Do Colleges Compare Private School GPA's With Public School GPA's?

Question: I am a senior who attends a very rigorous New England independent school with a 3.3 UW GPA. Do college admissions equate this GPA or weight it compared to our local public high school or other high schools around the country? I am interested in elite schools but comparatively my GPA is low. My board scores are more reflective of my ability. 34 ACT 710 CR, 800 Math. How will this be viewed? Thank you

Colleges evaluate candidates in the context of their school community. Your grades will not be compared head-to-head with those of students at the public high school across town … or at ANY school across the country. And given that you attend “a very rigorous New England independent school," I'd bet my mortgage money that you won't be the first from this school to apply to the “elite" colleges you seek. So, if your school uses Naviance, you can look at the Naviance data to see how many students from your school have been admitted to–or denied by–your target colleges in recent years, along with their test scores and Grade Point Averages.

Of course, Naviance numbers won't tell you if the admitted students were recruited athletes, under-represented minorities, or legacies … or if they had any other 'hooks" that you don't have. Naviance also won't tell you if the high-stats senior who was rejected by your favorite college last spring was actually on probation for pilfering physics quizzes out of the teacher's file cabinet. 😉

Thus, you should make a stop at your guidance counselor's office because he or she is in the best position to assess your admission chances at your top-choice colleges. The counselor will not only know where your GPA lands in the school hierarchy but can also assess your entire “profile" (extracurricular endeavors, rigor of curriculum, family background, etc.) to see how it stacks up against past elite-college aspirants from your school.

If your GPA is NOT considered first-rate at your private school, then your test scores probably won't be enough to get you good news at the most sought-after colleges and universities unless there are hooks or extenuating circumstances. But you certainly should view this GPA in relation to the grades earned by your own classmates and not worry about what's on applicant transcripts elsewhere.