Preparing for College

Will One Bad Grade Damage College Admission Decisions?

Question: I’ve always had a strong GPA and take top courses. My SAT scores are pretty good, too. Now, however, I’m about to finish the first semester of my senior year, and it looks like I’m going to get a D in Calculus BC. Will this affect my college admission decisions?

Admission officers are often willing to give a lot of slack to atypically low grades in Calculus BC because they know it’s a tough course, and they admire those who tackle it anyway. However, how much your D will hurt admission decisions will depend a lot on where you are applying and other extenuating factors. For instance, if you’re aiming for an Ivy League institution or other highly selective schools, your “competition” will include hundreds of other applicants who got A’s in all of their classesâ€"including Calc BC. On the other hand, if you come from a disadvantaged background, are a recruited athlete, uncommonly talented musician or writer, etc., then admission officials may be more interested in factors beyond your math prowessâ€"or lack thereof.

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