As a parent of a high schooler, you’ve heard the chatter: a high GPA is essential for college success. But what if I told you it’s not that simple?

Here’s the truth: while a strong GPA shows your child’s academic dedication, the specific number isn’t the ONLY factor colleges consider.

As an independent college counselor, I want to dispel the myth of the high GPA and help you understand how colleges truly evaluate academic performance in the college admissions process.

The Role of Weighted GPAs

One key point to understand is that many colleges recalculate GPAs to ensure a fair comparison among applicants from various high schools.

Different high schools often have different grading scales and practices, including different weighting systems, which make it challenging for colleges to compare GPAs directly. It’s like comparing apples to oranges.

To address this disparity, many colleges actually recalculate all GPAs starting with unweighted and then using their own system to arrive at a new set of weighted GPAs. Now they can compare apples to apples. 

These weighted GPAs take into account the difficulty of the courses a student has taken, such as Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), and honors classes.

The Importance of Curriculum Rigor

Admissions officers want to see that students are pushing themselves academically. So they pay close attention to the rigor of the student’s high school curriculum. This includes the number and level of challenging courses taken. 

A student who consistently enrolls in tough classes and performs well demonstrates ambition and readiness that a high GPA alone doesn’t show.

For example, a student who excels in AP Calculus, AP Physics, and AP Literature is likely to be viewed more favorably than one who takes easier courses just to maintain a perfect GPA. 

This focus on curriculum rigor aligns with what colleges are looking for: students who are prepared to handle the demands of higher education.

Please also be aware that admissions officers consider your child’s specific circumstances. They understand that not all high schools offer a huge array of challenging courses.

Your student’s guidance counselor will send a profile of their high school to each college your child applies to, ensuring they are aware of what was available. Colleges take this into account when evaluating your child’s academic performance. Note that this means admissions officers will also see which courses your child didn’t choose to take!

Rather than fixating on how their GPA compares to their friends’ from other schools, encourage your child to focus on challenging themselves and making the most of the opportunities available at their school. 

Holistic Admissions Process

It’s also important to understand that GPA is just one part of the holistic admissions process. Colleges consider a variety of factors, including:

  • extracurricular activities
  • leadership roles and community involvement
  • personal essays
  • standardized test scores
  • letters of recommendation

Colleges are looking for well-rounded individuals who will contribute to their campus community in meaningful ways.

Encourage your child to engage in activities they are passionate about, to develop leadership skills, and to volunteer in their community.

These experiences can be just as important as maintaining good grades, helping to shape well-rounded individuals who can thrive in a college environment.

How to Support Your Student

The myth of the high GPA often leads to unnecessary stress and a narrow focus on academic performance.

By understanding that colleges look at their own system of weighted GPAs, curriculum rigor, and a holistic view of each applicant, parents can better support their students in making choices that reflect their true potential. 

As parents, you play a crucial role in supporting your student’s academic journey. 

Help them balance their academic responsibilities with extracurricular activities and personal interests. Foster an environment where they feel supported and motivated to pursue their passions.

This way, they will develop a well-rounded profile that will shine in the college admissions process rather than focusing solely on maintaining a perfect GPA.

Also, when you’re ready, here are three ways we can help your teen find their best-fit college:

At Stodghill College Consulting, we help each high schooler showcase their unique skills and talents, discover their own brilliant voice, and find a college that will enable them to reach their full potential as young adults.

  • Schedule a free discovery call to discuss how we can create an action plan to help your child keep on top of deadlines and create a college list that is personalized to their strengths and talents.