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How Are Grades Used in College Admission Decisions?

The classes you take and the grades you earn are the most important factor upon which you are evaluated when you apply to college. Read more from our experts.

CX experts generic imageRhiannon Schade
Director of College Counseling
Collegewise of Millburn
The classes you take and the grades you earn are by far the most important factor upon which you are evaluated when you apply to college (with a couple of rare exceptions, all colleges require a high school transcript). College admission officers consider your transcript in several key ways. First, they look at the level of rigor you have pursued compared to what is available to you at your particular high school. Have you taken challenging classes where available (and when you can manage)? You don’t have to take AP everything, and you certainly are not penalized if higher-level courses are not available to you at your school, but admission officers like to see that you have challenged yourself throughout high school.

Admission officers look at how many years of high school you have pursued the five core academic subjects: English, math, science, social studies, and foreign language. Have you doubled up on a subject you like? And, of course, they look at your letter grades. Admission officers will typically calculate a weighted and unweighted GPA for you using their own method so that everyone applying to the college is evaluated on a single grading scale. Finally, they look at your grade trajectory and hope to see a positive trend or that you have maintained a level of excellence. The bottom line: the admission officer reading your application is asking herself, “Can this student be successful academically here?” And the answer has to be an emphatic “Yes!”

Learn more from our admission experts in our College Admission—Ask The Experts section.

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