Which Hurts Your Chances More: Low Grades or Low Test Scores?

Who is in the tougher situation when it comes to getting into college: the student whose high school GPA is lower than ideal or the student whose SAT /ACT scores are lower than ideal?

It is clear that having mediocre or low college admission test scores gives students a better shot at more colleges and at higher quality colleges than having mediocre or low high school grades. While student’s test scores are still important to most top-ranked colleges, there are some colleges—including some excellent colleges—that do not put so much weight, or indeed any weight at all, on college admission test scores.
Here are a few of the highly respected “test-optional” colleges that do not require SAT or ACT scores for admission, although students may submit the scores (and many do) of they feel the scores will help their application:  American University, Bates Colleges, Bowdoin College, Brandeis University, Bryn Mawr College, George Washington University, Mt. Holyoke College, Sarah Lawrence College, Smith College, Wake Forest University, and Wesleyan University.

There are also “test-flexible” colleges.  These are colleges that give students a choice of which admission and/or achievement test scores to submit during the application process.  Some of these are: University of Rochester, Colby College, Colorado College, Hamilton College, Middlebury College and New York University.

Unfortunately, there are no “high-school-grades-optional” or “high-school-grades flexible” colleges.  Colleges always look at high school grades.  If there is a reason that high school grades are lower than the student is capable of earning- such as a difficult family situation or a personal health problem—that reason should be explained in a required application essay (when the topic is appropriate) or in an optional supplementary essay.  Whatever the case, it is really very difficult to explain away mediocre or low high school grades.

When a student has mediocre or low grades, it is ideal if that student happens to have high SAT/ACT scores.  Then, the college can imagine that the student is bright, but perhaps had some reason for not performing as expected in high school classes.  No reason will be a great excuse, but some colleges will make an exception for such a student.  However, most students who have mediocre or low grades do not have high SAT/ACT scores.

Start telling your middle school student to get ready and remind your ninth graders that there is no easy route to a great college without good high school grades.

( adapted from article by Regina Paul  and Marie Segares)

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Who is in the tougher situation when it comes to getting into college: the student whose high school GPA is lower than ideal or the student whose SAT /ACT ...
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