Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources
College Applications: What Do Colleges Really Look At? - Chris Smith

College Applications: What Do Colleges Really Look At?


Yes, colleges use the GPA but Chris Smith counsels they include standardized test scores, rigor of coursework, and a well-rounded and exceptional resume.

I often speak with families who are exasperated by the whole college application process.

Putting together dozens of college applications can sometimes seem like a Sisyphean exercise in futility. And because of the sheer magnitude of this process, worries can creep in and frustrations explode.

One of the frustrations I hear is that Seton students are at a disadvantage for acceptance and scholarships because our school is so difficult, and our grade scale unfair.

Grading Scale – How Important?

The thought is that since Seton has a grade scale for our courses that is less than ten points, our students have a smaller window to achieve higher grades. Coupled with the rigorous content, how are Seton students supposed to compete?

To begin with, let me assure you that our students do compete. They are being accepted into some of the best schools in the country and receiving large scholarships, judged on the same standards as everyone else.

The question has been asked whether changing from a seven point grade scale to a ten point grade scale would help Seton students be more competitive when applying for college acceptance and/or scholarships. First, it must be noted that there is no standard grading scale. Grading scales vary from 6 points up to 15 points per letter grade. Moreover, GPAs can be inflated by whether schools offer AP, IB, or dual credit courses.

There has been a great deal of research on the topic of grading scales in recent years. This research has found that a high school’s grading scale has little or no impact on college acceptance.

Because high school grading scales vary so widely, colleges cannot use them as the primary basis for acceptance.

More Important Factors

A study done by the Salem Virginia City School Administration found that some of the more important factors colleges take into account are standardized test scores, rigor of course-work, and humanitarian activities. These things help students stand out in an ever more diverse pool of applicants.

Of course, a student’s GPA is still important. A student with a 72.65 GPA is going to struggle to get into Yale, regardless of how many Habitat for Humanity houses he or she has constructed.

Seton recognizes the importance of GPA and we are always looking at ways to help students raise their GPAs without lowering standards. One of these ways is by offering more Honors level courses which allow students to raise their GPA by taking a more rigorous course.

But all things being equal, students and parents need to make sure that their resume for college is well rounded and exceptional.

We here at Seton will do our best to help you obtain that goal.

About Christopher Smith

Christopher Smith
Christopher Smith is the Director of Guidance at Seton. He has an M.A. in National Security and Statecraft from the Institute of World Politics in Washington D.C. He received a B.A. in Philosophy from Christendom College and is currently working on an M.S. in Education from Franciscan University.

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