Your GPA is one of the most important elements of a college application — one admissions officers review when making admissions decisions. However, the way grade point averages factor into college admissions decisions is not straightforward or uniform from school to school. Since different high schools use different systems to grade and rank their students, most colleges take several things into account when assessing an applicant’s GPA. From there, every college has different standards in terms of GPA requirements. In this article, we’ll break down how colleges calculate GPA, what admissions officers are looking for, and why your GPA is one of the most significant pieces of your applicant profile. Translating your GPA scale Every high school has a different method of calculating GPA, but most American universities subscribe to the 4.0 standard. This means that your letter grade in each class will translate to a scaled score that is then multiplied by the number of credits the class is worth; the resulting number is your cumulative GPA. However, not every high school uses a 4.0 GPA system. Particularly in charter or independent schools, grading might be calculated on a scale of 0–100 or a grade letter system not attached to a numerical value. In these cases, you can use the below table to translate your grades to the 4.0 system. 4.0 A+ 97–100 4.0 A 94–100 3.7 A- 90–93 3.3 B+ 87–89 3.0 B 84–-86 2.7 B- 80–83 2.3 C+ 77–79 2.0 C 74–76 1.7 C- 70–73 1.3 D+ 67–69 1.0 D 64–66 0.7 D- 60–63 0.0 F 0–59 Some schools also use a 4.3 GPA system. In these instances, an A+ corresponds to a 4.3 instead of a 4.0, but the rest of the scale above will remain the same. Grading systems aren’t just about scales, however. Some schools won’t include nonacademic classes like physical education (PE) when they calculate total GPA, while others might, and some schools don’t give out pluses or minuses as part of their grading system. Weighted vs. unweighted GPA If your school offers Advanced Placement (AP) classes, you’ll have two GPAs to keep track of: weighted and unweighted. Weighted GPAs are a school’s way of rewarding students for taking extra challenging courses, usually calculated on a 5.0 scale instead of 4.0, with a 5.0 corresponding to straight As in all AP classes. In this way, a high weighted GPA demonstrates how well you performed in your classes and how difficult those courses were, to begin with. You’ll have a place on your college application to list both GPAs, but keep in mind that most colleges refer to unweighted GPA when describing their average GPA statistics for admitted students. Class ranking and GPA Colleges recognize that every school is different, and a 4.0 at one school might mean something very different than a 4.0 at another school. This is why they take into account other academic factors when considering your GPA. For instance, many colleges will look at your class standing or percentile (e.g., [...]
In the Beginning The Academic Approach story begins with its founder, Matthew Pietrafetta, as a PhD candidate and instructor at Columbia University in New York City. While simultaneously teaching core curriculum classes to Columbia freshmen and tutoring high school students for the SAT and ACT, Matthew took note of significant challenges that were facing these transitional students. Primary among them were disparities in test scores, college readiness, and student opportunities, as well as a chasm between test preparation and institutional education. Soon, Matthew began to look for ways to turn those challenges into opportunities for student growth and education innovation and quickly became passionate about the idea of revolutionizing test preparation. Matthew sought an alternative to traditional test prep, which for years was maligned for teaching to the test and using generic test-taking strategies for a nonexistent “average student.” The idea for Academic Approach was born in a method of test preparation based on academic skill development and customized for students at a wide range of achievement levels. Founding Principles The company itself was founded in 2001 using three principles as its bedrock: Tests are standardized. Students are not.™ There is no average student. While some may look similar on paper, students vary greatly in learning styles, personalities, and many other dimensions. Academic Approach would tailor its programs specifically to the individual student, eschewing the one-size-fits-all traditional approach. Skills-based Test Preparation.™ Strategy, tips and tricks, gaming: these are not the ways to build lasting skills and knowledge. Academic Approach would bring rigorous college readiness and enduring academic value to test preparation, enabling student growth in high school, on test day, and throughout college. Teaching Beyond the Test.™ By challenging the “teaching to the test” stereotype and working with other educators and institutions to improve academic progress holistically, Academic Approach would live out its mission to teach beyond the test. School Programs Transforming test preparation into a personalized, academically enriching form of teaching is undoubtedly beneficial and will always be at the core of Academic Approach’s mission. However, to truly maximize the company’s impact and address the larger issues of barriers to education and college access, Matthew pushed the company to find ways to reach students in underperforming schools and underserved communities. Academic Approach began to develop school program services to support students from these communities and their school leaders in raising student achievement. Directors from Academic Approach work intimately with school partners to develop readiness solutions that meet the school’s and students’ needs. In addition, Academic Approach offers scholarships, discounts to faculty children, and other discounted programs to bring high-quality instruction to a greater diversity of students. More than 50 urban schools have already partnered with Academic Approach to improve student achievement and outcomes. What’s Next Academic Approach’s one-on-one tutoring and school program services make a real difference for students who strive to maximize their academic performance and compete in the college admissions process. The educators and students served—and their remarkable growth and achievement — make Academic Approach a true [...]
Many students struggle to find productive ways to fill the summer. For the past four years, Academic Approach has provided Chicago students a way to not only to fill time but to thrive academically: The College Readiness Summer Seminar. This program provides an accessible place for students to further their academic skills while gaining exposure to various careers and the college matriculation process. The Summer Seminar series is our way of giving back to the Chicago community by providing low-cost college readiness guidance for rising seniors. The program is designed specifically to benefit students who will be the first in their family to attend college. Participants come from a variety of schools across the city, and students meet at DePaul’s Lincoln Park Campus to simulate a true college experience. This year’s Summer Seminar is happening as we speak: 25 students meet every Tuesday and Thursday, from July 10 to August 23. Each session includes two hours of skills-based SAT preparation, a complimentary lunch, and an extracurricular activity. Among those activities are team-building exercises, guest lectures from young professionals, local university tours, and service learning projects. The program has been wildly successful. Throughout the years, program graduates have been accepted to their preferred colleges, awarded competitive scholarships, and formed friendship that last well beyond their high school years. The Academic Approach School Programs team is proud of these students’ accomplishments, and as long as there are motivated students in need, the Summer Seminar will exist for years to come. Student Testimonials Here’s what the program has meant to two students in their own words. “At Summer Seminar, I learned a lot, not just for the SAT. I learned more about my potential colleges. I learned how to possibly make the college decision a little easier or more organized as we talked about what we value and should find important in a school. This also helped my senior year and the college decision process because it allowed me to have my top 3 colleges in mind throughout the entire process. Now, I will be attending one of those schools. I Also learned how to work with others. Although I, and the others, have probably worked with groups in school, Academic Approach allowed us to collaborate in unique ways and allowed us to use our creativity and background to work together. Finally, at Academic Approach, I learned a lot in the subjects for the SAT. Academic Approach helped me greatly with the SAT. SAT scores converted to ACT scores, my score went from a 24 to a 26. With the program’s small class size, I was able to get more attention and get more in depth with difficult subjects, which really helped my score. I definitely recommend this program to others! I gained points on the SAT, gained some skills needed in life, and gained several friends that I stayed in touch with throughout the year. I had lots of fun!” Juliana, Class of 2018 “I finally got my SAT scores that [...]
In Illinois, Michigan, and across the country, students and educators had been preparing for months to get ready for one day: April 10, the SAT school day administration. With so much energy and motivation cresting around test day, educators may be wondering, “What next?” Here are some other questions to consider as the school year winds down. How can we make the most of the SAT score release? Students will no doubt be anxiously awaiting their scores, which are expected to release in mid-May. As educators, consider how you can build context for your students as they anticipate their scores. If students took the PSAT/NMSQT in October, they may be interested to know that expected growth from the 11th grade PSAT to the SAT is 40 points on the composite, or 20 points on each subject score. The College Readiness Benchmarks are 480 in Evidence-based Reading and Writing and 530 in Math, and the on-track scores for the 11th grade PSAT are 460 and 510. Each college and university also reports the SAT score range of their middle 50% of admitted students. Knowing the ranges for schools like University of Illinois – Chicago (1080-1340 for the middle 50%), Michigan State University (1070-1350), Northwestern University (1480-1580), and University of Notre Dame (1410-1550) can help students build their wish lists as they prepare to apply senior year. Consider how you can use this data to announce your school-wide performance. As you analyze results, you may find encouraging statistics: Did you grow the average student’s SAT score by a greater amount than expected gains? Increase the number of students meeting or exceeding the college readiness benchmark? Improve the percent of students earning scores that allow them to access competitive colleges or scholarships? Building your understanding of the SAT scores and growth norms now can help you contextualize your school’s results compellingly when the scores are released to your students and to your community. What if students are not happy with their SAT scores? While junior spring test dates are popular for students and often tied to accountability metrics for schools, thousands of seniors and rising seniors test each year. The class of 2019, who just tested as juniors, will have the opportunity to retest if desired on August 25 or October 6. Students who are considering a senior retest should also consider their test preparation plan. Multiple tests alone do not increase SAT scores; students should plan to practice and hone their skills over the summer to get ready for test day. Student score reports include a plethora of information that can guide this preparation. For example, students receive subscores in three math domains – Heart of Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, and Passport to Advanced Math. These subscores can help students prioritize the skills that they should practice and review before test day. Educators can consider how to use this data to help students build individualized study and preparation plans that give students the best chance of increasing scores on [...]
SAT, Common Core, and College Readiness No teacher, at the beginning of their career, enters the field to teach test prep. Likewise, no student shows up for their English or math class expecting an SAT prep class. They see performance on a test like the SAT as fundamentally distinct from performance in the classroom. However, College Board’s redesign of the SAT in 2016 sought to directly address these concerns. The SAT assesses the same competencies that teachers seek to foster in their students: core college-readiness academic skills, problem solving abilities, and understanding of complex relationships. To better align with high school curriculum, the SAT explicitly aligned itself with the Common Core State Standards, currently adopted by forty-two states. This alignment creates a win-win situation for students and teachers. Students have a vested interest in their SAT scores to improve their college prospects, and teachers are held accountable for their students’ performance on the Common Core State Standards. When the test assesses what is important to teachers, preparation isn’t merely “test prep”—it’s key academic instruction to prepare students for the challenges they will face in college. And the College Board isn’t making this claim without some evidence to back it up (just like we’d require of a student!). Their early predictive validity studies show a moderate correlation in both verbal and math between SAT scores and first-year college GPA. They’ll expand this analysis to a more significant set of students in 2018 to see how robust the relationship is. High-Value Skills in SAT Curriculum It’s hard to connect the esoteric idea of the SAT with the concrete skills teachers are trying to promote in their classrooms every day. However, when teachers first look at those skills most frequently assessed on the SAT—those most important to predicting college readiness—it’s often an “aha!” moment. Reading Reading on standardized tests has long been thought of merely as assessing reading speed rather than comprehension. The SAT seeks to combat this perception by providing more time per passage and per question than it has in the past (and substantially more than ACT, an explicitly speeded test, provides). The test also brings in texts more aligned with what already exists in the classroom. The rigorous texts have an average Lexile of around 1300 L and include texts students might encounter in a history or literature class. Authors have included Alexis de Tocqueville, Abraham Lincoln, Stephen Douglas, and Charlotte Bronte. Beyond the texts themselves, the SAT is asking students to perform tasks that most teachers would applaud—citing claims with evidence. One of the most common mistakes in student critical thinking is to make a claim about a particular text without appropriate supporting material. The SAT addresses this head on with their “command of evidence” items, like the one below from one of College Board’s released test: Command of evidence questions make up 10 items on every SAT—approximately a fifth of the text. This skill is a clear analogue to Common Core’s Anchor Standard #1 in reading: “Read closely [...]
What is the PSAT? The PSAT is a practice SAT administered by the College Board and available to students in grades 8 through 11, with the PSAT 8/9 offered to 8th and 9th graders and the PSAT 10/PSAT NMSQT (identical tests) offered to 10th and 11th graders. The PSAT serves 3 important purposes: it helps students predict, learn, and qualify. Predicting with the PSAT Since its 2016 revision, the PSAT 10/PSAT NMSQT has become a better-than-ever instrument at predicting the SAT. This is true in part because the PSAT now comes very close to a full-length SAT, covering nearly identical content in almost the same amount of time. Evidence-based Reading & Writing PSAT’s Reading is almost identical to SAT’s, except PSAT Reading is 5 questions fewer and 5 minutes shorter. PSAT’s Writing & Language is the same as SAT’s. Mathematics PSAT’s no-calculator section is 3 questions fewer than SAT’s but offers same amount of time. PSAT’s calculator section features 7 questions fewer in 10 fewer minutes. The Essay The SAT optional essay is NOT offered at all on the PSAT. The table below offers a side-by-side of the construct and content of both exams. 15 questions, 15 minutes In short, the PSAT is only 15 questions fewer and 15 minutes shorter than the SAT, in terms of the material that contributes to a student’s composite score. Note: the SAT essay does NOT impact the student’s composite score, so its absence on the PSAT is not critical. The table below offers another view of the close comparison between the PSAT & SAT. Good News for Students The close comparison of the PSAT and SAT is good news for students. From both a content and experience standpoint, taking the PSAT prepares a student for the material covered on the full-length SAT as well as the experience of sitting for a lengthy exam and concentrating on rigorous academic material for approximately 3 hours. It wasn’t always this way! Before the 2016 revision, the PSAT from 2005 to 2015 was approximately one half the length of the full-length SAT, denying a student a complete picture of the marathon test-taking experience that the SAT demanded. What’s more, learning from the PSAT is possible year over year. Because the PSAT system offers testing from 8th grade to 11th grade, if a school district offers that testing, a student can have a transparent view of where he or she is tracking towards 11th grade. In fact, College Board has tiered the scoring on the test to help make a more accurate prediction of exactly where the student would be on the SAT at that point in their academic career. The detail below shows the tiered scoring of the PSAT from 8th grade through the 11th grade PSAT/NMSQT. Learning from the PSAT Learning from the PSAT is the most important reason for students to take the test. As a low-stakes diagnostic test, it can be directional, putting students on a productive path towards focused [...]
How can you, as an educator, make the most of each assessment your students complete? The answer is in the data the assessments provide. By carefully analyzing the data, educators can take full advantage of each test event to determine student strengths and areas for improvement, develop targeted re-teaching plans, and drive instruction in the classroom.