atlanta Georgia. I was wondering how extensively college admission offices look at grade trends. My average GPA is 3.53 but this does not truly reflect my academic capabilities due to a really awful sophomore year during COVID-19.

Here are my grade trends (my school is on terms, not semesters):

9th-grade Term 1: 3.30

9th-grade Term 2: 3.50

9th-grade Term 3: 3.75

10th-grade Term 1: 2.83

10th-grade Term 2: 3.1

10th-grade Term 3: 3.7

11th-grade Term 1: 3.9

11th-grade Term 2: 3.8

11th-grade Term 3: 4.0

As you can see

Can somebody please advise on either how I can explain this to a college or how extensively they will look at this during the admissions process? Thank you!

For further academic reference, I have taken the most rigorous course load at my school and will graduate with a maximum 7/7 of available AP courses. I also have a 34 on the ACT and I am a National Merit Scholar based on my PSAT score (1380). My school is also the 3rd most academically rigorous in the state of Georgia

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@terminalcenter2 years ago

Congrats on your academic achievement firstly, your upward trend is really admirable. I think as long as your official test scores are strong your trend will speak for itself. If there's a specific reason you performed poorly at the beginning I would add that information in the additional notes section. What schools do you plan on applying to? That's also really important when evaluating how they might weigh the trend.

[🎤 AUTHOR]@BarrettFeagin2 years ago

@terminalcenter I am currently looking at schools like SMU, Wake Forest, and George Washington. I feel that my strengths lie in schools with required testing, personal interviews, and look at demonstrated interest. I specifically struggled in freshmen year due to my own fault in adjusting to a very rigorous high school curriculum. In my 10th-grade year, I struggled with my ADHD during online school as well as my mom being hospitalized for COVID-19.

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4 answers

Accepted Answer
2 years ago

Colleges have their own rubric when it comes to evaluating GPA. What that means is that different colleges have different philosophies on where they want their incoming freshman to be with regards to GPA. So you can't take anything personal. While I think a 3.53 is great with a upward trend, another college may not be so forgiving.

Lets outline some basic examples in descending order of appeal:

Student A has a 4.0 UWGPA prior to applying to college

Student B has a +3.9 UWGPA becuase they have 1 or 2 Bs (3.90-3.99)

Student C has a +3.8 UWGPA because they have a B and a C. (3.80-3.89)

Student D has a +3.7 UWGPA,,,,,,,,

Student E has a +3.6 UWGPA but a significant upward trend

Student E has a +3.6 UWGPA but roller coaster trend down up down up.....

What I'm saying is that while you have an upward trend 3.53, very few admissions officers are going to prioritize your application with regards to GPA over someone that has 3.8-4.0. While the add'l information section is available to explain away a COVID-19 related impact on learning, testing, grading, keep in mind that COVID was and still is a global pandemic. Perhaps some wealthy kids were no impacted as much because their private school had excellent resources and made extra efforts during this crisis but on the opposite end, some students in other countries were deeply affected compared to American students.

When you make your college list, look at the most recent Class of 26' freshman profile or if that's not available the Class of '25 profile. They should share the avg. GPA. info. If can't locate that, try looking at the most recent Common Data Set for the colleges. You can just google search like Wake Forest CDS 2021 and get a link. Some colleges submit GPA data as a single number other break it down by tranche like 3.91-4.00 or 3.25-3.49 etc.....

For example at SMU 21.76% had a GPA between 3.50-3.74 and 52.86% had a GPA above a 3.76. With an avg of 3.68.

I think Wake Forest's avg. admit GPA is 3.9 and GWU's is like 3.86.

So I would still apply to those schools but I would also pick some safeties that you are happy to attend if you get in.

Good luck.

2 years ago

An upward trend in your GPA will make your 3.53 more impressive. The main reason why is that it shows that you have more academic achievement than your GPA alone shows on the surface.

The key to making sure that colleges understand that is to explain the context behind your academic performance in sophomore year. You can do this by writing a statement in the Additional Information section of your applications. Your statement here should not be written creatively like an essay - it should be a straightforward and reflective recount of why you did not do as well as you should have and why your performance does not reflect your full potential in the classroom. Your goal should be to show that your sophomore year was an anomaly, and your most recent GPA of 4.0 in 11th grade is how you would have performed without extenuating circumstances. Hope this helps!

2 years ago

So colleges typically look for students that show an upward trend with their academic progress compared to a constant one (sometimes, it depends) which shows how dedicated a student can be. As long as you dont show that its going down significantly you'll be fine. So that first term of 10th grade wont mean much compared to your overall progress as a student. Congrats n taking 7/7 AP courses this is actually outstanding for your school records and colleges will definitely like that! No need to explain you're doing great so keep up the good work!

2 years ago

I have a 4.22 GPA and the higher your GPA is, the better. Colleges look specifically for higher GPAs and I'm a freshman in high school.

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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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