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GPA & SAT Scores Don't Matter

Updated: May 29, 2021

Is A Student's GPA & SAT Score All That Matters?


This is going to sound like a controversial statement, but a student's GPA and SAT score doesn't matter when applying to college.


This might seem contradictory as in the post done a few weeks ago, I put out the statement that nearly 40% of the decision over whether or not a student makes it into a given school of their choice is determined by their GPA and on top of that, 25% is determined by their SAT and other standardized test scores. But, this isn't exactly the case. A student's GPA doesn't matter, per se, as does their "relative" GPA and "relative" course difficulty. Their GPA in comparison to the other students in their graduating class and the relative difficulty of their course load in comparison to those of their graduating class is what truly counts.


For example, let's have two students, Ana and Andrew. They're both juniors in high school applying to the same 5 schools. Ana has a GPA of a 4.0 from her school and Andrew has a GPA of a 3.6 from his.


On the surface, it would seem that if both students were to apply to the same schools, Ana would be accepted over Andrew. Her GPA is a full 0.4 points above Andrew's and if all things were equal, this would be 100% correct. However, if we change this slightly, we get a drastically different story.


While Ana has a perfect 4.0 at her school, she hasn't taken a single AP or Honors level course during her entire high school career. In addition, her class ranking is 25th out of a class of 100.


Now, let's take a look at Andrew. While Andrew does have a GPA of 3.6, he has taken 3 Ap Classes (getting an A- in all three), two Ap tests (getting a 5 and a 4 respectively), and 5 honors classes (acing all of them). In addition to this, he is ranked 25th out of a class of 250.


Put side by side, Andrew, while having the lower GPA, does substantially better than Ana because of three main things:

  1. He has taken, and done well in, more difficult classes than Ana

  2. His relative GPA, his GPA relative to the rest of his class, is much higher than Ana's. He is the top 10% of his class, while Ana is only in the top 25% of hers.

  3. He has taken and done fairly in two Ap tests while Ana has not.

When colleges look at a student's grades and GPA they aren't looking for the number value of the GPA. What they're looking for is how the student compares to other students within a similar environment, their graduating class for example, and the type of classes the student has taken and how they fared in said classes.


A student with a 4.0 who is ranked 100th in their class of 250 is much worse off than a student with a 3.2 ranked 3rd in a class of 300.


When looking at a students GPA, the number doesn't matter nearly as much as the percentile.


This dovetails nicely into other standardized tests.


AP, SAT & ACT Testing

The genius behind the AP Testing and standardized testing model was that it helped colleges rank students relative to other students very very quickly.


For example, if a student got a 4 on an AP Chemistry exam, a college could very quickly find out that this student was in the top 25% of scorers on this test and give greater weight to that student over other students who scored lower or simply didn't take the test.


This is the exact same thing with the SAT test. Two people who scored a 1530 and a 1600 to a college are nearly identical as they are both in the top 1% of scorers. However, two people who scored a 1500 and a 1430 are drastically different; as one person is in the top 1% and another person is just inside the top 5%.


The standardized test scores themselves don't matter. What they do is serve as a simple way for a college to accept or reject a student by seeing if they scored above a certain threshold. If they cross the threshold, they'll look into the student's application further. If not, they won't.


In Conclusion

The specific GPA or AP score a student has doesn't matter. What matters is the student's percentile relative to other students they are competing with, whether this be the school they are in or nationwide. That is the only thing colleges and universities care about. "How is this student compared to the other students we have on our list?"


While it is good to get a 4.0, it is much better for a student to get a 3.8 while taking more rigorous courses than maintain their 4.0 in less rigorous courses; as this will pay off when applying to college in a much larger way.


Colleges use a student's relative GPA as something of a filter to weed out some students who don't meet a particular percentile they're looking for. Beyond that, a student's GPA and Ap Scores don't make or break their application. Their relative GPA, Ap Scores and SAT scores are what get them in the door, or not, their extracurriculars and how they sell themselves during the application process is what allows them to stay.


In the following posts, we'll cover how the college admission process works in detail and discuss extracurriculars and how they impact a students admission prospects to their dream school.



Closing Words

If you want a crystal clear idea of what exactly colleges want in an applicant, you can click here and take the dream school quiz.


It will show you, in no uncertain terms, what colleges want and where you or your child stand in trying to get into the colleges of your dreams.


As usual, you can always contact us here to suggest a topic we could cover, or, if you'd like a one on one consultation about something personal that you would like some guidance and advice with, you can contact us here.


As always, if you haven't gotten your FREE E-book, "The Elite Institution Guide," we highly suggest it. We have gotten raving reviews from parents about how it has helped them truly guide their children to success and we highly recommend that you download it for FREE as soon as possible. Secondly, if you're a parent who is interested in getting your child into the Ivy League, for a limited time only, we're giving away one of our E-books in our "Ivy League Fastlane" series for free right here. Check that out and be sure to grab your FREE e-book before it disappears forever.


We're glad you've stuck with us this far and look forward to continuing this journey with you when we release our next post in the newsletter.


We'll speak with you soon.

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