Preparing for College

Which Grades do Admission Committees Consider?

Question: I am in eighth grade and I am an A/Bstudent. I was wondering if colleges look at the final, semester, or quarter grade.

Colleges will not look at any of your middle school grades, unless you are currently taking classes for high school credit. (Typically, these include only algebra and foreign language.) However, admission officials won't pay very much attention to your 8th-grade transcript, even if you are in credit courses. In addition, the vast majority of high schools do not include these grades when they calculate your GPA or class rank, even if you do get high school credit for the classes.

Once you are a freshman (and thereafter), the grades that admission folks actually see will vary somewhat from high school to high school. Most transcripts include everything—the quarter grade, semester grade, and final grade. This is the approach that is most helpful to admission committees.

Some high schools, however, send out only the semester grade and final grade or, occasionally, just the final one. Admission officers only “count” the final grade, but commonly they will look at the others, too, to determine if they raise any questions or “flags.” For instance, the admission officers may find that a student who ordinarily earns all A’s has one marking period that is full of C’s, D’s or even F’s. This might prompt a call to the guidance counselor to ask what torpedoed the student’s report card during that term.

So, although the emphasis will be on the final course grade, admission officials like to give students the benefit of the doubt. A “B-“ for a final grade might be the result of a B- in every term, or it could be the average of three quarters with A’s and then, out of left field, an F. That’s why the admission folks prefer to see the big picture, regardless of which grades are the ones that they count.

(posted 2/1/2011)