7 months ago
Admissions Advice

How do T20s/colleges in general weigh A-

I recently learned that A- count as a 3.7 on a 4.0 scale. I had always assumed that they were a 4.0 once they were an A/90 up. However, I hear some colleges recalculate/ weigh plus and minus differently. Like the UC system weighs gpa at a flat rate so a B- = B = B+ = 3.0 . I also heard however that most schools don't have the time to recalculate GPA due to the amount of applications received. So do the admission counselors just see the number/ grade you got or a letter grade, and do they drop kids that do have a lot of A- grades.

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2 answers

7 months ago[edited]

At Columbia University they count an A as a 4.0 and an A- as a 3.7.

But admissions counselors at every school car more about how you stack up against all the peers from your school and zip code that also apply to the same colleges using the same grading scale and rubric.

So if 20 people apply to Columbia from your school, there might be only room for 1 person any given year, and if that person says doesn't look particularly impressive compared to another applicant from a neighboring school because of their lack of athleticism or spike narrative or legacy status or whatever, then they may skip your school entirely and go with some other schools in the vicinity.

For context, I'll give you an example of 4 kids at my old HS who got into Stanford. #1 was Valdictorian from GPA and Pres. of Robotics, killer Cello player, 6' tall female tennis player. #2 All-state Football player who scored 5 touchdowns in the State Finals and had a like a low A average, okay test scores, #3 got in because they raised like hundreds of thousands of dollars through their ECs and a total brown-nose suck up who was in bed politically with the Mayor and got the mayor to write their recommendations, and #4 was a legacy with the brother and the dad both Stanford alums.

So GPA is not the deciding factor when it comes to T25 schools.

For some more context, at my boarding schools, there were 208 seniors and only 2 people had a GPA of 95.0+ or above. Anything above 90 was considered "graduating with honors" and anything above 93 was "graduating with high honors". There was severe grade compaction and deflation. So most of the first 2 STD deviations of grades were between 88-90 something like that. Only a few outliers ended up with say an 85 or 95 if that makes sense. That being said, on average 63 were admitted to Ivys each of the last 6 years, and 46 matriculated into Ivys (the number is less because some students were admitted into 2 or more Ivys and maybe went to MIT or UChicago or Stanford instead). I looked at the school's Naviance account and learned that most of them had GPAs betwen 88.5 91.5 and SAT scores in the 1350-1500 range. Why so low? Because top boarding schools are feeders into the Ivy League these schools care more about who they admit in terms of future donations and clout vs. admitting just book-smart kids which they get from public schools. Many of these students played 3 varsity sports lacrosse, water polo, and soccer, and also were talented musicians and dancers and actors. So stats are kind of meaningless if know that the best public school in your state might only get 5 kids into an Ivy while there are 10 boarding schools in New England that get 45-65 into Ivys each year after year. And that's why privileged families have no problem paying $300,000 for 4 years of boarding school education.

7 months ago


I am currently a student at NU and I can confirm that most T20s weigh an A- as a 3.667. As far as these colleges having a huge admissions influx, I believe a computer will recalculate your GPA. Similarly, a computer will also automatically deny or waitlist you at most of these schools purely because it would be impossible for the admissions team to look at each applicant. To even have your application looked at you need to have a GPA above the calculated threshold and an ACT or SAT score that is above or around the average. Once you get past the computer the counselors will skim over your application and will sort you into waitlist, review, or accepted. If you are placed into review they will do a more comprehensive evaluation of your application and make a decision from there. Unfortunately, most students' applications are not even looked at.

At my school, the average GPA for admission was around 4.19 on a 4.0 scale so I imagine the computer would deny you if you had anything below a 4.0. The average ACT was 35 so I would assume anything under 32 would be auto-denied.

Hope this was helpful, best of luck!

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