What's my GPA for College Admissions? Weighted or Unweighted?

Evelyn Alexander, M.A.
Posted at 1/8/2018 4:09:26 PM

When a parent first calls us, they invariably report to us their child’s most recent semester GPA – in weighted format.  We usually have to break the bad news that the GPA for college admissions purposes is a student’s unweighted, academic, 9th grade through 11th grade GPA.  And it’s almost always lower than you think it is.

The problem is that there’s no ‘standard’ way for high schools to report GPAs, and there’s no ‘standard’ way for colleges to require them. So that leaves us in the horrible gray area where high schools can calculate students’ GPAs however they want – and report whatever numbers they choose to parents and students.  In some cases, high schools report multiple GPAs on a student’s transcript.  In the worst instances, some high schools report ONLY the weighted overall GPA.

On top of the weighting issue, many high schools include EVERY class a student has taken in high school in their GPA, such as athletics and non-academic electives.&n...more

Categories: Comprehensive College Guidance  |  Application & Essay Guidance
  • GPA
  • weighted GPA
  • unweighted GPA
  • weighted vs. unweighted GPA

Why Was I Rejected From My Dream School When Less-Qualified People Got In?

Lessa Scherrer
Posted at 1/5/2018 3:27:45 PM

 First off, life isn’t fair. Second, unless you were in the room where the admission decision was made, you don't know that the other student was less qualified than you. Sure, he might have similar, or even lower, grades and test scores, but numbers aren't all there is in holistic admissions.

     Simply put, college admission has never been fair to the applicants. Admission to a particular college is not something you earn or deserve. If your abilities match their institutional priorities, then you will be admitted. One of those priorities might be “We need more students whose wealthy families will give us money.” C’est la vie. Those students’ families are paying for other students’ scholarships.

     But, if I’m correct in assuming that your “dream college” is one of those top 20 name-brand colleges, you need to face the facts that admission to those schools is not a given for anybody. There ar...more

Categories: College Selection & List Development  |  Application & Essay Guidance  |  Comprehensive College Guidance
  • admissions

Grades, SATs, rec letters, awards, or essays: which is currently most important in the admissions decison?

Lessa Scherrer
Posted at 12/28/2017 2:53:59 AM

This is less a matter of “currently” than of type of college. Some colleges, particularly state flagship public universities like the University of Minnesota, don’t care at all about recommendation letters or essays. There’s no place in the application to include those things.
Other schools practice “holistic” admissions, which means they take all of these things into consideration. Lets look at what admissions officers gain from each of these application pieces:

  • Transcript: Your grades in individual classes show your level of mastery of the material in those classes. Some students just do better in STEM classes than they do in English/history, or vice versa. Your cumulative GPA gives a feeling for how you do overall in the context of your school. Your transcript also shows the amount of rigor of your high school program. Have you taken the hardest classes available to you?

  • Standardized test scores: Your SAT and ACT (and, in some cases, SAT subject tes

Categories: Application & Essay Guidance
  • Transcript
  • Honors and Awards
  • ACT
  • SAT
  • Essays

Highlighting Community Service in College Applications

Evelyn Alexander, M.A.
Posted at 11/13/2017 5:35:12 PM

Students and parents frequently ask us how they can highlight their community service in college applications.  While community service is not required for admission to highly selective colleges, it is definitely one way to show colleges your involvement in your community, your values and the way you choose to spend your time.  Here are five tips to consider as you decide whether and how to highlight your community service in college applications:

Go Beyond the Minimum Required
Some high schools require that students perform community service, sometimes with a minimum number of hours.  Given that you will first be compared to the other students at your school, if you apply to the same colleges, you should think about completing more than the minimum number of hours, which will be viewed as “checking the box” for community service, but little more.  Students who amass significant hours of community service, with ongoing involvement with local non-profit organizat...more

Categories: Application & Essay Guidance  |  Resume Building  |  Summer Programs
  • community service
  • college essays
  • college application tips

Some of My Favorite College Planning References

Rana Slosberg
Posted at 10/27/2017 2:36:55 PM

Here are a few of my favorite college planning reference books and websites organized by category.  What other references do you like and use?

What makes a college right for you - College Match 

College Majors - Book of Majors

College Guides:

  • The Princeton Review, The Best 3xx Colleges
  • Fiske Guide to Colleges
  • America’s Best Colleges for B Students
  • Colleges That Change Lives
  • Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers
  • The K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Differences
  • Rugg’s Recommendations on the Colleges 

College Search Sites:

Chance for acceptance - Naviance scattergrams from your high school

Financial Aid:


Categories: Application & Essay Guidance  |  Career & Major Guidance  |  Financial Aid & Affordability  |  Fine & Performing Arts  |  College Selection & List Development  |  Students with LD

Five Questions You Should Ask About Your College Essay(s)

Evelyn Alexander, M.A.
Posted at 10/6/2017 6:29:20 PM

Are you deep into college essay writing at this point?  YOU SHOULD BE!  It’s time to get those essays going, so you don’t have to spend your entire Thanksgiving (and winter?!) break working on your college applications.  Just a little time each day will add up to save you a chunk of time later!

Here are five important questions to ask yourself as you proofread and revise your essays:

1.  Do I express something new about myself, something that the reader won’t know just from reading my resume or activities list?
Your college essay is your chance to go beyond your resume, explaining the significance of the things you’ve done in your life.  Don’t just rehash a list of your accomplishments.  They’ve seen that!  Give them some of your personality.  Tell a story that really shows who you are, and what you might contribute to their campus community.

2.  Am I memorable and/or likeable?
This is really important.  When college admission co...more

Categories: Application & Essay Guidance
  • college essays
  • college essay writing
  • college applications

FAFSA & CSS/PROFILE Filing Time is Now!

Ellen Gaddie
Posted at 10/2/2017 1:03:42 PM

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is officially open today, October 1, 2017. FAFSA aid is given on a first come-first serve basis, so it’s important to file early. Families of new or returning college students need to complete the form using 2016 tax information.

Valuable advice from Money Magazine, Oct. 2016, “4 Things to Know About the New FAFSA”

“Just submitting a FAFSA will automatically qualify you for a low-cost federal student loan of up to $5,500 for freshman year....The FAFSA is also required for many other kinds of aid, including work/study jobs; federal parent PLUS loans; scholarships from state agencies, private foundations, and colleges; and, in a few cases, merit aid.”


1) Go to www.fafsa.ed.gov or https://cssprofile.collegeboard.org/

2) Student creates a Federal Student Aid Identification Number (FSA ID). 

3) Parents create their own FSA ID.  “Parent” refers to a biological or adoptive parent or a person de...more

Categories: Financial Aid & Affordability

Why Good College Research Matters

Ellen Gaddie
Posted at 9/22/2017 2:15:56 PM

One of the first questions we ask our students is this: have you thought about what type of college is a good fit for you? The answer 90% of the time: "I have no idea." My other favorite answer: "I haven’t been to college yet, so how would I know?"

I know what they’re thinking, “Come on! I’m just a junior in high school! I don’t need to have everything figured out!” That much is true, you don’t need to have everything figured out. But you do need to start thinking about it, and start going a little deeper than just the 3 best colleges in your state you’ve already heard about. There are many reasons why doing good college research is more important than you think.  Here’s a few:

You are the one going to college, therefore, you need to know what YOU want.

This seems obvious, but it’s hard these days to not let all the college talk, parent talk, and peer pressure get to you. Maybe you’ve grown up in a home where mom and dad are die-hard fans and alu...more

Categories: Application & Essay Guidance