What do Colleges Think About High SAT Scores and Low Grades?

I spoke with John, the parent of a junior,  the other day about his son and the college admissions process.  One of John’s concerns was that his son had a 2.9 GPA but a 2320 SAT score. John wanted to know what colleges would think about this high SAT score and relatively low GPA.

I told John that a student with high test scores and low grades is generally viewed as a bright slacker.  These types of students are a risk for colleges to admit because colleges don’t want students to fail.  Although students like John’s son are bright enough to do college level work, even at very competitive colleges, colleges are concerned that the student is smart but lazy and won’t bother to do their college level work. And without doing the work, even the brightest student is going to fail.

Some very bright high school students are not challenged by their high school and as a result don’t try in their classes. Colleges understand that. But colleges also know that they have hundreds of other very bright students who DID work hard in high school who are applying for a limited number of open spaces.

If a bright student has slacked off as a freshman but starts to turn it around after that, the competitive colleges will be much more willing to consider taking a chance on the student.  But if the slacking off has continued into senior year, the student is unlikely to be admitted to any college that would otherwise be an academic match for that student.

Students, keep those grades up all through high school.Don’t make me have a conversation with your parent about what to do about their slacker student.

One final note. I have been getting a lot of emails lately with students giving me their stats and asking me to “chance” them for a particular college. I do not do this because there is no way to do this accurately without really getting to know the student. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to do that with each of you.

You can trust us to help you find the best college for your needs. We offer a FREE 1/2 hour consultation to discuss your needs for college admissions counseling. Give us a call now at 952-449-5245 or drop us an email.


  1. Todd Johnson says


    I can’t answer this question without more information. I have seen schools where a 3.5 will put you near the top of the class and schools where a 3.5 will put you near the bottom. Whether the 3.5 GPA is weighted or unweighted would also make a difference. The difficulty of your course load will make a huge difference. A 3.5 with AP courses looks a lot better than a 3.5 or no honors or AP’s. Finally, it may make a difference if you have a learning disability that is the cause of the 3.5 GPA.

  2. Lindsey says

    My son has a learning disability, however, because of the stigma attached with getting an IEP, he struggled through it and got mediocre grades throughout his life. Instead of medicating him, which is what they wanted to do, we changed his diet and worked harder at home with him. His cummuliative GPA is 2.8. The problem is without medication, he scored horribly on both the ACT and SAT and it’s too late now to get him extended time to retest. How do we approach college now without those scores. FYI – he’s a decent football player and has a good shot at an athletic scholarship….part of the drama club at school…sings on the choir…..volunteers at homeless shelters. Will any of this help?

  3. Todd Johnson says


    You have several options. One is to look at colleges that don’t require standardized testing. Here is a list: http://www.fairtest.org/university/optional
    I think this is probably your best option.

    The second option is to approach the schools and inform them of the problem. If he is a strong candidate for their football team, and if he meets the basic requirements of the NCAA, he may be alright. My concern about this approach is that playing sports at college, particularly DI or DII sports, is very time consuming and a student with a learning disability may not be able to keep up.

    The third option is for him to attend a community college and establish himself academically with a view toward transferring. Transfer colleges won’t require an SAT or ACT so that might work to his benefit. Many community colleges do have football teams so he would still be able to play but wouldn’t have the stress of more competitive athletics to distract him.

    Finally, I need to mention that if your son has a learning disability it is very important to find a college that works well with students with similar learning disabilities. While all colleges will have some sort of resources, there is a vast difference in the resources from one college to another. I would suggest that you consider working with a educational consultant who works with students with learning disabilities to find the best college for his needs. I do not do such work but I would suggest, if you are interested, you look at this web page for a list of counselors that work with students with learning disabilities.


  4. Dylan Liu says

    What range of schools should I look at? I’m in the same situation. I have a 3.27 weighted GPA, but took mainly honors and took 10 AP classes. I had okay grades for some of my classes but only barely passed math every year. my school grades on a different scale. 70-74 is a D, 75-80 is a C, 80-90 is a B, and 90-100 is an A. I got a 32 on my ACT, 36 in english, 33 in math, 30 in reading, and 28 in science. I have won many prehigh school state piano awards and am part of 4-5 clubs in which i an vicepresident in one and also have 190 hours of community service. I am applying for engineering for all the colleges i’m applying for (michigan, illinois etc) and their all top engineering schools. do you think i should aim a bit lower? and do i have a chance? I have really great essays too but i’m worried that being bad at math will kill my chances of getting in. Thanks!

  5. Todd Johnson says


    There are several potential issues here. Is math your only bad class. If so, then you should be alright if you are not looking at colleges where math is important.

    Do you have a diagnosed learning disability? If so, and it was only recently diagnosed, you will have some more leeway.

    My biggest concern is your choice of programs. Engineering is one of the most math intensive subjects there is. You will need to be a strong math student to succeed in an engineering program. If you are not good at math, engineering may not be your best choice.

    I would suggest that you really reconsider what you want to do. Also, you should look at a broader range of colleges to include some where your chance of acceptance is greater.

  6. GM says

    my projected weighted gpa will be a 3.65 (with .5 weightage for honors and 1.0 for AP)
    I have taken 6 honors classes and 5 AP classes, scored a 31 on the ACT, was a high scorer on the PSAT (with a 201), have a varsity letter in tennis, and hundreds of volunteer hours. My high school is a top 100 school in the nation so it is very competitive. What are my options?

  7. Todd Johnson says


    In general terms your GPA doesn’t look that low compared to your test score. It depends on where you rank in your school based on your GPA. Given that you are taking a number of honors and AP classes this will reflect well with colleges so I don’t think this will be a huge issue for you. You should have a number of options for college including some competitive ones.

  8. John says

    How about if I have a 2.0 gpa with a 2100 SAT? Do I have any chance of getting in anywhere besides community college?

  9. Todd Johnson says


    If you have a 2.0 GPA and a 2,100 SAT, without evidence of a learning disability, the college will most likely look at you as a bright slacker. There are 4 year colleges that will take a chance on a student like this but you will need to explain your low grades if you expect a competitive college to consider taking a chance on admitting you.

  10. Jonathan says

    So I am a Sophmore, I go to a Militiary based school, and there are only 4 other schools like us in the country. if I finish with a 3.3 and around 12 honors classes, and score a projected 2000 on my SAT, will colleges take me seriously?

  11. Todd Johnson says


    The relationship of your GPA to your test scores depends in part on what grading is like at your school. If a 3.3 puts you in the top 25% of the class for example, I don’t think a 2,000 on the SAT will look at all unusual. However, if a 3.3 puts you near the bottom of the class they may wonder why you have a lower GPA. In general terms, a 3.3 GPA with 12 honors classes and a 2,000 SAT does not seem too out of line.

  12. Lily says

    Hey, what if your GPA is low (I’m not sure what it is exactly if it’s unweighted probably about 3.1 (I believe unweighted is out of 4 right??? ) I’m probably only at the bottom part of the top quarter of my class…. but let’s say that I can get a 2300 or higher on my SAT and a 33-35 on the ACT (plus take addition SAT 2 tests and get a high score on those too) then will I be able to get into a good school ?? aka Carnegie Melon Wellesley…you know.. around 35-20 % acceptance rate……

  13. Todd Johnson says


    It is almost impossible to say what a particular students chance is at a particular school without much more information. However, that being said, colleges like Carnegie Mellon and Wellesley would most likely be reaches with an unweighted GPA of 3.1, even with high test scores. Grades, and the classes taken to get those grades, are the most important factors for admissions at almost all colleges. Test scores are of secondary important. So, very high test scores will not completely balance out a lower GPA. Of course there are also many other factors that are considered for college admissions to selective colleges which may balance out the grades somewhat.

  14. Todd Johnson says


    This is the better position to be in. Colleges will view you as smart but not a great test taker. You have several options. One is to look at colleges that put less weight on test scores. Typically these are the private colleges that use a more holistic approach to admissions. Public colleges often focus primarily on grades and test scores. You second option is to look at test option colleges. There are some very good colleges that are test optional. Here is a list of those colleges from Fairtest: http://fairtest.org/university/optional

  15. nick harmon says

    I just finished my junior year and my weighted GPA is 4.1. I have taken 4 AP courses so far, one each in my freshman and sophomore years, and 2 this year. My SATs were 630/620/670 on one test (not best scores of multiple tests). I also played track and cross country for 2 years, and tennis this year as a junior. What are my chances at Boston College and also Villanova. I plan on applying to their business schools. I’m worried about that Math SAT score. I took AP Statistics this year and am scheduled for Calculus as a senior (not AP) and in our high school that’s considered “two years advanced”

  16. Todd Johnson says


    Unfortunately, I can not give chances of admission to particular colleges because there are too many variables to say. In general terms, grades and the classes you take to get those grades are more important than test scores. However, for most colleges, test scores are of second importance. For Boston College your math score is in the bottom 25% of the scores they receive which makes it a reach school, particularly if you are interested in business. For Villanova, your critical reading scores is fine but your math score is at the bottom of the mid 50%. Again, because you are interested in business, that may be an issue.

    If you are applying to those colleges, just make sure you are applying to some other business schools where you test scores are more in line with what typical students have.

  17. nick harmon says

    Todd – thanks for your response, i guess I will continue to white knuckle it. would you happen to know why the average SATs for accepted students is so much higher than the SATs for enrolled students. I looked at Johns Hopkins, comparing their accepted numbers to the numbers on the Collegeboard.com which is enrolled students. It looks like there’s a 100 point difference. Also, do you think that the state of the economy will make it easier or harder to get into private high SAT schools.

  18. Jonathan says

    I have just finished my junior year and my cumulative GPA’s are 3.33 (unweighted) and 4.0 (weighted). I take almost all honors and AP courses and am projecting for a score of 1850 on the SAT and 27 on the ACT. However, the main reason my GPA is so low is because of my freshman year. I have improved each year with my junior being the best with an average of a 3.65 GPA. I have good letters of recommendation and have gone to a Catholic schools all my life. In your opinion, do I have a chance at Villanova University? I’m definitely considering it a stretch school for me but it is DEFINITELY the school I want to attend the most. Thanks again for reading this!

  19. Todd Johnson says


    I can’t comment on a student’s chance for admission to a particular college because there are too many variable that come into play. I can tell you in a general sense that colleges do pay attention to grade trends and if you have an upward trend in grades they will like that.

    90% of admitted students to Villanova are in the top 25% of their high school class and 98% are in the top half. If you school ranks that should help give you some idea where you might be in the applicant pool. Also, Villanova doesn’t use the writing section of the SAT. Their middle range on the critical reading and math sections is 1,230 to 1,370.

  20. David says

    Im lookin for an opinion on what level of colleges i can get into (somthing along the lines of a UC possibly?) My GPA is a 3.1 (weighted) I have a 2000 on SAT, i have taken 3 AP classes and 1 honors class up till this time (European Hist, US Hist, Composition) with respective scores of 5,3,3. My senior schedule is AP intensive 4 further AP’s. For extracurricular’s, i am involved in a specialized Academy my school offers, I am on the Debate team and have qualified and placed at the state championship twice and qualified to nationals once, and i am on the swim team, currently swimming at an average D2 college level. Just wondering what my options are in your opinion. Thank you very much for your time in reading this. (this is only my shcool based portfolio, excluding extra curricular activities that are non school based)

  21. Todd Johnson says


    Even with the information you provide there are too many variables to say what colleges might be appropriate for a particular student. Your SAT score is above average and your extracurricular activities look good, particularly debate and swimming. That being said the primary issue that colleges look at in admissions is the students GPA and the classes they take to get that GPA. They will look at a positive trend in GPA so the better you do this next year the more competitive you will become.

    I would recommend that you take a look at the College Navigator website to search for some colleges that might fit your needs. Here is their url: http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/ Look for colleges that have more than 50% acceptance rate because most selective colleges will not be impressed with a 3.1 GPA. That should give you a list to start considering. Again, with a lower GPA you want to err on the side of caution so make sure you are applying to some colleges that you are sure you will be accepted into because they have high acceptance rates.

  22. Allison says

    I just started my senior year and I have a 2.6 GPA. I received F’s my sophomore year but my junior year a received all A’s and B’s, made Principal’s Honor Roll both semesters, and I passed both AP tests I took. My ACT score was a 24 and my SAT score was a 1730. I am going to retake the SAT. I am also part 3 clubs in school. What are my options? Do I have a shot for a UC or Cal State? Thank you for reading.

  23. Todd Johnson says

    Colleges like to see an upward trend in grades so that will help. You will probably need to provide some explanation why your sophomore year grades were so poor. You have many options for colleges but I can’t comment on specific colleges because there are too many variables that can come into play. Keep up the strong grades and your options will increase.

  24. Isaiah says

    I recieved 2320 on the SAT, with 760 in math and writing and 800 in reading. I graduated with a 3.4 gpa unweighted (not sure weighted) in 2010. What are my chances of Ivy league, Stanford or Johns Hopkins and will my grades and SAT scores still be acceptable if I were to apply since I did not go to college last year due to family issues.

  25. Todd Johnson says


    Having taken a year or two off should not be a problem with colleges. I can’t say for certain which colleges may be appropriate. Your SAT scores are very strong but your GPA is fairly low for most of the colleges you mention. There are circumstances were this might be offset but without knowing much more, your grades appear low.

  26. Jason says

    My daughter currently has an unweighted GPA of 3.5 or a little less, and high test scores (2240 SAT, 24 ACT). She has taken many AP courses (she’s a senior now, and has taken something like 20 semesters of AP courses, plus she’s in a lot of AP classes this year too). She is convinced that she won’t get into a great school because her GPA isn’t that high, but I think she’s being overly pessimistic. Any thoughts? Thank you.

  27. Todd Johnson says


    There are many colleges that would love to have a student like your daughter. The GPA is hard to comment on because it depends on how a GPA like that looks at her school. Outside of the most competitive colleges, she will have many options available. It is important however that she have a reasonable range of colleges and not just apply to the most selective colleges.

  28. Jason says

    Thanks – that’s helpful. “How a GPA like that looks at her school” — are you talking about her class rank? She’s in the top 10% of her graduating class, FWIW. Thank you.

  29. David says

    Hey, if I have a 3.0 GPA and a 2000 SAT score, what’s the highest college I can aim for? I’m interested in business and math, numbers. My weighted GPA, is about 3.85, I’ve always been a bright slacker. I turned things around my junior year, I started at a 2.3 and by senior I was at 3.0 ( my last 2 years are a 3.7 GPA)

  30. Todd Johnson says


    Congratulations on improving your grades in the last few years. Colleges do look at grade trends in making admissions decisions. Unfortunately, I can’t answer your question because college admissions is not just a numbers game. There are many variable that go into the issue of which students a particular college might accept and grades and test scores are but two issues.

    You should look at colleges where your GPA and test scores are common as they will most likely be match or safety colleges. You might also consider applying to some colleges where the average GPA is a little higher in the hopes that the college will consider your trend of grades.

  31. Tim says

    Hey Todd,
    I have
    a weighted GPA of about 3.95,
    unweighted 3.6,
    Decile rank of 2,
    and an ACT score of 32.
    I will have taken 9 AP classes and 1 Honors by the time I graduate.
    I am the captain of the varsity volleyball team, a member of the Improv Team, and a writer on the school paper. I was wondering, and I know you can’t give me my exact percentage, if I had a shot at UCLA or Boston College.
    Thank you

  32. Tim says

    Also, my senior year grades will likely bring my GPA up significantly, where should I stress this in my applications? Will colleges take this into account before rejecting me or simply see my current GPA and turn me away?
    Thanks again

  33. Todd Johnson says


    There is no way to comment on a particular student’s chances at a particular college without much more information. Colleges do pay attention to an improvement of grades through the years so if your senior grades are better that is good. Most colleges will ask for a mid year report so they can see the grades half way through the year.

  34. Sofia says

    I have a 3.32 unweighted gpa, 6.0 out of 7 weighed gpa, and am in the top 20% of my school (80 out of 476). My sat score was 2320, and subject tests math2-780, literature-780, Spanish-680. I’m a National Merit Semifinalist. I have good extracurriculars. I’m applying as an economics major in some schools and marketing in others.
    Right now I’m applying to way too many colleges because I don’t know which ones will want me, because my test scores are high but gpa relatively low for top schools. Which schools care about test scores the most compared to other schools? And should I bother applying to any really top schools like Columbia or is it just a waste of time?

  35. Todd Johnson says


    I never tell students not to apply to a particular school as long as they are realistic about their chances. Your chances are a highly competitive school like Columbia are very low unless there is something else about your application that might outweigh your grades. Since grades are the most important factor for most admissions decisions, it is unlikely that something will out weigh your grades.

    But top 20% of class with high test scores will still make you competitive for many colleges.

  36. Adam says

    Hi. So, in my Freshman year, I had one C (and 5 A’s) in my first semester and 3 B’s and 3 A’s for my second semester.
    In my Sophomore year, I had FOUR B’s in my first semester and then 1 B in my second semester (and the rest were A’s). One of the B’s in my first semester and the one in my second semester was due to AP Euro.
    So for 10-12, my weighted GPA is 3.9 and unweighted is 3.5.
    Right now, for my Junior year, I have all A’s at the moment.
    Just recently, I took the SAT and got a 2140. And I am in some extracurricular activities like swim (3 years already), and I’m in Key Club. I have around 70+ hours.

    So.. would I make it into a school like.. UCSD or UCLA?

  37. Todd Johnson says


    There are too many variables for me to comment on admissions to a particular college. In general terms, colleges like to see an upward trend in grades so just keep getting A’s and you will be a stronger candidate.

  38. Adam says

    I will be a stronger candidate, but at the moment, do you feel that I have a high chance? And is it recommended that I take the SAT again to try and get in the 2200s?

  39. Jake says

    Hi, I am currently in my junior year, with something like a 3.4 unweighted (6 AP classes and probably at least 6+ honors). I took an sat a year and a half ago with no prep and got a 780 reading, 660 math and writing. I am confident I can get at least a 2250. So far, I also have a 750 bio sat and an 800 world history. I go to a top 75 highschool. I run cross country, have played trumpet in my schools wind ensemble and occasionally jazz band, participate in our mock trial club, and volunteer. What are my chances of getting into U of Washington or a similar school? Appreciate you taking the time to respond.

  40. Todd Johnson says


    Unfortunately, as I have said before there is no way to give admissions chances based on limited information. In general terms, large public universities like University of Washington are very numbers driven where your GPA and test scores are the primary factors in the admissions process. Your GPA looks a bit low but if you get something like a 2,250 on the SAT that will help at a school like this.

  41. Mary says

    Hey everyone, this is to give everyone some hope. I’m a senior, and I got a 2310 the first time I took the SAT. This great score was coupled with an unweighted GPA of 3.4. (3rd quintile). Though I love learning and therefore took on as many APs (5) and honors (5) classes as I could, I took on a bit too much challenge that I could handle. What made it worse, I got straight A’s freshman year, and my grades got worse and worse. Junior year ended with mostly B’s. This downward trend made me think I had no chance to get into top colleges. Well, I just got accepted early to a top-5 LAC. I had no minority, legacy, or athlete hook.

    The basic message is, as long as you’ve challenged yourself and pursued your interests you CAN get into an amazing school without a high GPA. Colleges look for genuine curiosity and interesting people, not just the numbers.

  42. Todd Johnson says


    Congratulations on doing well getting into a strong college. Yes, I agree with you that colleges are looking for more than students with good grades and test scores. That being said, I wouldn’t encourage anyone to follow your path with grades. :) You were helped since you attend a strong high school.(I know Menlo since I have worked with students from there before)

    There are very few absolutes in the world of college admissions and your story shows that strong test scores and lower grades can sometimes work out. But for most students, you will be more competitive if you don’t have weak grades with strong test scores.

  43. Sarah says

    How important are senior year 1st quarter grades? My gpa is ~4/4.33, but the “gpa” of my 1st quarter senior year grades is only 3.8 (due to a B in an elective course). How badly do colleges view that?

  44. Liz says

    My son has adhd. As a freshman, he took academic lab every day and got mostly Cs. As a sophmore, his services were cut back and got As and Bs. This year, as a junior, he no longer receives services and is getting As and Bs – and just made a 33 on his ACT. Where does he explain this on his college apps, and how does he present this to schools?

  45. Todd Johnson says


    There are several options on how to handle issues like ADHD. Generally, I would recommend that it be addressed by the high school counselor in their recommendation letter to the colleges. Having a third party like this address the issue should ensure that it doesn’t come off as an excuse from your son for his early grades. The other option is for your son to write about it in one of his essays or in a supplemental essay that is used specially to address this issue. If your son writes the essay he must be very careful to keep it factual rather than have it sound like an excuse for his early grades.

  46. Eric says

    I’m a junior in highschool with my only AP class being AP english next year. Through High School, however, I’ve taken 8 honors (counting next year too). My gpa is 3.7 and I am currently in two clubs and have over 160 community service hours under my belt. My SAT should be around 1800 – 2000 and Im currently in national honors society. I’ve been having a hard time determing what range of colleges I should be looking at. I mean my gpa is high but I dont know if my one AP will be a detterent to top schools. I would love to know a range of colleges I should be looking at, if you can throw some names in there that would be great too!

  47. arjun suri says

    i have only two Ds on my record in spanish and honros precalc. i have a 1870on my sat and probably around a 30 on the act. i have alot of volunteer hours. i have taken 6 aps in highschool and all honors for everything else. because of junior year my gpa dropped to a 3.1 from a 3.5. i want to apply to clemson and. nc state and chapel hill. what are my chances? what should i do? i am also in many clubs and ran track amd cross cou try for two years. i have also been apart of a cancer research program since freshman year. please tell me what my odds are

  48. Todd Johnson says


    Colleges do not like to see any D’s on the transcript. The rest of your record looks fine. There is no way to say what a particular students chances are without much more information. The best thing you can do at this point is to keep up your grades as much as possible to show colleges that the D’s were not your typical work.

  49. Molly says

    I have two children with learning disabilities (aspergers, dyslexia, auditory processing disorder, processing speed, etc.). They are currently in 7th grade and got 500 on two sections of the SAT plus took a community college entrance exam and scored into college level writing using our college’s local placement exam. (One scored a 99/99 on a writing test.) My problem is their GPA’s. They attend a very tiny private school (<50students K-12) whose total school average on national achievement tests are around the 95th percentile. Their GPA's are low for the school believes in VERY TOUGH grading and coursework. Some of the texts they are using are used in college classrooms. I'm concerned about the GPA's and the ability to get scholarships. We were hoping to shoot for one of the 7th+ grade scholarships (Jack Kent Cooke, etc) but with the low grades think we need to bag the idea….which brings me to tears at this point. Now we're concerned about college scholarships. It is better to attend an "easier school" where I know they'll both get a 4.0 or a "harder school" where their GPA's are much lower? Where do we find the balance?

  50. Todd Johnson says


    The issue of which school to attend is not an easy question. You need to weigh the academic offerings at the different schools as well as the relative academic achievement of the other students in the school. Harder grading does not necessarily mean that it is the better school. I would investigate some other schools in your area where the grading is not so hard but which still is a strong academic school. Look to see how many AP classes the school offers or whether they have a IB program. Look to see what kind of colleges most of their students are attending. Are they competitive colleges or a lot of community colleges.

    The most important factor for college admissions are the students grades and the classes they took to get those grades. For many merit based scholarships these factors are also very important.

    The other issue which you don’t mention is whether your children will need some type of accommodation once classes get harder such as extended time on tests. Many children with learning disabilities like you mention will need some type of accommodation during high school. Colleges understand that students learn differently and that will not necessarily be a negative for admissions or scholarships. But whether a high school can accommodate a particular learning disability and in what way may very well be an issue you also want to consider while thinking about which schools to have your children attend.

    I would also recommend that you talk with a college consultant who handles students with learning disabilities on a regular basis to get their input into this issue. That is not my particular focus. Here is a link to the website for the Independent Educational Consultants Association which is one of the leading groups of consultants like myself. http://www.iecaonline.com/cfm_PublicSearch/pg_PublicSearch.cfm?mode=entry On that page you can search for educational consultants who have a particular focus in learning disabilities. Everyone on that list is well qualified and may give you more insight into this issue.

  51. Raul says

    So I have a 4.1 weighted GPA, 4 AP classes and around 15 honors classes. My unweighted GPA is at around 3.5. I’m in Beta Club, Varsity Soccer and Tennis, certified in Microsoft Word/Powerpoint and will receive my CNA soon. I did very well on ACT, expecting at least a 30. Would a 1950-2150 on SAT give me any chances at: Washington University in St. Louis, Johns Hopkins, UNC Chapel Hill or University of Pennsylvania?

  52. Todd Johnson says


    There is no way to say with the information provided whether you would have a chance of admissions at a competitive college. There are too many variables that may make a difference.

  53. Jrew says

    I go to a VoTech high school where I am studying manufacturing and engineering. At the end of this school year (my junior year) my cumulative GPA should be a 3.0 If I did outstanding on my SAT, what are the chances of me getting into a really good school?

  54. Todd Johnson says


    The most important factors for all colleges are the grades you receive and the classes you take to get those grades. While getting a strong SAT, say over 2,100 would be fine, it would not be likely to help a great deal with admissions to balance out the GPA.

  55. betsy says

    My son was the only semi-finalist at his school for the National Merrit Scholarship. He started highschool at 14 and has completed 4 college math courses at local universities with all A’s- His SAT was 2240 and his ACT was 32. He will be one of only a very few AP Scholars at his highschool and he has been involved and even started several Clubs at his school. He is a Math nerd but his freshamn year after his father left he failed a class that untimately brought down his GPA to a 3.3. He has won state level awards with Piano, started the schools very first challenge day and volunteered at a homeless shelter in his community. He is currently taking a 300 level college course in math and will be getting another A. He is also getting straight A’s this last semester but that will not be seen by his college entrance paperwork that was already submitted. After he takes the 5 scheduled AP exams he will graduate at 17 with 9 college credits but was weight listed for what he thought would be his easy in college-UW Madison—what can we do to help his chances with the Ivy leagues that came out to interview him as a result of his PSAT standing (top 1% in the country)–he is also fluent in Spanish and self-taught himself some Mandarin & Russian which were listed on his reccomendation letters.

  56. Todd Johnson says


    Unfortunately, at this point there really isn’t much more to be done. Decisions from all colleges including the Ivy League colleges will be out this week and most, if not all, of their decisions have already been made. He will just need to wait to see where he is admitted and then make some decisions as to where to attend. I hope that he has some colleges that he applied to that he is quite sure he will be admitted to. If not, and he is not admitted anywhere, then he may want to consider taking a gap year this next year and going through the admissions process again but with a broader range of colleges.

  57. betsy says

    His original career was going to be Actuary Science so he applied at Drake–he was accepted, even to thier honors program as well as accepted to Cornell in Iowa with the Presidential scholarship but he has found new interest in Physics and fears that he will be bored with the limited options at Drake as far as career choices go—my concern is that because he is so mathematically gifted–TA’d for AP Calculus class at 16–he will build relationships up at his chosen school and within the first 2 years exhausted all challenging classes and have to look at moving to yet another college..

  58. radzy says

    hi, my daughter found her sophomore year tough and decided to just not try, though she is a bright student and all her teachers agree that she doesn’t try consistently at her assignments and tests. She’s taken 3 Ap’s as a junior this year (doing just average in all)and has increased her gpa from freshman to sophomore(which dipped) and then now as a junior – they are back up, but not enough to be considered even for in-state colleges. We are from Northern VA which is highly competitive.
    She plans to take 3 more APs and the girl is slaving it, I know. Just unfortunate a situation. She scored more than 1350 (CR and M) and 1980 overall. Will retake SAT in Oct again.

    It’s just really sobering now coz we know she is capable of more but what do u think her chances are at all? She may graduate with a 3.4 :( Extremely strong ECs and is a great essay writer.

    please advise/help. We sure could use it :(

  59. Todd Johnson says


    Despite all of the things you hear, the vast majority of colleges accept most of the students who apply. There are many colleges that would be happy to have a student with a 3.4 GPA and 1,980 SAT. Your daughter needs to keep her grades up. Colleges will look at a trend in grades. Then she will need to find colleges that fit her needs and her academic abilities. I would suggest you take a look at the new College Board site for engine search. Here is their address: https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/college-search

    She should make sure that she has a range of acceptance rate for her colleges including some where her grades and test scores are similar to that colleges average and some where her test scores put her in the top 1/4 of the class.

  60. Richard says

    Hi, I guess I fall under the traditional “bright slacker” group. My GPA is about 3.4 unweighted (7 AP’s and 2 honors by end of senior year) with improvement from freshman to junior year at a very competitive high school. I currently have a 2220 SAT but it should definitely above 2300 by the time I apply for college. I also have from 730-800 in all my SAT subject tests, (Bio, Chem, Math 2, US and World History)and have two sports, one being varsity (baseball). However, I’m an asian male which I know hurts my chances. I realize these stats are decent for getting into average schools, but like most others in my community, I’m shooting for the top. I was wondering if this could get me into maybe the bottom Ivies/other competitive schools (maybe Carnegie Mellon or UC Berkeley?) or if I’d still be stuck with going to an average school.

  61. Todd Johnson says


    I don’t like to think of any college as average. Rather, some are more appropriate for particular students. While anything is possible I don’t think that colleges with the selectivity of the Ivy League colleges are reasonable options given your grades. You need to be looking at colleges that are a level lower from an admissions standpoint than the most selective colleges. And remember that just because a college has a higher admit rate does not make it a weaker academic college.

  62. Mike says

    I have an unweighted gpa of 95 and a weighted gpa of 99 i got a 1750 my first try on the SAT so i plan on taking it again along with the ACT. I am a varsity football player and i play at one of the top schools in the nation. I am looking to play college ball. I have tons of communtiy service and i am in the student government and a leaders organization in my school. I take honors and AP courses. Going off off this info is johns hopkins in my range? Keep in mind that i may play football there so would that give me a little bit of leeway?

  63. Todd Johnson says


    Your GPA is good but with that test score admission to Johns Hopkins is unlikely. Playing football may give you some bump but at at school like this, it probably isn’t enough to ensure admission. At any of the highly selective colleges, grades and tests are used to get you considered. But alone, they don’t get you in. It is everything else in your file that gets you admitted. Get your test scores up and you will be more competitive for Hopkins.

  64. Caleigh says

    Hi, as a junior I have an unweighted gpa of 3.3 but I’ve taken 3 AP classes (the only ones my school offers at this point)and 5 honors classes. My gpa would be a lot higher if not for math, which I have struggled with all my life, but don’t plan on going to college for. I only got 1650 on my sat’s but am taking them again in a week and will hopefully do better since I like to think I’m more prepared this time. I got 610 on the Critical Reading, 530 on the math, and 510 on the writing. I also play field hockey and am captain of the swim team, involved in the school musical, sing in the choir, on the debate team, and in national honors society. I don’t really have anybody to help me since neither of my parents went to college and would like to know my chances of getting into Rutgers New Brunswick, UMBC, Salisbury, or James Madison. Thanks!

  65. Caleigh says

    also, next year I’m not taking a math because if I don’t improve my gpa I will get kicked out of nhs because math has been killing my gpa. I am taking AP bio, AP english, and 3 history electives and no study halls. will not taking a math hurt me in applying to college?

  66. Todd Johnson says


    I can’t really comment on someone’s chances at particular colleges. Generally, if you are fairly strong academically but struggle with a class like math, colleges will consider that in doing admissions. Most schools consider your grades and the classes taken to get those grades as the most important factor in admissions so keep your grades up. Taking the AP classes will also look good on your transcript.

    Most colleges like to see 3 years of math so if you have that number of years of math you should be fine not taking math as a senior. If you have less than 3 years that will make things somewhat more difficult. In that case you would definitely need to explain your problems with math in your essays to the collegs.

  67. Liz says

    Can you tell me which selective small liberal arts colleges place a lot of weight on the ACT? My son has a really impressive ACT score, but a b/b+ average

  68. Michaela says

    I was wondering if I have a chance for a good college I have a 3.0 GPA and have a 1200 hundred total 450 reading 330 math 420 writing on the SAT and I haven’t taken the ACT yet and I’ve taken AP U.S. History. I’m a horrible test taker I get nervous and freeze up. When my parents pay for a outside tutor to tutor me which cost a lot a was very hard for us to afford they said that I was getting the harder math problems right but not the easy one’s which they said was a sign of test anxiety. I also go to a private school and the academics aren’t very good here I’ve consider leaving because of this many times and they don’t really offer me extra help in school. Next year is my senior year and I plan on taking the SAT over and the ACT for the first time in Oct. I also plan on retaking some of the Class I got C in at my school to raise my GPA. There’s also the issue of my IEP it’s out of Date but, since I go to private school they won’t help me which is except but the district near my house in horrible and it will take months for them to get me in and were on the waiting list is there any way I can get in to the top of the list faster? Is there a way I can get test at another district?

  69. Todd Johnson says


    There are good colleges for every student, you just need to find one that fits you academically and socially. I can’t really comment on the issues related to the IEP or testing in another district because I don’t typically deal with those issues. You would need to talk with a counselor that handles that type of issue. I would suggest you go to the website for the Independent Educational Consultants Association, http://www.iecaonline.com/cfm_PublicSearch/pg_PublicSearch.cfm?mode=entry, and search for a counselor that handles learning disability issues. They can possibly address the issues you raise.

    Good luck.

  70. Concerned Mom says

    Low GPA + Tough Unknown School + Scholarships

    I have two children attending a small private school. Last year, as 6th graders, they had GPA’s above 3.5. The “secondary” program at this school starts in 7th grade and is TOUGH. Both passed college entrance exams placing into college math and writing coursework as 6th graders and scored gifted on the SAT test in all areas. The dilemna. We live in an area where the high school grad rate is under 50% and the local community college grad rate is under 20%. At a local private school, which another child attends, nearly 25% of the high school youth have 4.0 GPA’s. Out of the graduating senior class there were 10 valevictorians in a class of 25 or so. Public schools in our area grade nearly just as easy. Yet these two children have a low GPA… around 2.9. I don’t know anyone at this school that has a 4.0…or even a 3.6. One lost out on a scholarship already soley because of GPA…couldn’t even qualify despite test scores. It’s not laziness, character issues, etc….It’s a VERY TOUGH school. (IE 7th graders take Algebra I including the study of number sets, number theory, factorials, combinations, permutations, etc.). formal logic, and have already studied the equiv of a year of college Latin or so. So, would it be best to move on to a different school where they would get a 4.0 (and scholarships) but not the level of education that would challenge them…. or do we leave them there? We MUST have scholarships. Our primary concern is that to even begin to qualify for most schoarships there are “cut-off” GPA’s that open doors…or leave them shut. Yet in a tough grading school the doors seem to be shutting already in terms of severe grade deflation in a geographic area of grade inflation. Our do they compete?

  71. Todd Johnson says

    Concerned Mom,

    The issue you have is one that often concerns me. As a parent and educator I believe that students really should challenge themselves and that learning should be the primary goal. And selective colleges will tell you the same thing. But, the reality is that students in particularly tough schools can be at a disadvantage in the admissions process and in getting scholarships. In many cases, colleges do know if a school is particularly difficult and that can mitigate this issue somewhat but it is a risk for most students.

    The one issue that I would mention is that most of the money for college comes from the colleges in the form of need based aid so grades are not as much of an issue. However, even then, some colleges will determine aid based on the academic profile as well as the need of the student.

    Bottom line is that a very tough school like you describe may make college admissions and financial aid some what more difficult.

  72. Sz says

    What about initernational students?
    I completed my 12th grade in india and i have a 75% in my 12th boards.

    i am yet to give SAT and im hopinf to score well.
    do colleges offer any type of financial aid as well for international students?

  73. Todd Johnson says


    International students are similar but colleges recognize that grading systems differ from country to country. What may be only a passing grade in one country is a great grade in another. In general terms, a 75% in India is recognized as fairly good grades.

    As for financial aid for international students, it depends on the college. A few colleges treat international students like US students for financial aid but this is the exception. At most colleges there is little aid for international students. That being said, there are some colleges that want to increase the number of international students they have on their campus and those colleges may provide aid to convince you to attend there. The fewer international students that a college has, the more attractive you will be as an international student.

  74. Claire says

    I’ve done well on tests so far. I got a 35 on my ACT (36 English, 36 Math, 33 Reading, 32 science) and a 224 on my PSAT (80 CR/80 W/64 M). I took the SAT yesterday, so I don’t know if I did well yet, but hopefully my score will be similar to the PSAT prediction.

    My GPA is around 3.8 unweighted, 4.5 weighted (5 points for accelerated or AP, 4 for anything else). I go to a competitive public high school and am in the top ~5/6% of a class of 694. However, I’ve never been able to get an A in math, and I got a B both semesters in sophomore chemistry because I bombed the final both times (went in with an A twice, came out with a B twice). Will this eliminate my chances at schools like Tufts, University of Chicago, and Swarthmore?

    If it helps, I plan to double major in German and Economics (I’m much more interested in German, but I want an element of practicality). I’m afraid that if by some miracle, I get into a highly selective school, I’ll be out of luck for merit aid.

  75. Todd Johnson says


    While no one can say for sure what your chances are at a competitive college, in general terms a couple of B’s on your record will not generally eliminate you from consideration. This is particularly true if they are not in an area of your interest. If you were a potential chemistry major I might be more concerned. Obviously try not to get any more B’s but always remember there are great colleges out there that are not as competitive to get into as the ones you mention. Make sure you have some colleges on your list that have higher rates of admission.

    As for merit aid, most highly selective colleges, including the ones you mention, give no, or very little, merit aid. Rather they are very good at need based aid. And this is regardless of your academic profile. If you want merit money you will need to drop down some in the academic rigor of the colleges to find those in which your grades and test scores put you in the top 25% and which don’t get a lot of applicants.

  76. Worried Kid says

    Hi, I’m a rising senior, my current cumulative gpa( at the end of junior year) is 3.88UW/4.5W. I’m going to increase my gpa in the senior year(taking all AP classes). I’m very interested in applying some of BS/MD programs like boston, rochestor’s REMS etc..My question is since most of the bs/md programs will ask to apply before Nov1 they will be seeing transcripts up to junior year and 1st semester class grades of senior year(excluding finals as finals for the first semester takes place in december),and how are we going to show them that my cumulative unweighed GPA has improved in the senior year(1st semester) and met their requirements. Example,some bs/md programs say that the admitted students will have 3.95GPA(UW) does this GPA is as of at the end of junior year? or at the end of senior year? Really appreciate your help.


  77. Todd Johnson says


    When BS/MD programs say things like the admitted students have a certain GPA that means at the end of senior year. They typically wait to make these comments until they have admitted the students and gotten final grades. The student may have a slightly different grade when they apply because as you point out, they won’t have complete grades for senior year. They do often look at how you are doing in the first semester of senior year even if they don’t have final grades. This varies from program to program.

    Your GPA is such that you will be considered for some BS/MD programs based on the grades. While grades and test scores are important, they alone, don’t get anyone admitted. Grades and test scores are used primarily to decide who is academically capable of handling the work. But it is everything else in your application that decides who gets an interview and a spot in a program.

  78. Alicia says

    Hi. I’m currently a sophmore.
    In middle school my friends bullied me….
    It was a big shock to me and that shock affected my academics and personality… i was usually an outgoing person….but after that incident my grades dropped…. especially in high school.
    I took 1 honors class (geometry) and i ended with around a weighted 3.6..
    I participated in winter and spring track along with math club, Japanese club, and hand in hand club…
    In my sophomore year, Im having a 4.16 weighted GPA (out of 5)..
    I’m taking 4 honors classes this year with cross country, winter and spring track, and 6 clubs. I also received a presidential award for volunteering…
    my chemistructure sat score was a 710 and I’m planning to take it again
    I really want to major in the medical field…

  79. Todd Johnson says


    The biggest issue is that you need to continue to keep your grades up. Activities are fine but the most important factor in college admissions are your grades and the classes you took to get those grades.

    If you are still struggling with what occurred with the bullying, I would recommend that you talk to a counselor. Maybe start with your high school counselor. Then focus on getting the best grades you possibly can. Colleges will look at a student whose grades are going up as they go through high school so as long as your grades continue a positive trend, you should be alright.

  80. Chelsea says

    I go to a very well renowned private high school in NYC. I have in between a B and B+ average unweighted and will have taken 4 APs by the end of my senior year. I have a 2210 on my SATs. I am a 3 season athlete, have been on varsity cross country and track since I was a freshman and played two years of JV lacrosse, and was captain one of them, and two Varsity years. I have done 75 hours of community service by bringing an organization helping for childhood cancer to my school and becoming school head. I am also a member and senior year will be head of Jewish caucus. Over the summer I do wilderness canoe trips that are 45 days, very “hard core” and mentally and emotionally challenging. I plan on writing my college essay on that. I am also puerto rican. What will all of this allow me to do college wise, I don’t expect to get into top tier schools, but is it un realistic to apply to schools like Wakeforest, Tufts, BC, University of Richmond, Bates, Colgate, University of Rochester, Lehigh, Lafayette, Occidental, Union, George Washington University, Tulane, Dickinson, University of Vermont. Which of these schools do you think are out of the question, reaches, or targets, are any safety’s? Thanks so much. If that’s too much to answer, could anyone just tell me what types of schools are worth me applying to, I’m just very new to the process.

  81. Worried Mom says

    Are there schools that give consideration to students with diagnosed disabilities? My son has good – not amazing – scores on ACT (29) and SAT (1880), but his grade point is hovering at 3.0 as he enters his senior year of high school. He was diagnosed with autism at age 12 and has worked to overcome the problems with executive function that come with that diagnosis – it’s not a matter of being a slacker, but real, verifiable challenges in brain chemistry. His grades have progressively improved and he has taken challenging classes (AP calculus and AP physics). We’re not aiming for Harvard here, but I’m hoping to get him into an engineering program in a decent university. We live in Michigan, so he is hoping to attend Michigan State University. Is this realistic?

  82. Todd Johnson says


    Unfortunately, there is no way for me to say what might be appropriate colleges for you based on limited information. If your school has naviance, and I would guess that they do, take a look to see how past students have done at some of the colleges you mention. Now, numbers alone certainly don’t tell the complete story but it may start to help you get an idea of how your school is viewed by these colleges.

    In general terms being Puerto Rican may help with admissions. You might want to check to see what percentage of students at each college are Hispanic. The lower the number the more likely they will be to have an interest in you.

  83. Todd Johnson says

    Worried mom,

    Almost all colleges will consider students with diagnosed disabilities. That being said, the quality of the services provided for these students at the different colleges will vary dramatically. This is not an area that I regularly deal with so I would suggest that you have at least a little conversation with a college counselor that handles these students. Here is the search site for the Independent Educational Consultants Association. Look for members that specialize in Learning Disabilities. http://www.educationalconsulting.org/cfm_PublicSearch/pg_PublicSearch.cfm?mode=entry

    In general terms, colleges want to make sure that a student can handle the work at their college if they are admitted. An upward trend in grades combined with taking a strong curriculum will look good to the colleges.

  84. THINH says


  85. Alejandra says

    Hi, i am an international student from Ecuador. I got a SAT score of 1850 on my first try. My school is an IB school and i will probably get 36/45 points. I have 100 hours of service among many other things. I am the president of the student council of the school and i am the goalkeeper of the girls’ soccer team. Do you think this is good enough to get me into stanford? if not, which school would you recommend? thank you!!!!

  86. Todd Johnson says

    Alejandra and Thinh,

    You both sound like good students but there is no way to say for sure whether you will be competitive for a selective college. In general terms selective colleges look most importantly at your grades and the classes you took to get those grades. Test scores are secondary and then everything else including activities, essays, and your general background. Coming from another country can help at some schools but it is still very competitive for international students who are applying to highly selective colleges. The best I can tell you based on the limited information I have is that you can apply to highly selective colleges but you should also make sure that you are applying to some other colleges that are less selective.

  87. Jim says

    Hi, I am a rising senior with a 4.28 weighted GPA and a 3.58 unweighted GPA. I have a 34 ACT score, a 780 SAT II bio (m) and a 740 SAT Math 2. My rank in class is 22/375. I received 2 Cs and 2 Bs this past semester because I gave my AP homework in 3 subjects–all of it–to my girlfriend and took Fs in homework but earned As on the tests. I know it was stupid, but she insisted that it would all work out. She has bad test scores and needed the grades. How do I explain this in my essay? Have I ruined my chances? Also, I took 2 college level classes and earned As in those–she wasn’t in either class. I wanted to go to Amherst.

  88. Jim says

    My 2 college classes (As in both) last spring were at our local community college, which is well respected within California. I am taking English this summer at the community college as well.

  89. Todd Johnson says


    While what you did was stupid it isn’t the worst thing in the world. How it will affect admissions to a highly selective college like Amherst is hard to say but generally if you are open and honest about it in a supplemental essay to your colleges I don’t think it will be a big deal. You do need to explain the drop in grades in the past term which is why I think it should be disclosed. You will also need to explain what you learned from your mistake.

  90. Bri says

    I will be a senior this year in high school. I have a 3.5 GPA (unweighted) and 4.1 (weighted). I have taken 2 AP classes (only made 2s on the tests) and many honors classes. I made a 1000 (just math and reading) on SAT and 22 on ACT. I would like to go to a college in state-SC- and I am considering Winthrop and USC. would i even be accepted? I am planning to take the SAT/ACT again.

  91. Bri says

    I also attend many clubs,am executive president of Student Council and have many service hours.

  92. Todd Johnson says


    There are too many factors involved in the admissions process to give chances to particular colleges based on limited information. If you just want to look at how your grades and scores compare to various colleges you can look at the College Board website and look at the colleges in which you have an interest. They have information that shows the middle range of test scores and the percent of students in different percentiles in the class.

    I hope that helps some.

  93. Jess says

    I have around a 3.7 unweighted GPA but a 2300 SAT. 3.7 is enough to put me in the top 10% of my school. I assume I’m ranked somewhere in the 70’s, but my graduating class has 847 people as of now. I would like to think that I’m a decent, interesting individual with solid extra activities, great recommendations and will be able to write an incredible essay that really showcases who I am. I know my GPA is low, but do you still think top 30 colleges (USC, UCLA, DUKE, UNC- CHAPEL HILL OOS, UMICH- ANN ARBOR, UCHICAGO) would at least consider me? I have been going crazy and stressing myself out over this. It would just be really upsetting if a low GPA was the reason I didn’t get into my top choices colleges. Thank you so much in advance.

  94. Brandon says

    I am entering my senior year of high school with a weighted 10-12 GPA of 3.42. I scored a 2230 on the SAT (710 math/720 CR/800 Writing), and have yet to take my SAT II Tests (I am planning to take US History, Literature, and Math II). I have taken two AP classes (US History and Language/Composition) of which I scored 5 and 4 on, respectively. In total, I have taken 8 AP/Honors courses, and am taking two more next year. I was diagnosed with ADHD 2 years ago and am currently undergoing treatment, although my GPA has already suffered as a result of the poor organizational skills and lack of focus associated with ADHD. I plan to attach a supplementary essay explaining the history of my disability in order to shed some light on my low GPA. Colleges I am considering are USC, UCSC, UCSB, and a few other UCs. Could you help me understand how will they respond to my individual situation considering my low grades, comparatively high test scores, moderately rigorous course load, decent AP scores, all while taking my disability into account? Thank you.

  95. Todd Johnson says


    Colleges are concerned about a student’s GPA but they also understand that different schools have different grading policies. If you are in the top 10% of your class you will most likely be competitive for selective colleges including some of those you named. You need to focus not just on grades and test scores but also finding colleges that are the best fit for your needs.

  96. Todd Johnson says


    Colleges will consider the fact that a student has a learning disability when evaluating the application to the college. But that will not be an excuse for lower grades as the colleges want to make sure that any student they admit can be academically successful at the college.

    You are probably best to focus on colleges where your grades are consistent with typical applicants and have a few reach schools. You should also be aware that the resources available at colleges for students with disabilities can vary dramatically and this may be a consideration if you may need things like extended time for tests or similar accommodations.

  97. leat says

    I jsut moved from India and took my sat. But my sat scores are really low, i have only 1230 . but my high school gpa is really good.i have a 4.5 Gpa on a 5 point scale. i want to know about my college chances?? Can somebody help me plzz..

  98. Arnav says

    Hey Todd,

    I’m an Indian student in my senior year. I’m scheduled to give the SAT in November and am hopeful of a 2100+ score. I tried to calculate my GPA but I’m unable to convert it successfully. To give you a basic idea, my grades are not particularly high and they’ve been hovering between the 60% and 80% mark since my freshman year. This year I have put in a lot of extra effort and have done decently in my first semester so far and hope to get around 85% in my midterms.

    My first question to you is, are school grades given much importance when talking about international students? If yes, are they aware that it’s much harder to secure good grades here

  99. Arnav says

    (Sorry for posting twice, clicked submit by mistake)

    Do they give more importance to my senior first semester grades or are the junior grades more important? With decent ECs and a well written essay that would distinguish me from other students and demonstrate what else I bring to the table, what chance do I have to get into one of the top 15 schools for economics? Also, does a 2300 instead of a 2100 make a big difference or should I keep the focus on my grades?

  100. Todd Johnson says


    The most important factor in college admissions are your grades and the classes you take to get those grades. This is true regardless of where you are from. That being said, colleges do understand that grading in different parts of the world can be very different. India is a good example of this as most experienced counselors understand that grading in India is much harder that in most other places in the world, and certainly in the US. But, grades are still important.

    Colleges will look for a trend in your grades and not just one semester. Of course, getting good grades senior year while taking harder classes will certainly look good. Keep you focus on your grades.

    As for extracurricular activities, these are important for the most selective colleges but they do not out weigh grades.

    As for test scores, higher is usually better but if you can get in the 2,100 range you should be competitive. As mentioned I think you are better off at that point keeping the focus on your grades rather than trying for a higher test score.

    As to the question of where you might be admitted, there is no way to say with limited information what your chances might be at a particular college. Go ahead and apply to competitive colleges but make sure you have some on your list that are less competitive as well.

  101. marcus says

    Right now i have a 3.0 gpa going into my senior year. i have gotten 2 D one in spanish 2 and the other in chemistry both were with in a 1% of being a C. I have not taken the SAT but after taking the PSAT i am projected to get between a 1700-1900. If i do that and with my gpa can i get into my dream school of University of Oregon?

  102. Todd Johnson says


    I don’t guess on whether a student has a chance at a particular college. In general terms, public colleges look at your grades and the classes you take to get those grades as well as your test scores.

  103. Iman says

    How will colleges look at an SAT of 2260 and unweighted GPA of 3.375 (10th & 11th)? He has taken 7 AP & 10 honors courses. He took 5 of these AP courses in junior year and scored 5,5,5,5,4. Furthermore, he scored 750 on the Math II SAT Subject Test. He also took two honors courses with those 5 AP courses in junior year. He is currently taking another 5 AP courses in senior year. He is a National Merit Semifinalist and a National Hispanic Scholar too.

    He has worked very hard in high school, spending his spare time doing a lot of remedial work to make up for a poor middle school education. He had an SAT score of 1180 before he started high school. (His SAT has improved almost 1100 points)Looking back, his elemenatary and middle school were more like glorifed Day Care centers than schools.

  104. Todd Johnson says


    Your son is obviously very bright but the lower GPA does raise questions. Colleges will see that he is taking a challenging curriculum but will wonder why his GPA is not higher. I think it will be important to explain the problems he had with his earlier education. This might be something to address with his high school counselor to see if she can help explain this to colleges.

  105. Mike says

    Hello. Im a junior and my first two terms I had a 3.72 unweighted but due to the fact that I don’t take tests well, I believe I will end up with a 3.66 unweighted by the end of this year. I slacked off last year so my projected cumulative is a 3.53. I took the ACT and got a 32, I also go to a competitive high school. If I apply early decision to a private highly competitive school like Duke, does upward improvement and high test scores look good?


  106. adjunctprof says

    Hmmm… My son and I were just talking about this he has a mere 3.7 with APCalc, AP chem, AP bio his junior year. He goes to a large good school SInce his PLAN score was close to perfect we are anticipating high SATS….

    3.7 is pretty low as lots of his friends have 4.0 or better. When A’s are given out so freely, in a world where a 3.5 is only good if you have an LD…..

    How are schools really choosing among all these “high achievers” There are so many.

    My older, LD son also had fairly high scores. The one SAT optional school he showed an interest in kept giving him messages in the mail and on the phone such as ” We are SAT optional but we strongly suggest you submit yours” Sure enough they offered him sig. $ right off (not need based) for a 3.2 GPA

    Which sent me the message “we are SAT optional but we still want smart kids.”

    If I was an admissions counselor I would take high scores over good grades any day. Retakes, Bonus points, points for trying, Don’t forget extra points for an organized binder…

    A’s just plain do not tell one much do they?

    Sorry I am rambling but grade inflation makes it impossible to tell who the smart ones are.

  107. Todd Johnson says


    I can’t comment on admissions to particular colleges but in general terms grades and the classes to get those grades are more important than test scores. Upward movement in your GPA does look good but strong test scores will not outweigh less than stellar grades particularly at the most competitive colleges.

  108. Todd Johnson says


    You are correct that grade inflation has been a problem for colleges in evaluating students for admissions. How ever, most colleges that receive significant numbers of applicants from high schools often have a good feel for where a student is compared to their classmates. This is often the bigger issue. At some schools, a 3.7 will be at the top of the class while at others it won’t be the top 50%. It depends on the high school.

    The less competitive colleges do sometimes use a high test score to offset lower grades but generally grades and classes taken will trump test scores. There are many problem with test scores but they do not measure intelligence and the correlation between test scores and freshman grades is only fair. High school grades are still a better indicator of freshman grades.

  109. alex says

    hi Todd
    I’m international student going to the international College in Lebanon my school grades out of 100% and, on average I have between 80 and 82 out of 100. I have 2030 on the sat with writing bring my lowest grade at 630 an having 700 on both math and critical reading. My school is in the top 5 best schools in the country, if not the top 3, and I’m taking the most difficult courses available. I’m in the school soccer team, have been for 5 years now, and I’ve chalked up around 80 hours of community service. I’m currently in grade 11. My grades fell a bit since I had to get used to the new campus, but they’re getting better. I have an 85 in math, and I’m looking to get into a good engineering school. Do I standna chance of going to a good university? PS, would you kindly explain over which grades my GPA is calculated?

  110. Todd Johnson says


    The problem with your question is the definition of a “good university”. There are many colleges in the US that would love to have a student like you. All colleges look closely at your grades and engineering schools will be particularly looking at your math and science grades so make sure you do as much as possible to keep your grades up.

    If you are talking about well known colleges like MIT and Caltech for Engineering then I don’t think that those are reasonable choices. But there are many colleges that can provide a great education that may not have big name recognition.

    As far as which grades are used to calculate your GPA this depends on the college. Most will use grades received in academic subjects including math, science, English, history/social studies and a foreign language. Some will include all of the grades you have received regardless of the class.

  111. Karima Wooten says

    Hi Todd,

    My daughter is homeschool but is under a Umbrella with a christian academy and they provides a transcript for her under the academy and it looks very professioal. I sister was telling me depending on her gpa which is 3.94 should weight out her SAT score and I have never heard of that. Is this is true? her first SAT score 1500. Her 1st choice is interest in McDaniel in western Md then Maryland University in college Park, Md and last is Messiah college in PA. What are you comments or concerns about her scores?


  112. Todd Johnson says


    Colleges do not weight the SAT based on the grades. They are separate issues. In general terms, colleges look more at the grades and the classes taken to get those grades than they do test scores. The problem with grades and home schooling is that there isn’t the comparison available to compare the students grades to other students. As a result, some colleges rely more heavily on the test scores for home schooled students. Here test scores are in the low mid range of McDaniel. For the University of Maryland College Park they are definitely on the low side. For Messiah they are on the low side of the mid range.

    Colleges do understand that some students just aren’t good test takers and will often look at other factors. This is more true with private colleges like McDaniel than for public schools like U of Maryland. She should try another SAT to see if she can get her test score up. She might also consider taking a practice ACT test to see if she might do better on that test.

  113. Aaron says

    I’m a junior in highschool. My Unweighted GPA is 3.53 and my weighted GPA is 4.15. I’m ranked 37 out of a class of 514. I scored a 32 composite on my ACT. The average ACT score for my school is a 22. My school is not very concerned with preparing students for college. Most of the attention at my school has been focused on making sure that students graduate highschool. With that said, will schools think that i am lazy because of my GPA. Most of the statistics i’ve seen show that a student who scored a 32 on the ACT should have a GPA close to a 4.0 unweighted.

  114. Todd Johnson says


    Although your GPA may look lower than selective colleges sometimes see they will recognize that your GPA still places you in the top 10% of your class. They are more concerned with how you compare to your classmates since the level of grading can vary from high school to high school. Your grades and test scores are not inconsistent in this case.

  115. Jamie says

    I would like to better understand how “class rank” is used. I go to school in Howard County Maryland. Our school system is highly rated and we are one of the top 9 richest counties in the nation. If I am ranked 50th out of 100 (using simple math here) in my county I could probably go to school in a county in West Virginia and be ranked 5th out of 100. Do colleges consider the demographics of where you are going to high school when considering class rank? Or is it class rank straight up with no statistical comparison (via SATs or demographics or whatever) to show the difficulty scale of where you are going to school?

  116. Amy says

    I have a Junior who was in an “alternative” school for 9th and 10th grade. That school taught basic History, English, Math and Science (no labs). There was no option for a foreign language or any AP/Honors courses. He is now in a regular high school for Junior and Senior year but I’m concerned that he won’t have enough of the “core” courses that colleges look for on his transcript. Would it make sense to sign him up for some Phoenix online elective classes? If I did that would those grades count on his admissions papers? I’m concerned that he’s not going to have many options for college and know that he really wants to be able to play basketball there as well.


  117. Todd Johnson says

    Class rank is important but the quality of your school is important also. Colleges are very aware what the academically strong high schools are and cut student’s from those schools some slack. The key word is some. If you are in the top 10% of a high school like yours compared to top 10% a weaker school, you would have an academic advantage. But if you are in the top 50% of a strong school you would not typically be as competitive as top 10% of a weaker school.

  118. Todd Johnson says


    Colleges look at what your high school offers when considering things like admissions. They will look and see that the first high school did not have many of the typical options and not blame your son for being at that high school.

    Online courses can be an option if the student wishes to take them but usually I recommend one of the one line high schools rather than University or Phoenix which is primarily an online college. EPGY at Stanford is one example of a good online high school option.

  119. Jrew says

    My grades were pretty bad most of high school (2.34 cumulative), but during my senior year, I got all A’s and B’s bringing it to a 2.45. I got a 1600 on my SAT (not that high, but one of the highest in my school) and my extracurriculars include two robotic teams and I have 4 years worth of engineering classes. Are my chances of getting into Syracuse to study industrial design any good. I’m an African American of that helps. Thanks!

  120. Todd Johnson says


    Colleges never like to see a D on the transcript but clearly something was going on that you got a D one semester and an A the next. If you can give them an explanation for what was going on that resulted in the low grade it will help in the admissions process.

  121. Noah says

    Hi, my name’s Noah, and I recently received my SAT scores. I received 800 writing, 770 math, and 680 critical reading. I will be taking biology, US history, and math 2 subject tests and expect to score over 750 in each. I have a perfect 4.0 GPA, and am ranked number 1 in my class of 433. As a junior I am taking 5 AP classes, and next year, I plan on taking 4. I am involved in NHS, science and world language honor societies. I play varsity tennis, and I swim. I also will probably be an Eagle Scout by the time I send in my applications. What do you think my chances will be for the Ivies. Especially for Columbia, which is my number one choice right now? Will that 680 in CR hurt me at all? And if so, should I try to take the SAT again to see if I can do better?

  122. Todd Johnson says


    Admissions depends on many factors in addition to the test scores. In genera l terms with a highl y selective college like Columbia a 680 is lower than I like to see for a typical applicant. I think retaking would be an option if you haven’t already taken it more than twice.

  123. Monica says

    My name is Monica, I’m a junior, and I’m african american probably majoring in medicine and/or international relations.
    I have a 4.36 weighted GPA, and I got a 1990 on the SAT, though I’ll be retesting for a higher score. I’m in full IB, but with my GPA I’m not even in the top ten percent! I am also a three year texas all state choir member and I hold leaderships roles in 3 organizations. What I’m wondering is, what type of chance do I have toward a good scholarship? I make good grades in my school, but it’s so competitive that I’m 70/629. In order to get good/full scholarships, what else can I do? It’s too late to raise my rank much and I’d love to go to some out of state school, heck even a renowned one, but I don’t think I have what it takes to get the financial aid needed to go there bc of my okay grades, as well as my mom’s higher than poor income (although our family supports 5 kids, three already in college). Sorry there are so many run-ons, but I’ve been panicking.

  124. Todd Johnson says


    The key to getting a strong financial aid award that is not need based is to apply to colleges that want you for some reason. For instance, if you are applying to a college that typically has students that are no where near the top 10% and have average SAT scores, that college may give you a merit scholarship because you are a stronger student than they normally see. Also, if you have a particular talent in some field they might offer a merit scholarship. Being African American might help if the college doesn’t get any African American applicants.

    At the same time, you probably shouldn’t give up on possible need based scholarships particularly if several of your siblings are already in college. Some of the top colleges for instance give substantial financial aid even for families making over 100,000. Make sure you understand how financial aid works and then start finding colleges that might be appropriate for you.

  125. Karima Wooten says


    My daughter has take the SAT test twice and she cannot get past 1500. she has been taken college classes since the summer of 2012 and has wonderful in each class. I put in a SAT prep class and her score went up a little but not much. Math is her weak subject and she is take colleg algebra math at this moment and is struggling so much. Her major in college will be Public Relations so this math class will be her last math that she has to take to complete her BA degree in Public Communication. How would the colleges look at her SAT scores and if she past her math class with a passing grade? Oh, my daughter is a senior in highschool.

    Thanks for response in advance,


  126. Omar says

    My weighted GPA 3.7 but ACT is 34. I am on the varsity Basketball team of a class 5A Division 1 school in Houston, Texas. I have made to the school team despite having knee surgeries on both my knees for congenitally abnormal menisci at age 12. I dont plan to pursue basketball in college. Will I have a good chance at any of the ivy league schools, Duke or stanford or similar school?

  127. Jasmine says

    Hi mr. Johnson
    Im a senior thats applying to top ivy schools & saftey schools too..
    I have a 3.9 weighted gpa, will graduate with about 9 ap classes all 4-5 ap score except for bio which i got a 3 on. :(
    Sat: 2250
    Cr: 800
    Math: 710
    Writing:740 with perfect 12 on essay
    Math level 2: 710
    Lit subject tesr :680 ( my ap teacher compensated by telling all the colleges i scored a 99 on the 1st sem literary ap exam …)
    But my rank is in 23% out of 1320 students….
    But thats due to extenuating circumstances, my own surgery, taking care of mom for about 6 years -she needs to visit the er regularly, been working for 3 years average 10-11 hrs per week
    I have tons of leadership EC’s both school and international-same goes for awards..
    Im just really worried about my rank, and i wanted to ask what would u think if you saw someone like me apply ? Please advise, id really appreciate it

  128. Todd Johnson says


    Realistically no one has a “good” chance at admittance at a highly selective college like those you mention. There are just too many variables. While your ACT is good your GPA is very low for this type of college. While anything can happen with these types of colleges, based on the limited information provided your chances are not good.

  129. Todd Johnson says


    There are too many variables to say how competitive you might be for a highly selective college. Under normal circumstances it would be very unlikely that a person in the 23% of a class to be admitted to any of the Ivy’s. But if you have some hook, underrepresented minority, legacy status, recruited athlete, that type of thing, it is possible you would be competitive. You are just going to have to wait to see what decisions the colleges make.

  130. Andrew says

    I have a 3.7 GPA but did poorly on the SAT 1st and 2nd time. I got a 1290 my 1st time and a 1280 my 2nd time. Then I realized that I had to take the ACT. The 1st time I got a 20. I want to take it a 2nd time but regular admission for Georgia State ends March 1st. I don’t know whether to take the test again and send my scores late or just submit the 20. Any tips?

  131. Todd Johnson says

    Not all strong students do well on the SAT and ACT. It is unlikely given your test history that your scores will improve significantly by retesting. I would probably just submit the scores you already have. You may want to look at some schools that are test optional, meaning they don’t require the SAT or ACT. You can find a list of such schools at fairtest.org.

  132. anna says

    If my gpa was 3.2 and 3.3 in 9th and 10th grade (and i took honors classes) and then took International Baccalaureate Classes and got a gpa of 2.8 and 2.9 and have a SAT score of 1650, are my chances very thin?

    More information:
    I took either honors or IB classes
    150 hours of service, creativity, and action for 11th and 12th grade
    U.S citizen but living in Dubai finishing my 12th year

  133. Todd Johnson says


    Your grades and test scores are fairly consistent so that shouldn’t be a problem. There are colleges for students with all GPA’s and all test scores. There are plenty of colleges that would love a student like you.

  134. Mati says


    My son goes to a very competitive school in California. His freshman GPA was 3.65, sophomore 3.75 and Junior first semester 4.0 and now he is not doing well. He had an accident and several health issues this semester. He might end up with one C or B- and the rest might be B and As. He has taken 3 APs( Computer science, statistics and Chemistry)so far, 6 honors ( math, physics, chemistry, biology) and the rest regular. His
    AP score in Computer science last year was 5 and he is confident that he will get 5 in the rest this year. He took the SAT in May and got 2100, SAT subject chemistry- 770, Math 2 -800. He is planning to take the SAT again in the summer or fall. This semester was very tough for him with health setbacks, so he did not do as well. What do you think his chances are? Will the bad scores this semester ruin his chances?
    He did track one year, and badminton one year. Did two apps for android. Built the online version (website)for the school paper last year. Also did another website that provides easy data base for older adults.

  135. Todd Johnson says


    Whenever there is an unexpected drop in grades it is important to explain what happened and hopefully show that it was a one time thing that has now been resolved. While it is possible for your son to do this in his application it is usually best if the explanation comes from his high school counselor. That way it does not sound like an excuse from your son. The fact that his GPA was moving up each year until this last semester will help particularly if he is able to bring his grades back up first term senior year.

  136. nene says

    I don’t school in the us so we don’t use gpa. At my school 75-100is A,74-65 B,50-64 C and 47-50 D and 0-46 F. I score between 80 and 82 and I was d 5th best student out of 234 students in my class.I also represented my state at competitions nationwide. I jst graduated at 14yrs. Do I have a chance of getting into harvard or boston university

  137. Todd Johnson says


    I don’t give admissions chances and no reputable counselor will do so because there are too many variables to say what a particular college might be looking for. Just as an example, if you are coming from China where there are many applicants to US colleges, you would not be a competitive as if you were coming from a country that rarely sent students to college in the US. Private colleges like you mention will consider not just grades and test scores but also your activities, level of involvement in those activities, your leadership skills, your maturity and a host of other possible issues.

  138. Gary says

    My son went to a very good competitive high school in New York. He is now in his 11th grade. His unweighted GPA is around 90/91%. The low GPA is mainly due to his poor performance from the French class. His composite ACT score was 35. His SAT score was 2180. He plans to submit ACT score. He is heavily involved with school quiz bowls and national economics challenge in the last two years. He and his team just won the national economic challenge. I am concerned for his low GPA. Is this means he has no chance to get into top tier school like UChicago (because he likes economics)? Should we look into 2nd tier college? Just need some comment and thought.

  139. Todd Johnson says


    An average of 90 to 91 is very solid particularly at a competitive high school but it is a little lower than would normally be seen with a student scoring that high on the ACT. Colleges will look at the entire curriculum and will see the lower grades in French. Assuming that is not his interest, it won’t be fatal for competitive college admissions but it will make it more challenging. The rest of his application will be important particularly at a highly selective college like U Chicago.

    No matter how strong a student, everyone needs to be considering some colleges that are not among the most competitive in the country. He can certainly consider applying to these colleges but also needs to apply to colleges where he has a better chance of acceptance.

  140. Sam says

    What kinds of schools or tier of schools should a student expect, who has a 3.5 gpa (quite low at his school, the second or third quintile), a 2290 sat score, 32 act score, no extracurriculars, and not a very compelling personality? This student passed up on many opportunities to do special extra things he could have done well in, such as science bowl, national latin exam, and swim team, because of low self-esteem or because he wasn’t “in the know.” Most of his classmates have these accolades and better grades, and the school is a top college feeder. He needs financial aid. What are his college prospects? Thank you.

  141. Todd Johnson says


    The student you describe will have many academic choices but given the lower GPA compared to the test score, and the lack of involvement, they may tend to be less selective. The 100 or so most selective colleges get many applications from not just smart kids but those who have been involved outside of class. These colleges want an active campus and will focus on those students. But, given that there are almost 3,000 four year colleges in this country, that still leaves many options for the bright but less involved student. I would certainly have a state college or university on his list since they tend to reward high test scores and aren’t as concerned about activities compared to private colleges.

  142. Jennifer says

    Hello, what are my chances of getting into the chemistry program of a school like University of Pennsylvania? My unweighted GPA is 3.637, and my weighted GPA is 5.069. I’ve taken 5 AP classes, and I’ll be done with my Associate in Arts degree by the time I finish high school. My ACT score is a 33, and my SAT score is a 2,220 (760 Math, 730 Reading, 730 Writing). I got a 5 on the AP chemistry exam, I scored a 780 on the SAT chemistry subject test, and I scored a 790 on the SAT math I subject test. Additionally, I have 225 hours of community service, of which a third was spent tutoring fellow peers in math and chemistry concepts.

  143. Jane says

    A student I know has a 4.4353 unweighted and is ranked 9th in her class. This student has only taken honors classes and when she graduates will have taken 10 APs. She is a Girl Scout and a varsity tennis player. She is in the National Honor Society where she is the secretary. She partakes in the science club and she was the captain of her Physics Olympics team. She’s taken the SATs once and received an 1810. This is a decent score but when she is compared to other students applying to top-tier schools this is not considered a good score. Are her chances to attend schools with averages of 2000 and above dim?

  144. Todd Johnson says


    There is no way for anyone to “chance” a student at a higher selective college with any degree of accuracy. In general terms, for a school like U Penn, your GPA is on the low side. However, if you have the highest GPA in your class, or one of the highest, then that GPA may be fine. Your test scores are typical of the type accepted at UPenn but test scores alone never gets anyone admitted. You briefly mention your activities but at most highly selective colleges these are the factors that decide who is admitted and who isn’t. You say you have spent time tutoring peers in math and chemistry. That is great and if UPenn is looking for someone with tutoring experience that may help you with admissions. But they may have accepted too many tutors last year and this year need tuba players. Or French tutors.

    The bottom line is that no one can say what your chances are. Apply to UPenn if you believe it is a good fit for you but also make sure you are applying to other less selective colleges which are a match or safety for you.

  145. Todd Johnson says


    See my reply to Jennifer right before this. No one can say what admission chances are for a particular student. Focus on colleges that are a good fit for the student academically and socially and you should have plenty of choices in April of senior year.

  146. Rainier says

    Hi! I have a gpa of 3.4, I’m ranked in the top 15th percentile of my school, and I got a 26 on the ACT, and I have 50 hours of community service. I don’t want to go to a community college. I’m going to apply to the university of houston for mechanical engineering (I’m really good at math, I got an ACT 29 on the math section). Am I a good candidate?

  147. Todd Johnson says


    Given your GPA and ACT score there are many colleges that would love to have a student like you that are 4 year colleges. I can’t chance you to U Houston since there are too many factors that go into college admissions to give a reasoned guess based on limited information.

  148. Amy says

    I am going to be a sophomore this coming school year at a school with over 4000 students. I have a 3.8 weighted gpa. This is the result of my mother and aunt going to college and father being busy with work. I clean everything and i watch my 9 year old brother and my aunt’s kids, 4 and 1 years old. I make meals for everybody and try to help out in any way I can. My father is currently recovering from a brain tumor, which had caused my mother severe depression.
    My 3.8 gpa was also due to my getting a B in an elective: orchestra. I had recently broken a bone and was trying very hard to make up for it. I developed tendinitis by over practicing and my teacher received a doctor’s note but continued to give me a hard time.

    My school has a very competitive curriculum and this is why i had trouble initially trying to get all As freshman year. Before moving (before high school technical started) , I had never gotten a B.

    Towards the end of the year my performance significantly improved. My average test scores went up 10%, and in some classes more. By then it was too late to significantly change my overall class grades.

    I just don’t want my application to sound like a list of excuses.
    What should I include, what should I omit?

    I plan to improve my academic performance as my most recent performance showed me I am capable of doing very well in this competitive environment.

    I am in 6 clubs, 1 is a choir audition group, 1 is student run (in which i have a leadership position)
    and I am founding my schools first Spoken word team for the “Louder than a Bomb” competition in Chicago, the largest gathering of youth poets in the world.
    I know that scoring well on the SAT and the ACT will not be a problem.
    I feel as though I am not sure how to better my chances to getting into an Ivy League university. I keep reading you saying that there are always a lot of variables. Is there anything else I should that will help to make me a stronger applicant? I am concerned for my initial academic performance freshman year and the fact that I cannot do sports competitively anymore (crippling injury 8th grade).

  149. jodi zighelboim says

    Hi what about a student who has a 3.7 (unweighted ) at a very competitive high school with a 2310 sats (first time) . are they a candidate for a school like rice. or is there gpa too low?

  150. Elizabeth Yoon says

    I am going to be a senior when the 2014-2015 school year starts and my accumulative GPA as of now is only a 3.04 unweighted. I just recently recovers my SAT scores and got a 2100. Looking at schools such as Boston University, Northeastern university, University of Maryland College park and other schools, my GPA is way below the average. I was wondering if I bring up my GPA senior year(aiming for straight A’s with two AP classes), will it help my chances of acceptance? Also, I heard that colleges see students with low GPAs and high SAT scores as lazy. However, I really did not slack off. I really did put my best effort toward and I barely made it alive through the 3.0 barrier. I’m just the type of person who, no matter how hard he/she works, does not see the results right away. That is why I am going to try extra hard senior year to show colleges that I can get good grades, but I was just wondering if that will help my chances at all.
    Thank you so much !

  151. Todd Johnson says


    If you just finished freshman year you do not need to be worrying about such issues. College admissions involves many factors but the two most important at most colleges is your GPA and your test scores. A 3.8 as a freshman is very good. Keep working to keep your grades up. The better your grades the greater your colleges options in 2 years when you are starting to get ready for applications. Many private colleges are also concerned about what you do outside the classroom so continue your involvement in activities that you enjoy and help out your family as you have been doing. That is recognized by colleges just as much as outside activities.

  152. Todd Johnson says


    I can’t comment much on particular colleges because of all the variables. If your 3.7 GPA puts you near the top of your class then a school like Rice may be very appropriate to consider. If it puts you in the middle of the class, Rice is unlikely.

  153. Todd Johnson says


    Colleges do look at grade trends so if your grades are staying the same, or improving, as you take more difficult classes, they will take that into consideration. That being said, there are good colleges throughout the country for every type of student. Just make sure that you apply to some colleges that fit your current profile.

  154. Jodi Zighelboim says

    Hey Todd. I am unsure about where my class ranking is. After the top 10 percent, they do not rank. I know that with my 3.7 unweighted gpa (actually with my school , my weighted gpa is 100.376) i am not in the top 10 percent, but after that, they do not rank. I go to an exemplary very competitive high school

  155. MG says

    Hey Todd,
    My GPA weighted is a 3.76. Im in the 2nd decial in my school and im going to be a junior. I do tennis, and many clubs, and im going to start one at the beginning of the year…i also volunteer in various places like the library, hospital, various local places, etc and am also in boy scouts. so i have hundreds of hours of community services. If i get suppose a 2250+ on my SAT and my GPA increases (hopefully higher) to a 3.8+ weighted…can i get into a good college like carnigie mellon, uc berkeley, GA Tech, or even NYU…like do i have a chnace and if not what else can i do to increase it.
    Thank you.

  156. MG says

    oh and also i was in two honors in freshman year and three in sophomore along with one ap class..ap comp sci which i got a 5 on the test and want to pursue a career in either business or computer science or even both\
    Thanks again.

  157. Suraj Shrestha says

    Hi, I am Suraj from Nepal. I just finished my A-level exams and i am waiting for my result. My two years of high school were very poor academically, probably 2.0 GPA. As of the first year, my grades were Phyics-E, Maths-E and GP-B. I want to re-take the exam. But will re-taking exam again and getting good SAT and TOEFL/IELTS scores can get me admission for a good university in US?? Plus, i want to take a year gap and utilize that year gap by involving in voluntary works and learning music and arts.

  158. Suraj Shrestha says

    Also, I am not much interested in physics and so i didn’t re-take the first year physics exam . And I gave Biology and Chemistry exams instead as i got failed in them in the first year. Will that decision affect in anyway afterwards?

  159. Todd Johnson says


    I don’t do chances because there are so many variables in college admissions beyond GPA and test scores. Do the best you can and apply to a range of colleges. You should be fine from an admissions standpoint as there are many colleges that would love a student like you.

  160. Todd Johnson says


    There is a college in the US for every type of student. Grades are very important for admissions, typically more so than test scores. I can’t comment on admission to any particular college but make sure you are applying to a range of colleges. Many will say what their middle range of GPA’s are. If you are in the lower part of that range, the college is a reach for you.

  161. Jane says

    I have a 4.3 GPA which makes me 9th out of 200 students. I have been on Varsity tennis for the past three years and I am captain for my senior year. I am Secretary of National Honor Society. I am also an Ambassador Girl Scout who has earned her Bronze and Silver awards. I am currently working on my Gold Award. I am in the Science club at school and I plan to run for office. I am African American and I plan to go into biomedical engineering with minors in Spanish and neuroscience. I have about 300 hours from volunteering in a hospital, senior center, and library. My SAT score was an 1810 however. I plan to retake it as well as take the ACT. With such a low score, will competitve universities such as Rice or Washinton University in St. Louis, overlook me despite their holistic approach to admissions?

  162. Kyle Long says

    Hi, my question is if I have a 3.6 GPA by the end of my first semester of Senior Year with a high SAT score 2250 can I get into colleges like Duke, Emory and maybe Stanford. BTW I have taken 17 AP courses and plenty of honors so that why my GPA is kinda low but if I could get your imput that would be great because i’m kinda freaking out with all these kids have 4.0 GPAs. Also i’m vice president of an honor society, officer of math honor society,co-founder and vp of my schools chess club and have over 250 hours of community service. Based on my academics and extra curricular do I have a reasonable chance or should I not apply. Also do schools count the first semester of senior year? Thank you.

  163. Todd Johnson says


    No one can say for sure what your chances are at particular colleges. That being said, a 3.6 unweighted GPA at most schools will make admission to highly selective colleges such as those you mention very unlikely unless students from your high school get into colleges like this with similar grades. Taking challenging classes is great but at a sacrifice to your GPA it won’t help much. There are plenty of colleges out there that would love a student like you. If you wish to apply to a highly selective college just to see what will happen, go ahead and do so. But make sure you are also applying to some other colleges that are less selective where you admissions changes are greater.

  164. Alicia Stone says

    My son is a rising senior, and is a bright slacker. He starts out the year strong, but has always struggled during the last quarter. His high school only offers 1 AP class, which he took, and received a B. He has also taken as many Honors classes as his schedule would allow, I would say 7 total to this point, and will have 3 or 4 more his senior year. However, we just learned he received an F in a class last semester. He received a B for 1st semester and an F second semester. It was an Honors class (Anatomy and Physiology), and quite honestly he was in over his head from the beginning, and it was not from a lack of studying or trying. While this is not an excuse, it is known as the most difficult class at the school. In hindsight, we should have dropped the class at semester, but he not one to give up! His school also does not do class rankings.

    He wants to go UNC-Chapel Hill. If he does well his senior year (all A’s and B’s) would have a reasonable shot at acceptance? He also plays lacrosse and has been class Vice President for 4 years.


  165. Alicia Stone says

    I forgot to mention, he has taken the ACT once (and plans to take again) and received a 28. He has been studying, and is confident he can get his score to at least a 30. Thank you!

  166. Todd Johnson says


    Unfortunately, there is no way to tell how competitive a student might be at a selective college like UNC Chapel Hill with limited information since there are so many variable involved. In general terms, it sounds like UNC will be a reach school for your son. Even if he applies he should have other colleges where his GPA and test scores better match the typical student admitted to the college.

  167. Sonia says

    Hi, I’m going to be a senior in 2 days. My weighted GPA is a 3.7 (3.64 non weighted). I’m not a very good test taker. My first SAT score was a 1410.I am going to retake the SAT in 2 months and I have not yet taken the ACT. I am captain of the varsity soccer team, & going to be captain of the Cross Country & Track team. I have done over 150 hours of community service. I have done internships as well. I am 16th in my senior class. I am taking 3 AP classes this year & will be doing 4 years of a foreign language (Spanish Literature). I was wondering what are my chances of getting into a good university?

  168. Todd Johnson says


    There are many very good colleges that would love to have a student like you. Normally with a lower test score I would recommend you consider colleges that are test optional. You can find a list of such colleges at fairtest.org. To find which of those colleges might be a good fit for you you can try a website like Big Future from the college board. Here is their link: https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/

  169. Anthony says

    Hi I am an International Student, Ontario,Canada to be specific. and I am just wondering if you could help me out with some GPA questions.

    I heard that in the USA 90-100% is considered a 4, but in our school board, 80-100 is an A. Does US college try to convert my grade to the American scale (if they do I am in big trouble because my GPA would be like a 3.2) or do they accept our scale ( where 80-100 in an A).

    I have been searching long and hard for an answer, but could find a satisfying one, and I would really appreciated it if you could answer my long-tition

  170. Anthony says

    (Sorry for posting twice, accidentally hit submit)
    Do universities (especially Princeton and MIT) understand that my high school doesn’t offer AP or any advanced classes? Also, I see that most people who are accepted to Princeton and MIT have like 7 leadership roles. However, in our school it is rare for any one to have even 2 leadership roles ( I have 3 leadership roles by the way), will universities look at the number of my leadership roles relative to other people in my school?
    Sorry for being all freaked out…

  171. Sonia says

    & I really want to get accepted to a religious university or college like Santa Clara University, Notre Same, St. Mary’s College and St. John’s University. Any ideas of any other good religious schools? I want to major either in business, sociology, or criminology.

  172. Robert says

    Hi Todd!
    I’m a senior this year, with a cumulative GPA of only 3.0. However, my SAT score is a 2170. I was diagnosed with ADD very late into junior year, so I struggled immensely with schoolwork for the first three years of high school. I understand you don’t do chances, but I just want to know if my SAT score and LD diagnosis justifies my poor grades, and if I will be viewed as a “good student”?

    Just some extras:
    I’ve taken two APs (scored 5 and 4), and I’m currently taking 3 APs this year. I’ve been part of the school concert band and am currently first chair in my instrument.

  173. Todd Johnson says


    I wouldn’t ever say that a diagnosis of LD “justifies” poor grades. It may provide a partial explanation but it also depends on how you do now that you have been diagnosed and I presume are getting treatment. Will colleges take such issues into account? Yes.

  174. Manny says

    I am currently a junior. My grades freshman year were mostly As but because of major conflict outside of school during my sophomore year, my grades were terrible. I ended up failing honors geometry and the second semester of honors English. my overall gpa ended up being a 2.0… yikes I know.. Now, everything is way better thankfully. I have straight As. if I get at least a 27 on my act do you think I would still be able to get into a decent college? U of I for example. Thank you so much for your time.

  175. Manny says

    Oh and if it matters, I was chosen to be apart of 2 different leadership programs in school that involve leadership in sports and mentoring freshman. I am apart of the math team, I play volleyball and I was also a manager for the girls volleyball team. Thanks!

  176. Andre says


    My GPA is a 3.6 unweighted, 4.2 weighted. I’ve taken two non honors/AP classes in all of high school and have 5 AP classes this year as a Senior. This year I’m in the most advanced math, science, english, and history classes my school offers. My SAT is a 2120, and my ACT is a 34. My Freshman GPA was a 2.8, Sophomore, 3.8, and Junior 4.0 (all unweighted GPAs). My school ranks by quintile, which I am in the highest. I have 200 hours of community service and have played Varsity baseball for 4 years and have academic all league and first team all league awards for 4 and 3 years, respectively. I have good letters of recommendation and can write good essays, so could I look at competitive schools? My counselor said Berkeley is a match school for me, but I was wondering how my application would look to somebody who doesn’t know me. Could I even look to more selective schools, where acceptance is <20% or should I stick to around 30-40%?

  177. Ana says

    I have a 3.44 unweighted an a 6.1 weighted. My low unweighted is due to being in a very intensive IB program along with taking un-necessary online classes as a underclassmen. I have taken 10 AP classes. I have a SAT score of 2250, so is it possible for me to be offered a merit scholarship for U Pitt, if my sat score fits the bill but my GPA does not?

  178. Harsh Choudhary says

    I did really bad in 9th grade and 10th grade first term, but it’s honestly because I didn’t study till 2 days before the exams. My question is: If I do really good in my 10th grade finals (I’m in a CBSE school in India) and do really good in 11th and 12th grade AND get 2100+ in my SATs, can I get a full scholarship in a good college?
    Also, I’m really good at soccer and I play for FC Barcelona’s academy in India and have played important tournaments, if I do what I said I’d do above (do really good in 10th grade finals, 11th grade, 12th grade + 2100 SAT score) will I get a sports scholarship? Or will my sports count seperately anywhere in point 1? Like will it help me in a regular academic full scholarship?
    3. Will colleges get to see my 10th grade finals exam result seperately or will they get the entire 10th grade’s result?

  179. Harsh Choudhary says

    I did really bad in 9th grade and 10th grade first term, but it’s honestly because I didn’t study till 2 days before the exams. My question is: If I do really good in my 10th grade finals (I’m in a CBSE school in India) and do really good in 11th and 12th grade (Like a 9 or above CGPA which is considered a 3-4 in US I think) AND get 2100+ in my SATs, can I get a full scholarship in a good college?
    Also, I’m really good at soccer and I play for FC Barcelona’s academy in India and have played important tournaments, if I do what I said I’d do above (do really good in 10th grade finals, 11th grade, 12th grade + 2100 SAT score) will I get a sports scholarship? Or will my sports count seperately anywhere in point 1? Like will it help me in a regular academic full scholarship?
    3. Will colleges get to see my 10th grade finals exam result seperately or will they get the entire 10th grade’s result?
    4. I need a full scholarship because my I wouldn’t be financially able to afford a college like University of Maryland or any of the NCAA D1 colleges, that are also good in studies.
    5. I don’t think I have weighted and unweighted scores in CBSE.

  180. Todd Johnson says


    There are great colleges throughout the US for all types of students. There are many colleges that would like a student like you. However, with a blip like this on your transcript you should make sure that you are applying mainly to colleges that are not as selective.

  181. Todd Johnson says


    You can certainly look at competitive colleges but you should also be aware that most look at all four years of high school so will see the low GPA in 9th grade. Because of that blip you should make sure that you are also applying to some colleges that are not as competitive to make sure that you have some options come April. I think your chances at colleges that accept less than 20% are not great.

  182. Todd Johnson says


    While it depends on the college, most colleges that I am familiar with will not consider a student for a merit scholarship if they don’t meet the criteria for the scholarship.

  183. Todd Johnson says


    Most colleges in the US look at your grades from all four years of high school so they will see the 9th grade scores for sure. Whether they see the first term of 10th grade depends on your school and how it reports grades to colleges. Most high schools will show every term’s grades.

    Sports scholarships are fairly hit and miss so it is difficult to say if you will be competitive for one or not. Most sports scholarships are not full ride and typically not a lot of money compared to the cost of the college.

  184. Harsh Choudhary says

    So if I do really good in my 10th grade finals (I’m in a CBSE school in India) and do really good in 11th and 12th grade (Like a 9 or above CGPA which is considered a 3-4 in US I think) AND get 2100+ in my SATs, can I get a full scholarship in a good college? Like won’t that be considered as a massive improvement?

  185. Chloe says

    I slacked off in my Freshman and Sophmore years. My GPA is currently 3.3, having taken 2 APs, almost all honors courses for high school credit starting in 7th grade. This year I got my act together. I am currently in an Early College Program in which I take all college classes at a college (not college level, actual college), and finish my last 2 years with an Associates in the Arts, I am doing very well and acing all of my classes. If I continue at this rate, take an extra course each semester and summer courses and work to death to get A’s my GPA will be 3.7 unweighted and 4.5 weighted. I have pretty good extra-curriculars, clubs, sports, volunteer work, I’m helping my professor to do research for her book, and a part time job. What are my chances (i.e. UCLA, Univ. Miami, USC, UF, etc…) and am I still a risk?

  186. Harsh Choudhary says

    Hi, so previously I had told you that I had a bad 9th grade and I have a bad 10th grade first term, BUT, if I manage to get a 9/10 CGPA in my 2nd term (which is equivalent to a 4/4 GPA in US) And manage a 9 and above in 11th and 12th AND get a Sat score of 2150+, will I be able to manage a full ride or a good amount (say 65+% above) ? In the good colleges. Will colleges like the improvement from a 2.0/4 GPA in 9th to a 4/4 in 10th 2nd term and a 4 maintained through 11th and 12th grade and a sat score like 2150+ (Or how much more should I get in SAT? 2200?) and maybe even give SAT 2 and do well in that.

  187. Todd Johnson says


    Congratulations for getting back on track academically. Colleges look not only at your GPA but also the trend of those grades so the upward trend in challenging classes will work to your advantage. I don’t do chances because there are too many factors in play in the world of admissions. Apply to the colleges that may be a reach but also make sure that you also are applying to some colleges that are more of a match or safety.

  188. Harsh Choudhary says

    Hi, so previously I had told you that I had a bad 9th grade and I have a bad 10th grade first term, BUT, if I manage to get a 9/10 CGPA in my 2nd term (which is equivalent to a 4/4 GPA in US) And manage a 9 and above in 11th and 12th AND get a Sat score of 2150+, will I be able to manage a full ride or a good amount (say 65+% above) ? In the good colleges. Will colleges like the improvement from a 2.0/4 GPA in 9th to a 4/4 in 10th 2nd term and a 4 maintained through 11th and 12th grade and a sat score like 2150+ (Or how much more should I get in SAT? 2200?) and maybe even give SAT 2 and do well in that?

  189. says

    Hi Todd, based on your experience how do you think my candidacy is for for BS/MD programs? Just is it generally Good?

    These are my stats:
    *G.P.A.3.5-3.6 out of 4.0(UW)(School is Top 50 in the nation and Top 10 in NY)

    *AP Classes:6 AP Classes(Biology(4),Chemistry(4),Physics,European History(5),Calc and Stats)
    *School does not Rank
    *SAT: 2300+
    *SAT 2’s: Bio(770),Math 2(730)
    * Does Hospital Community Service,plays Piano, does Usher service, Research at Medical College(INTEL,ISEF,WESEF and SIEMENS),Martial Arts, UNICEF, Missions trip etc..

    My question does my high SAT make up for my Mediocre G.P.A? Thanks a lot!

  190. Todd Johnson says


    In general terms, good test scores do NOT balance out lower grades. That being said, while a GPA of 3.5 to 3.6 would not be particularly competitive with BS/MD programs, if that puts you near the top of your class at your school, then it may be sufficient. Your school may not rank but colleges typically will have an idea where your GPA puts you in your class particularly if they are familiar with your school and based on what you have said, they will know your school. It is also not clear if you are an INTEL and Siemens finalist or just entering those competitions. Finalist status is impressive for colleges.

  191. says

    Sorry Mr.Johnson,

    Actually my unweighted G.P.A after looking on my school page(Naviance) my G.P.A is 3.7-3.8. Sry for the wrong info. Does this help?


  192. Greg says

    Hi mr Johnson! I have been working a full time job because my father ran from our family, so I have to work to help make ends meat for the family. I have a 3.72 and a 2340(1600 out of 1600). Do colleges forgive kids for bad grades caused by extreme situations?? I’m thinking of applying to uchicago, duke, Maryland cp(in state), nyu stern, Michigan, Cornell. Do I have a chance at these colleges? Also what are colleges that only look at critical reading and math? Thanks!!

  193. Todd Johnson says


    Colleges generally look very favorably on students that work to help support their families. But grades are the most important factor in college admissions and I have no idea what your grades mean. Are they weighted or unweighted? Does a 3.72 put you in the top 1% of your school or the bottom 10%? I have seen schools where either could be the case. There are too many factors to give a chance estimate based on such limited information.

    As for your test scores, whether a college is looking at all three sections of the SAT or only critical reading and math, the final decision will not be any different. Make sure you are applying to a range of colleges, including some for whom your GPA makes you a strong candidate, so that you have options come April.

  194. Jackie says

    Hello Mr. Johnson:

    I just realized that I posted the above comment in error.

    My son is a HIGH SCHOOL senior and he is now applying to schools. He has an 86.8% average on a weighted 100 point scale (a 3.3?). We figure that he has a 3.0 if you look only at his core subjects. He received As and Bs throughout but got a 78% in an AP class in 11th grade (the only AP/Honors he took) and a 76% in a half year class because he over-extended his ECs and got very behind. He received a 28 on the ACT and has had many ECs (leadership, paid jobs, internship, academic club, professional club and a sport ). He is also mixed race white/Hispanic. We are looking at schools like Temple, SUNY Albany, and Rutgers (in-state). What do you think his chances are at those schools? Also, he has ADHD and has had a 504 throughout school. We are not really highlighting this on his applications because we don’t want make a big deal of it, though his guidance counselor will have that in her letter. Do you think we ought to be highlighting that more in his applications? While it does explain the difference between the ACT score and his grades, we also don’t want to be perceived negatively by the schools because of a learning disability (i.e., using it as the reason for his lower grades). Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

  195. Todd Johnson says


    There are too many factors in college admissions to give chances based on limited information. That being said, I would look at colleges where his test scores and grades in their mid range of acceptance. I don’t work with students with learning disabilities but my thought is that if the counselor is willing to explain his ADHD and the 504 that he has, that should be sufficient. However, from your standpoint, you also want to find colleges that work well with students that might need accommodations. You might consider talking to a counselor that deals with students with issues like this to get an idea of what some good colleges might be for your son.

  196. Naomi says

    Hello! So my situation is a little bit different. I have a 4.0 gpa (unweighted) and a 4.32 (weighted) gpa but my test scores aren’t that great. I received an 1850 on my SAT and a 28 on my ACT.
    My stats:
    *11 honors/AP courses
    *100’s of volunteering hours
    * founded a club and am committed to several others
    Do most people with stats similar to mine have a chance at top schools like UC Berkeley or UCLA? Are those considered reach schools? What schools would I have a high chance of getting into? Thanks!

  197. Todd Johnson says


    I don’t do chances because there are too many variables that come into play particularly with selective colleges. That being said, almost all colleges value grades more than test scores. The schools you mention would be reach schools for most students since they are quite selective. Your test scores are good but not as high as might be expected for someone with your grades. You might want to consider some test optional schools that don’t require standardized tests for admissions. You can find a list of those colleges at fairtest.org. There are a number of very good colleges on that list.

  198. Jada says

    I’m a junior in high school with a 2.9 weighted gpa and a projected score on the act of 27-31. I plan on taking ACT classes to work on my score and also applied to a program that serves minorities in the community to provide assistance with plans after high school. My sister completed the program and is now a freshman at Augustana College (GPA ~3.5 ACT 29).

    I did poorly freshman and sophomore year, but took mostly honors classes. My high school is very competitive.

    Biology H (B/C), Spanish 2 H(B/C), photo 1H (A), Graphic Design H (A) , Geometry H (B), English & History H/regulars (B/C)
    PE (A)
    Spanish 3 H (B/C), ChemPhys H (C), Algebra 2 H (C), English H (B/C), History H (A/B), photo 2&3 H (A)
    Health & PE (A)

    This year I have two APs, currently getting Bs in, and As and Bs in all others:
    Geoscience H, junior leadership, AP language and comp, AP US history, trig H, Art H, Personal Finance Engineering Design H?, and Spanish 4 H. I have a free period next semester and I am debating whether or not to do an independent study for photo.

    Senior year possible classes:
    AP calculus (AB or BC), AP literature and comp, AP Psychology, AP 2D art, and possibly AP civil engineering and architecture. 5 APs are a lot.

    So I’m taking challenging courses the next few semesters and trying to make up for my bad grades earlier in high school. I had family issues, but I think they’re sorted out, or at least better.

    I manage boys varsity soccer (2 years), lead photo club, take pictures for the newspaper, yearbook, and do another club. I also play soccer (JV). I was a lifeguard over the summer.

    What do I need to do now? I feel like I have dug myself into a hole and won’t be able to get out. Will I be able to get into a liberal arts college like Augustana College?

  199. Todd Johnson says


    Colleges do look at the trend of your grades so keeping up strong grades this year and next will help. There are many factors that colleges look at in making admissions decisions so I can’t comment on your chances at any particular college. However, there are many good colleges in this country, including good liberal arts colleges like Augustana that like to see a student that is improving as high school continues into the upper grades.

  200. Anthony Paul says

    You could say that at the start of high school I was a bit of a slacker. I got a D my freshman year and Two F’s my sophomore year . I came to my senses my junior year and made all honor roll with a 3.2. This year for my first quarter gpa is a 4.0. I have had a few of extracurricular activities ,clubs, four years of JROTC, and 50+ hours of community service. I was wondering with these kind of grades and acvtivities could i get in a decent college say like NSU.

  201. Todd Johnson says


    I can’t comment on a student’s chances but can tell you that one of the things that colleges look at in making admissions decisions is the trend of the grades. If they are going up, that is a good sign. There are colleges in this country that are appropriate for all students and despite your rough start, there will be a number of colleges that might be interested in a student like you.

  202. Dmitri Razmyslovich says

    I was wondering if you can put me into perspective to admissions into an Ivy with my gpa, sat, etc. I currently have a 3.7 u/w, with 11 AP’s (i am a junior, so i will finish with around 17, i plan on taking a full ap schedule senior year as well). I got a perfect sat, 2400, and a 34 act. i have a crazy amount of clubs, activities, etc.,. I am president of every single club i am in, and founded most of the clubs at my school. I also intern for AZ senator Jeff Flake. i was an all star track and lacrosse athlete, and have dozens of math/chess/science competition awards. I plan on applying to U Penn Warhton, Yale, Brown, and Harvard. how do i stand?

  203. Todd Johnson says


    You sound like a strong candidate for most colleges but there is no way to chance you at the highly selective colleges you mention. The GPA does look light for Ivy admissions but it depends on several factors such as where does that GPA put you in your class. If you are in the top 10% it will help. If you are not, then admissions to the colleges mentioned will be more difficult. The question comes down to whether they think you can handle the level of work at the college. If so, then they will look to see if one or more of the attributes you have matches a need that they have at the college this year.

  204. Junru Bian says

    Hello Mr. Johnson,

    I have been very concerned about my own circumstances — My parents and I travel very constantly among different countries, so at the beginning of my high school I plotted a project with my teachers and counselors to finish my secondary studies in two years.

    I am now sixteen, attending mostly junior and senior classes and will be graduating in June 2015 from my high school. My GPA is currently around 3.8 and my SAT is quite low, only 1700. I am not asking you to chance me, but can you tell me how will the colleges think about my academic experience?

    Thank you!

  205. Todd Johnson says


    Moving around a lot in this day and age is most more common and colleges are fine is that is your circumstance. They don’t typically encourage accelerating high school unless you are bored with the available options. The more selective colleges like to see 4 years of the 5 core subjects including math, science, English, social/history and a single foreign language. It is almost impossible to get this kind of background with an accelerated load. Less selective colleges like this approach also but are much more lenient if a student has not met that schedule.

    The other concern is maturity. Younger students can be less mature so you will want to find ways to show that you do have a high level of maturity compared to your age.

  206. Junru Bian says

    Mr. Johnson,

    I have been worrying about these as well! I have lived through China, Russia, Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan throughout my childhood, and I am really don’t want to have my high school experience interrupted.

    For the course load though, I am finishing all the required courses for a normal high school diploma and even taking some AP courses. I am proficient in Chinese and Russian other than English as well (have been speaking them since a young age).

    I am really worried about the schools’ attitude — I have already explained my circumstances, and I always wanted to have a four-year high school experience. But I cannot control it.


  207. Todd Johnson says


    Colleges understand that students come from different backgrounds and much of your life is beyond your control. Do your best and let them know what has gone on. Beyond that, there is nothing to do.

  208. chinu says

    I’ve scored really good in SAT. But I was ill on the TOEFL day and scored 88. I wanted Purdue university. Their min reading section requirement is 19 and I’ve got 18. I’ve more than enough in other sections compared to their requirements. Will I get rejected just because of one less mark?

  209. Todd Johnson says


    It is entirely up to the school on issues like this but typically, you will not be considered if your test scores fall below their stated minimums.

  210. Jose says

    I have 2.82 but and ACT of 27 and SAT of 1650, 1150 in actuality since reading and math are the subjects the CSU’s care about. Do you think this is competitive enough to be in San Jose or San Francisco St.? I’m an AP student therefore my classes recquie much more vigor. However , this past may I achieved 5’s on all three of my tests.

  211. Todd Johnson says


    Unfortunately I can’t answer your question because there are too many variables in the college admissions process. You should make sure that you are applying to a range of selectivity in colleges including some that should be a safety for you.

  212. John says

    Hi Mr. Johnson,

    I really appreciate how you’ve been responding to all these comments for 4+ years – major kudos! I’d love to hear your thoughts on how some of the more selective liberal arts colleges will view my grades.

    Freshman year I had a 4.0, sophomore 3.79, junior 3.57, and senior year it’s looking like I’ll end up with a 3.0ish for this first semester. Overall I’ll likely end up somewhere in the 3.3-3.6 range for my weighted GPA.

    Despite this, my first try at the SAT resulted in a 2350 and a 34 for the ACT. My OCD and troubles with procrastination have gotten worse as my high school career’s progressed, hence the diminishing GPA. I’ve taken 6 year-long AP/honors courses, and have an extensive community service/volunteer work history. I’m also a National Merit (Semi)finalist.

    Do you think this senior year first semester’s grades (estimated around 2.8-3.2) will be the death knell for colleges like Lewis & Clark, Pitzer, etc – or will extenuating circumstances + high test scores + volunteer experience make up for it?

    Thank you so much!

  213. Todd Johnson says


    Anything can happen and I don’t like to comment on a student’s chances at particular colleges. However, the scenario you present is one that really concerns most colleges and selective colleges in particular. Normally a downward trend in grades indicates that the student is not understanding classes as they get more difficult. However, your high test scores pretty much throws that out the window. What they are left with, most likely, is a student who is lazy or just doesn’t care. Neither situation is something the colleges want to see. The test scores might encourage some colleges to admit you despite the grades but again, the more selective the college the less likely this will happen.

    See what happens with the colleges you applied to. If you don’t get into any that you are really interested in you might consider taking a gap year and spending that year at a community college taking classes and getting good grades to show that you have turned your life around and want an education.

  214. Rachel says

    My sat score is a 1940
    Im an A level student with 4As in AS level (highest possible grade) and 4A*Ss (predicted) A levels. My IGCSEs were 5A*s and 3As
    My extra curricular has been
    Dancing 8 years straight involved in school shows and outside school
    assistant event manager for 2 years
    Basketball team member
    Dukes of Edinburgh award recipient
    Worked with authors like dan brown, nicholas sparks etc

    solid Recommendations and essays

    will my low sat score affect my admission to Ivies?

  215. Todd Johnson says


    You are a strong candidate for many colleges. While anything is possible, I would suspect that your relatively low SAT scores will be a problem for Ivy League type colleges.

  216. Hannah says

    Hi Mr. Johnson,

    I will be graduating with an international baccalaureate diploma, (14 AP/IB classes, all the rest are honors). I have a 30 on the ACT. The thing I’m worried about is my unweighted GPA, by the end of Junior year it will most likely be 3.3. My weighted GPA is fine and gave me a solid class rank (top 10%) I play a varsity sport, have leadership roles in clubs, am a AP scholar with distinction, have a Girl Scout Gold Award. I am wondering if colleges will see my low unweighted GPA and automatically overlook me.

  217. Todd Johnson says


    Most colleges look at your unweighted GPA and not your weighted GPA. However, they also pay attention to all aspects of your application. The fact that you are in the top 10% with a 3.3 GPA would indicate that you attend a difficult school. They will not hold that against you. Continue to work on improving your GPA and make sure that when you apply that you apply to a range of colleges including some that have a higher admit rate.

  218. Megan says

    My son is currently a junior with a weighted GPA of 3.3 and SAT of 2130. His curriculum consists mainly of science (math, physics, chemistry) AP and Honors classes – he also has taken AP US History. He is in the the captain of 1 of the school’s robotics teams and just qualified with his team for the World championship. He is also on the school’s Math team, strong with words and interested in the politics around him. Even though he does well in his core classes, he slacks with courses, he has no real interest for. He is the typical bright slacker, but recently also bright enough to realize it. My question is: He wants to get into a good engineering program. He dreams of CalTech, but that is not going to happen – I think more along the line of RIT. Where can we find a decent list of schools that have highly recognized engineering programs? Your advice is very much appreciated.

  219. caroline says

    I am currently a junior in high school with a 3.3 gpa and 1910 on the sat with a 680 critical reading 670 writing and 560 on the math section. What colleges would you suggest would be a good fit for me. I have a diagnosed learning disability in math and received extra time on the sat. i have taken 3 Ap classes so far and am taking another 3 as a senior. And almost all my other classes were accelerated honors or a year ahead so taking chemistry in 10th instead of 11th except for math which this year i am in extended Algebra 2 and trig. What would be my chance of getting into schools such as the university of Maryland, university of Delaware, university of Michigan, george washington university and Quinnipiac.

  220. Todd Johnson says


    If your only learning disability is in math vs a general learning disability most colleges will be appropriate for you and most will understand a student that struggles in math. If you have a more general learning disability then you would want to look at colleges that have resources in place for students with disabilities. Although colleges will have some resources, certain colleges are much more amenable to working with students with disabilities. One of the better resources for students with learning disabilities is the “K & W Guide to Colleges” by Princeton Review.

    As for the particular colleges, I really can’t comment because there are too many variables that come into play in the decision of what college is a good option for what student.

  221. Renee says

    I am going to be a senior in high school and so far I’ve gotten a 4.0 until my sophomore and junior year. I took 2 honors freshman year, 2 honors & 1 ap sophomore year, 3 aps 1 honor junior year, and will be taking 8 aps my senior year. I got one B in my sophomore year in honors chemistry and 2 B’s in ap chemistry and a B in honors pre-calculus my junior year. my sat score is 2060 and i’m aiming to retake it and get a 2100+. I got 3’s on all my aps.
    sat II chem = 620
    sat II math level 2= 690
    JC for 3 years
    cross country and track for 3 years
    swim for 2 years
    president of a business club
    treasurer for 2 other clubs
    secretary for pre-med club
    over 200+ community service hours
    summer research internship at Cal Tech
    What are the chances of me getting into UC’s such as UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, UC Riverside, UCLA, USC, Northwest University?
    Thank you so much!

  222. Todd Johnson says

    There are too many issues that go into college admissions to say what a person’s chances are based on limited information. Sorry we can’t help.


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