How Important Are My Grades When Being Considered for Admission?

Your grade are important and are looked at in the application process in several main ways: 1) predictive ability of grades 2) grade trends 3) rigor of curriculum.

1) Many studies have been done by both Dartmouth, the College Board and our peer institutions that show that high school GPA taken into account with standardized test scores are highly correlated with how a student performs GPA-wise in his or her FIRST year in college. This means that a top GPA in high school may be an indicator that you will continue to do well in college. However, this is only part of the way we look at a student's GPA in the application process.

2) We view ALL grades as important. You should think about it this way - when we review an applicant's transcript, we look at grade trends that will help us understand a student's academic trajectory in his or her secondary school. We see transcripts that show steady grades throughout a student's high school career or a positive/upward trend from 9th-12th grade. We see transcripts where a student has bounced back from a transition or dip in grades. We also see downward trends in grades. We use the rest of the application to try to fill in WHY the trend looks the way it does. If you have a particular reason for, say, a dip in grades in your junior year, please let us know about it in the "Additional Information" section of the Common Application. Keep in mind that we will be looking to see how you have done in your most recent coursework since this will be a good indicator of how ready you are to move into a rigorous academic environment at Dartmouth.

3) The Admissions Committee will look at your curriculum and note whether the courses you have been/are taking are the most demanding offered in your school. If your school weights the GPA by counting advanced/AP/honors/IB/etc courses more heavily, we will note this (vs. an unweighted GPA where a school counts any and all courses equally when calculating the GPA). If a school does not weight your GPA, we will "weight" it ourselves when we read your file by looking on your transcript and checking with your school profile and guidance counselor recommendation to see if your coursework in fact shows that you have sought academic and intellectual challenge in your school context.

Please let me know if you have any questions about anything in this post!


Dart said...

Thanks for this post. I'm wondering how, exactly, you weight a GPA that is unweighted. Is there a formula you use? I'm also wondering what you think of applicants with only average GPA's but excellent SAT's. Thanks in advance!

Ben said...

My colleague Ariel puts "weight" in quotes because we don't actually compute a weighted GPA for applicants given how different every school is. Instead we consider all the factors of a student's high school academic record in a holistic manner to really assess if the student has taken advantage of the courses at the school and done well with those courses in the school context.

Thu said...

Thank you for the post. I'm wondering what if I have taken challenging courses but did not get the best grades in them? And I understand that transcript is most likely the most important factor of one's application. However, can other aspects, such as strong commitment to personal interests, leadership, influence on others, etc., make up for mediocre academic records in context of a rigorous curriculum? Thank you very much!

Ben said...

Thu--we have a holistic review process, so we do take into account ALL your strengths (and weaknesses) when making our admissions decisions--not just grades (though you're right that the transcript is very important). If you don't get the best grades but are taking challenging courses--as you can tell that's not going to help your application but your accomplishments outside of the classroom may demonstrate to the admissions committee that you have strong qualities that will make you successful at Dartmouth and enrich the College community.

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