2 years ago
Admissions Advice

Significance of Freshman GPA?

Hi, I'm a freshman who wants to know that if we're planning to apply for Ivies like Cornell, Brown or perhaps even Harvard, do we need a 4.0 unweighted GPA from the get-go?

By the way, my school doesn't do GPAs, so could we use our IGCSE scores in place of our GPA for freshman and sophomore year?

To people who have been accepted into Ivies, do you think a consistently high GPA is more important or progressive GPA (like a 3.0 in freshman year, maybe a 3.5 in sophomore year and then consistently 4.0s throughout junior and senior year)?


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2 answers

2 years ago[edited]

These are the answers you are looking for.

1. 4.0 UWGPAs are ideal but not everyone has them. And they don't have them for all kinds of reasons. For instance if you are a Varsity athlete in 2 or 3 sports, you might not have the time to dedicate to homework and papers. So you might end up with a 3.6/3.7 but still get into Ivys because of your athleticism. Also, many under-represented minorities who may also be poor or come from 1st gen families may not same same resources like their own bedroom or laptop computer. This definitely has an impact and challenges ones ability to get perfect grades. Remember, if you are rich, White, or from an over represented minority and go to a great school, the bar is much much harder for you since you do not have an excuse not to check off all the boxes.

2. If your school DOES NOT report grade point average on your transcripts for freshman and sophomore year, then your HS counselor will submit your transcript with the IGCSE grade and the college admissions officer will use them instead. If you school's grading system is 100% consistent with the Cambridge system then that will be easy for them to assess. If your school deviates from the grading rubric, then your HS counselor should explain what the differences are in the school profile report they are asked to submit along with your transcript.

3. Hardly anyone gets into the Ivy league with a 3.0 freshman year, so unless you were legitimately homeless living on the streets or couch surfing for a year, you don't get a pass like that. And the whole upward curve is not the best example even though everyone uses that example. Ideally, a perfect 4.0 GPA is best, then a near perfect 3.90-3.99 GPA is second best, then an upward curve that ends up with an overall 3.80-3.89 GPA is third best. I don't think an upward curve ending up with 3.79 or less will get you into an Ivy league school because there are just way to many applicants. Remember 95% of applicants do not get in. And for the most popular Ivys that means like 55,000-60,000 students do no get in and like 2000-2500 get in. So within that rejection pile are tens of thousands of students with 3.80-4.00 GPAs. That' just a fact. I'm attending Columbia in the Fall and I had a 3.97 GPA and still feel bad about that 1 B+ (89) math grade. No one I know in my incoming class had a 3.0/3.5/4.0/4.0 situation. Most of them had 4.0/4.0/3.9/3.9 situation because lets face it APs and IBs are hard and most people load up on them during junior and senior year. If you take 4-6 APs each term during 11th/12th, it's really hard to get perfect grades in all your APs. Most take a hit with Physic 3, or AP Chem, or AP Lit or AP Lang. Only 4-9% of AP English test takers get a 5/5 on the AP exam so you know that getting an A in AP English is not the average. But that's not necessarily true with AP Calc or AP Bio, I think more % of the Class gets an A in those classes.

4. I don't know if you bombed Freshman year or not from your question. But lets hypothetically say that someone reading this response had a poor showing Freshman year. I don't think the Ivy league should be your goal whatsoever. There is no amount of college prep and counseling that is going to make up for a 3.0 in 9th grade. But I do think that other colleges are more lenient in their thinking. For instance Stanford, doesn't use 9th grade transcripts for admissions, they just re-calc your Standford GPA based on 10th-12th. And other top liberal arts colleges might take a more generous exception because their holistic standards are more forgiving than the Ivy League. If you are an ALDC then the Ivys make exceptions. And if you are BIPOC, marginalized, queer/trans, poor or 1st gen, the Ivys might make exceptions. But if you are NOT a "hooked" applicant than I'd strongly recommend non-Ivy schools to apply to if you 1st or 2nd year of HS was lackluster in terms of GPA.

Hope this answers your questions.

2 years ago

1. You do not need a 4.0 GPA to get into Ivies. Many 4.0/1600/36 applicants are rejected. Many students with lower GPA's/test scores are accepted. It depends on ec's, essays, etc.

2. I'm not exactly sure how IGCSE compares to GPA but I think it's another metric that colleges will be apt to look at, and it seems that it can also show your competence in various subjects. GPA already is quite scattered, with some schools using 4's, others using 5's, others using 10's, and some even using 100's. I'm sure they will have no problem taking in the IGCSE scores.

3. It's not really a matter of who gets accepted to where, but generally go for as high as possible. While both are great, from a meritocratic standpoint, Consistency >>> Improvement. It's hard to quantify things, but if you're going with your example you'll end up with a 3.63 GPA which is well behind most applicants. While most cases are not that extreme, having a lower GPA freshman year vs having a 4.0 freshman year may indicate that you are slower to mature and slower to handle the harder coursework of high school, which may translate to concerns for colleges. It's hard to get into the admissions officers' minds, but that's just my take on it.

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Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


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