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Colleges would rather see students challenging themselves with harder classes. Photo: Pexels.

How important is GPA for your college application?

Experts weighed in for a new U.S. News report.

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Although it is common knowledge that a student's grade point average is a determining factor in the college application process, they often forget that admissions offices don’t only look at the number. 

A 2019 National Association for College Admission Counseling report said the overall grade students have in all classes is the first factor considered during the selection process. However, aspects such as grades in college prep courses, the curriculum strength of the applicant’s high school, admissions test scores (ACT, SAT) and the submitted essay or writing sample; are as important to compiling the student’s profile to the admissions office.   

An indication of long-term sustained work, a high GPA can determine not only if students will get into their dream schools, but also if they can qualify for scholarships. According to U.S. News, experts say students should take advantage of more challenging classes in high school instead of being afraid that a bad grade will affect their college application process. Although being more important than other metrics, a GPA’s context matters too.   

High schoolers are sometimes hesitant to enroll in more rigorous classes, such as AP and dual-enrollment courses. However, counselors say those experiences will help them prepare for college — especially by showing how the student isn’t just settling for the easier classes. Courses related to the major the student wants to pursue in college are also encouraged.

Experts say admissions offices do look closely at the rigor of the courses students took in high school, as well as the reputation of the institution where the student completed secondary school. In this way, rigor and effort are prioritized over grades. In schools with a weighted GPA scale, for example, succeeding in AP courses can add to your application. 

“I think a college would have more faith in a student with a rigorous program and excellent marks and subpar test scores,” said Christian Lanser, an admissions counselor for IvyWise, an educational consulting company. “They would have more confidence in that student than one from an average program and, let’s say, a B+ average and really great testing."

To read more about GPA scale and grade point average, click here.

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