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Do colleges care about a bad math record when going into a math major?
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Hey everyone! I'm a white female senior from an upper-middle class area in Michigan. While I'm applying to a bunch of schools, my top ones are UC Berkeley, UCLA, and U of M. A lot of my on-paper stats look ok: I've got fine GPA and SAT and actually pretty good ECs. I don't want this come across as a chancing question, I just want to know how much certain part of my application will affect my admission based on the major I'm applying to.

The problem comes when you look into the details. I want to major either in finance or actuarial science - something math based. My SAT subscores are 770 for Language but only 720 for math. I had only A's up until junior year, but in the first semester I got a B in Macroeconomics, B+ in AB Calculus, and B+ in Chemistry. Even putting aside the issue of a negative grade trend, the fact that all of these lower grades are in math/business related courses isn't good. I improved my grades in second semester, ending with A's in almost every class, but still had a B in AB Calculus.

My essay is about overcoming challenges and one of my teacher recommendations (not seen by UC schools) is about me working hard through these difficult classes, but I'm still really nervous about my chances. Do I have a chance? Do colleges care about the breakdown of these grades and scores by subject, or will they just look at the overall stats? Is there anything I can do to help my chances?

Thank you all for your help!

UCBerkeley
Michigan
UCLA
majors
applications
Thanks so much, this really helps!

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While those scores and grades aren't ideal for a math-related major, they're still fine grades. Since you improved most of them in the end, that's certainly in your favor! I wouldn't be too worried.

Things you can do to help? Try to continue to get strong grades in your related classes. This will help for colleges that receive mid-year reports before making a decision. If there's anything you can do in a related subject to show your abilities, that's helpful too. I know many ECs are canceled, but winning an award in a related EC, taking a leadership role, or tutoring a student in a related subject could all demonstrate your abilities.

One concern I have, however, is your essay about your challenging classes. This is considered a cliche topic, as it's a very common experience. These essays tend to follow the same plotline: a student struggles, works hard, and then succeeds. While you may be trying to highlight your diligence and perseverance, those traits are usually evident in other aspects of your application. Here's an article that may help: https://blog.collegevine.com/cliche-college-essay-topics/ (see #5 specifically).

I hope this helps, and best of luck!

answered on
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Don't worry. a few Bs won't make or break your app. If the rest is strong enough, you will get in.