If you feel that your grades and/or test scores are not as good as you would like them to be, there are things you can do to help. Even if you think it’s too late, read on for advice on how to deal with this problem.
Underclassmen (Freshman, Sophomore years)
- If for whatever reason your grades as an underclassmen are not great, it is not a deal-breaker for a lot of Colleges.
- Some Colleges don’t even consider Freshman year grades, because they realize that students are adjusting to the rigor of High School.
- If you can pull up your grades as an upperclassmen, you can compensate for a low GPA. It also make a good story, demonstrating how you overcame obstacles.
- On the other hand, Freshman year is often the easiest academic High School year. Try to get the best grades you can at the time when it’s easiest to do so, because low grades will have a big impact on your GPA.
Upperclassmen (Junior, Senior years)
- You should avoid having your grades take a major drop as an upperclassmen.
- Your academic rigor may increase as an upperclassmen, so Colleges won’t be shocked to see a slight drop in your GPA. But they want to see that “As the going gets tough, the tough get going.” and that you are able to adapt to the challenge of added rigor.
- Colleges also want to see you maintain your grades after you have applied and even been accepted into a College, so don’t think the last half of your senior year is time to let it all go.
It’s important to create (not imagine) a narrative that describes your academic journey in High School, particularly if there are blemishes in your academic record. Did your parents divorce your Sophomore year, making your 2nd semester grades tank? Did you start working 20+ hours a week starting your Junior year? Did your parent take an evening job, which meant you became your younger siblings’ babysitter from 3-8 each day? If the only thing an Admissions Officer has to review your files is your transcripts, they imagine their own narrative for why your grades were less than stellar. Even if you don’t have a great reason, be honest and hope they will understand. Try to demonstrate that you have grown from your High School experience.
The narrative is even more important if you have amazing test scores and weak grades. Most people will assume you didn’t apply yourself in school and/or were lazy about homework. But they will be wondering about your smarts, if you could still manage to pull off high test scores.
Colleges realize that some people are better at taking tests than others. Lots of students have test anxiety, for example. But if you have high grades and low test scores, they will wonder if your school handed out easy A’s, but lacked educational depth. Don’t let these holes in your academic resume go unexplained.
See Standardized Tests for more information.