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Do colleges care about if your grades improved or not?
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9th grade I had a 3.17 and a 3.5, 10th grade I had a 3.7 and a 3.9, 11th grade I had a 4.33; my unweighted total gpa is 3.59, which is definitely not good enough for the schools I want to go to, like Pomona College. Does an upward trend actually matter to colleges or do they only want people with A's all throughout high school

admissions
collegevine
junior
grades

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I believe schools will always try to understand each applicant and consider their high school experience overall. An upward grade trend can definitely show college admissions that you've been consistently progressing overtime and that you're prepared to handle some rigorous college courses. If there was something in your personal life that may have had an impact on your grades early on, it may be helpful to share this with admissions to show that you overcame these circumstances. However, it's also very normal to have slightly lower grades during freshman/sophomore year when students are still trying to adjust so they've seen this before and certainly do not expect students to have excellent grades all throughout high school. Hope that helps!