Thursday, June 2, 2011


A contact of mine from the internet, Josh Barsch, provides timely insights into college admissions and scholarship applications through his blog and emails. Today I ran across his take on the uselessness of the grade point average when comparing students from a wide variety of educational situations.

Josh’s comments in a nutshell:

“A nationwide grade-inflation epidemic over the last 10 years has
killed the significance of a high GPA... At some point in the recent past, someone decided that the horror of seeing the letter "D" or "F" on a report card did much more
long-term damage to a kid than, say, not knowing how to read, write
or spell. Lots of parents agreed, and convinced schools that even
though Johnny still doesn't know what a comma is, he still deserves
a B in English... (T)he quality of education in our country
varies so widely that a 4.0 student ... at one school might flunk out at another. It also works the other way; a solid B-C student at a rigorous academic high school
may have the brains to blow through the system with a 4.0 or better
at a weaker school.” (

I couldn’t agree with my colleague more. Even within the same school system, one teacher may grade on an entirely different scale than another teaching the same subject. Many of my students have heard me say that I want them to be the first to correctly answer a question on the first day of class; it creates a positive perception of the student in the teacher’s mind and could become a self-fulfilling prophecy resulting in a better grade.

The GPA is not the end-all, be-all in college admissions but it is still part of the permanent scholastic record and will be seen by every college to which the student applies. A high GPA is more appealing that a low one and college-bound students should strive to achieve the highest potential number. The key is to highlight that spectacular academic average by supporting it with a comparable ACT or SAT score.

The 3.5 student who earns a 22 on the ACT is actually supporting a GPA of only 2.2 or 2.3. To adequately display knowledge akin to a 3.0 or higher, the student should be aiming for an ACT score in the upper 20’s. By the time the cumulative classroom average reaches 3.6, an ACT score of 30 or higher is required. For students in the top tier of academics, taking honors and AP classes, an ACT result of “nearly perfect” is a reasonable goal.

The important point to recognizing that a lovely GPA alone will not guarantee college admission or scholarship awards is that classroom success needs to be reinforced with a similarly impressive measurement that places all applicants on similar footing. The ACT and SAT college entrance exams are panoramic assessments which standardize scores across the country and allow colleges to evaluate the potential of a wide range of students with a single yardstick.

Want to know what ACT score would be required to parallel your GPA or academic percentage? Post a comment on this blog and I’ll send the chart “Translating a Composite Average...” that I use to help students set a goal for ACT study.

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