College Student Blog

21 Apr, 2008

The College Admissions Journey

Posted by: Parker In: Admissions

Key Admissions Factors

The admissions factors I list are the real criteria that applicants are based on in their admission process. You may be surprised by or disagree with some of the factors I explain. If so, I encourage you to contact me or leave a comment with your opinion and rationale.

In these first few posts of the College Admissions Series, I will provide information about the common admissions factors listed on every university website.

A+ Grade

Grades, GPA, and Class Rank

Your grades are undoubtedly the most influential factor in regards to college admissions. If you plan on attending an ivy league or “public ivy” school, you must have your GPA very near to or above the maximum (4.0 or 5.0).

Some high schools (like mine did) use a 5.0 scale for GPA instead of the standard 4.0. I don’t understand the rationale behind this besides for artificial inflation.

Eg. When Jimmy from the town over asks Susie what her GPA is and she says a 3.8, Jimmy is impressed! However, Susie fails to mention that her scale is a 5.0 instead of a 4.0 like Jimmy’s…

If you have a backwards school like mine was, the simple way to convert this over to a 4.0 scale is to simply take:

(Your GPA) divided by (5). Take (that answer) and multiply it by (4).

That will leave you with your GPA on a 4.0 scale. This is important when you do looking at the average GPA for a college, you must compare apples to apples.

Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB)

AP and IB courses are important and very helpful to take. Colleges absolutely love to see you challenging yourself, especially throughout senior year.

These courses are given a weight in determining your GPA. On your report card, you probably have your GPA and Class Rank listed for both “weighted” and “non-weighted.” In the college world, “non-weighted” doesn’t matter. Colleges will be taking into account any and all advanced and challenging courses you take.

AP and IB courses are also fantastic college preparation. They assist in your development of study habits and give a taste of the college work load.

In a post later in this series, I will explain how standardized tests work, including the AP test. This is yet another advantage of taking AP courses, as you have the ability to earn college credits.

Class Rank

Class rank will help some of you reading this post and will hurt others. Let me explain.

Lets say that Bobby of Forest Lake H.S. has a 4.0 on a 4 scale. Due to the extremely competitive nature of his school, only ranks in the top 75% of his class of 800.

Cheryl of Small Village H.S. has a 3.7. However, she ranks in the top 90% of her class of 325.

Without looking at class rank, it would be an obvious decision that with all other factors equal, Bobby would be accepted before Cheryl. However, class rank is used to level the playing field. Perhaps Cheryl’s GPA is lower only because she attends a prestigious private school with a very difficult program. By factoring in class rank, possibilities such as the hypothetical situation above are taken into account, and the best qualified applicant is admitted.

Standardized Tests, Your Experiences, and More to Come!

In my next posts of the College Admissions Series, I will be explaining the topics mentioned above and much, much more!

4 Responses to "The College Admissions Journey"

1 | Carol

May 19th, 2008 at 8:16 pm


I am a junior in high school, and I am very interested in pursuing the medical profession of being a plastic surgeon. It’s something that I am very passionate about and also very determined to do, I understand that it will be a long and difficult road to accomplish this dream of mine. But I will by any means do whatever it takes to get into a good college so I can take my education further. The only problem is, I just found out a couple of days ago that my GPA is extremely low, because of my freshman and sophomore years that brought my GPA down tremendously. It’s embarrassing to say and shocking to me as well, but my GPA is at 1.8. I know, i still have my senior year to bring it up with A’s and B’s, but my only concern is if i am not able to bring it up to at least a 2.9 or 3.0 what are my chances of getting into my college of choice? which is University of Texas At Austin. I really need some help, some kind of advice as to how i can raise my GPA or if it really even matters…Please someone help, i would really appreciate it. =] Thank you!

2 | Parker

May 19th, 2008 at 9:52 pm


Hello Carol! I greatly appreciate your comment.

As you said, work diligently your senior year for straight A’s.

As the post above states, I am eager to know your status in regards to class rank, any extenuating circumstances that may have negatively affected your GPA, your ACT or SAT score, and what clubs or organizations you are involved in, any awards you received, and/or anything else you feel that is important.

Make sure you meet the admissions requirements, especially required class courses found here:

I assume you have looked at this page:, but if not, please take a look and find out what UT at Austin looks for.

Although I am no college admissions super-expert, I will lay out my opinion. The Princeton review states that UT’s middle 50% ACT is between a 23-29. The closer and higher up this range you are, the better.

If you manage to bring your GPA up to above a 2.5+ out of 4, and have some impressive essays, test scores, and achievements, I would give you a very good shot at getting accepted.

And in regards to medical school, they could care less about your high school performance. That all depends how well you do on the MCAT and your college GPA.

At the end of the day, its not close to the end of the world if you don’t get accepted to UT. You could always start at a 2 year school and transfer, or even a 4 year and transfer after your first or second.

Sorry for such a long answer. Please comment again or shoot me an email if you have any questions or wish to discuss it further.

3 | Vivek Menon

September 4th, 2008 at 2:22 pm


Hey there, good article. I never thought about it that way, although I do have a few questions. Firstly, do you have any ideas on how to convert an International Baccalaureate GPA to a 4.0 scale? IB grades are out of 7, and I take exclusively IB Courses…so I’m really confused when it comes to this 4.0 thing.

Oh, and do you have an idea on what kind of SAT scores you need for Upenn Wharton? I’ve a 1980, but I don’t think that cuts it, eh? ^_^”’


4 | Parker

September 4th, 2008 at 3:49 pm


Hello Vivek,

Although IB scores aren’t usually converted to a 4.0 scale, I *suppose* you could do so by taking your “IB GPA” divided by 7 (the total), and taking that answer times 4.

If your IB grades came out to a 6.3. You would take 6.3 / 7.0 = 0.9 * 4 = 3.6.

Usually the college will take your class rank percentile to rank you among other applicants. They *should* also give you some weight in that IB courses are typically more difficult than standard high school courses.

In regards to your SAT of 1980, that roughly converts to a 30 on your ACT, both of which will keep you in contention. Although its not great, it doesn’t kill your chances either. Your IB grades, (although this may not be 100% politically correct) your ethnicity, where you live, and supposedly essays will also help to determine your acceptance or denial.

If you have any other questions let me know. If not, best of luck to you. =)

Comment Form