GPA is one of the major things that schools look at when reviewing applications for admission. According to a National Association of College Admission Counselors (NACAC) 2011 Survey, grades in college prep courses were the most important factor weighing in to the admissions decision. Grades in all courses ranked as the fourth most important factor, behind strength of curriculum and ACT/SAT scores. What this means is that colleges want to see students taking classes in high school that will adequately prepare them to succeed in college, and they want to see good grades in those classes, above all. What constitutes college prep classes? Advanced Placement and Honors classes will be viewed most favorably on a student’s high school transcript. “Core” subjects like history, math, English, science and foreign language will carry more weight than things art or music, unless the student is applying to art schools/programs or music schools/programs. Grades in classes like consumer education and physical education will carry less weight because they aren’t part of the list of “core” subjects. Curriculum and GPA need to balance out on the student’s transcript. Having slightly lower grades in a very challenging curriculum will go farther than having higher grades without challenging classes. Colleges also look for an upward trend in GPA over the high school career. A student who starts freshman year with an A average whose grades start sliding over the next four years as the student takes on more activities and responsibilities is not going to look good compared to a student who struggled a little in the first year or two of high school and managed to increase his or her GPA in the last two years. Colleges want to see that the student was able to balance coursework, activities and maybe even a job without a large impact to his or her GPA.
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