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Mod's note: Split from a related thread on "Diversity Essays" for school admission.

Interesting. You should do an "advice from an insider" thread about it.

Maybe if I get the time I will. I wouldn't want to give any bad information, though, since every school is different and each office looks for different qualifications.

My best advice would be to get good (or great) grades, study your brain off for the SAT/ACT and apply EARLY! Also, form a personal bond with an admissions officer; get to meet them, by pleasurable... make them not want to reject you. But in the end everything comes down to two numbers: your official SAT/ACT and your recalculated GPA.

The GPA your high school gives you is worthless. This is because in most states (NY isn't one of them) local districts do not standardize their grading systems. If you live in New Jersey, for instance, a 3.2 in Westfield H.S. is different than a 3.2 in Rumson Fair-Haven. So the admissions officer (and their junior cohorts) have to go through each transcript and count how many As, Bs, Cs.. etc you have and then assign you a brand new GPA so that you can be compared to the rest of your peers. This is extremely time consuming and tedious.

The best thing a high school can do is lobby their state for a universial format for transcripts so that college admissions officers can dedicate more time to essays, interviews, honors projects, and recommendation letters instead of re-doing all these damn transcripts. This way the officers know right off the bat which classes are academic and which were electives (Calculus vs. Photography).

I'll tell you exactly what happens after Feburary.

When all the necessary information comes in (transcripts, offical SAT, letters, fees) the officers go right to the transcript and SAT. They take the transcript and cross out all your BS classes like art, gym, etc and count how many As, Bs, Cs, Ds, and Fs you accumulated over your 3 1/2 years in your academic classes. They then average the grades together and assign you a new number that is compared to the rest of your peers. They also count all your honors and AP classes and place this aside.

With this new number they take your SAT and go to a grid. The grid has two axis, the GPA on the Y-axis increasing from bottom to top and then SAT on the x-axis decreasing from left to right. So the highest numbers are in the upper-left and lowest numbers in lower-right. The grid is broken into boxes which correspond to a GPA and SAT. The highest would be 3.5GPA/2200+ SAT for instance and would say "automatic yes". So if you have those numbers you are automatically in. As the boxes go to the right and bottom they change from automatic to "yes", to borderline, conditional and finally "no". Depending on where you are on the grid will reveal your fate. If you are on the borderline then the officer will make a judgement call about your honors/AP classes and whether you should be rewarded for it.

I always thought it was totally unfair that a high school student takes 15 Honors/AP classes (like me) is judged on the same grid than a guy who didn't take any honors classes. I don't know if other colleges do it differently, but that's what my school did. Anyways...

The grid also changes week to week getting progessively less "accept" boxes to where in April and May it is tougher than say January. If you are on that borderline, the admissions offical will look at your essays and letters and then will choose (or choose not) to advocate you.

Finally in May-June all the rejects are put into a pool where the ethincity of the rejects is coded. So if you are hispanic, black, native-American or any other "minority" you get a shot at a new grid. This grid is much easier than the original and every minority candidate is then judged with this grid until all the spaces at the college are taken up. Thats affirmative action for you.

Edited by softwareNerd
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Toolboxnj,

Is this policy followed only for American students or also for international students?

International students are a totally different matter. I personally have no clue to be honest. International students were handled by a different department since they were much more sensitive to travel restrictions, student visas and because they had a different financial standing. I only did US students.

Interesting. So, in your example, the only difference between the HS-calculated GPA and the one calculated by the admissions office was that "BS" subjects were left out of the latter?

To answer your question more directly, yes, BS classes are not included BUT this doesn't mean failing photography in senior year doesn't hurt you. Generally your "core" classes are taken into account like English, Math, Science, History and Foreign Language. We didn't weight (or weigh?.. ugh) subjects, but if a student got As in everything but got Cs and Ds in math we sometimes would overlook that since it was a liberal arts school (this would be something for the admissions committees to look at).

Some schools give numerical grades (83, 99, 72) and some schools give letter grades (A, B, C) on their transcripts. If I recall correctly, New York has all letter grades because they are standardized that way.

But, an 85 at one school can be different than an 85 at another school. For example...

If your school's grade scale is: A (90-100), B (80-89), C (70-79), D (65-69) then an 85 would be a B and would be counted as such. What about the school that has the following grade scale: A (93-100), B (86-92), C (78-85), D (70-77)? If you recieved an 85 in a class you would probably get a C+ which is certainly lower than a B.

So it's the admissions officers job to get the grade scales and then acquire the actual letter grade. Typically a school will send the scales with the transcript so it's easier for the officer to make the distinction. But, what if they do not have a grade scale? If he/she is lazy (and I was at times on those cold January days) I'll just assume that 90+ is an A and 80-89 is a B hereby giving credit to students who may not have earned it.

Your "recalculated GPA" then is a product of your effort and the grade scale of your school along with the schools of the students you are competing against. You could take two identical transcripts and they could be totally different students depending on what the scales are at your school. Therefore, the students with the MOST advantage are those who list letter grades and have liberal grade scales (like one where an 80 is a B). The students with the disadvantage are those with tougher grade-scales and numerical grades obviously. It is up to the officer to judge whether the student is entitled to "help" in his GPA after looking at the transcript to make things a little more fair.

Edited by Toolboxnj
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Some schools give numerical grades (83, 99, 72) and some schools give letter grades (A, B, C) on their transcripts. If I recall correctly, New York has all letter grades because they are standardized that way.

But, an 85 at one school can be different than an 85 at another school. For example...

If your school's grade scale is: A (90-100), B (80-89), C (70-79), D (65-69) then an 85 would be a B and would be counted as such. What about the school that has the following grade scale: A (93-100), B (86-92), C (78-85), D (70-77)? If you recieved an 85 in a class you would probably get a C+ which is certainly lower than a B.

So it's the admissions officers job to get the grade scales and then acquire the actual letter grade. Typically a school will send the scales with the transcript so it's easier for the officer to make the distinction.

As much of a pain as it must be, I'm impressed that you all go to such efforts to standardize (as much as possible) the grading between applicants. I would imagine that students from schools using the A=93-100, etc. scale would be quite reassured to know that.

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As much of a pain as it must be, I'm impressed that you all go to such efforts to standardize (as much as possible) the grading between applicants. I would imagine that students from schools using the A=93-100, etc. scale would be quite reassured to know that.

Not exactly. We would record the grade as it was with the school. So if the school's scale was 93-100 and they got a 93 we would calculate it as an A. If the scale was 90-100 and they got a 90 we would also record an A.

We wouldn't take a 90 from a 93+ school and make it into an A... on purpose. There were times where either out of ignorance or lazyness we would give the student a higher grade, but never a lower grade than they deserved. We never took a 92, for instance, and turned it into a B without consulting the grade scale first. Therefore, the students from the "90-100 = A" schools had a slight advantage because their students had an A at 90 while others may have needed a 93 for that A. Whether or not it made a difference or not is unknown, but out of 5000 applicants perhaps this flaw in the process kicked a couple kids in or out.

This flaw, though, is nothing compared to the lowering of standards for non-white students. We aren't talking about lowering the SAT standard by 50 points, but over 200 points for minority students!

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How long ago has the affirmative action been set in place by colleges? (40, 20 years ago?)

Also is it an actual law? Or just something colleges/universities choose to do but don't have to?

Is the grade for different minorities differ or are they all the same?

Who decides who is a minority and who's not? Where does this choice come from?

Is any white person counted as a non-minority by default? ("White" by his passport/identification)

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How long ago has the affirmative action been set in place by colleges? (40, 20 years ago?)

Also is it an actual law? Or just something colleges/universities choose to do but don't have to?

Is the grade for different minorities differ or are they all the same?

Who decides who is a minority and who's not? Where does this choice come from?

Is any white person counted as a non-minority by default? ("White" by his passport/identification)

These are all good questions.

The college I did work for was a private university. They worked off the altruistic premise that most universities operate under: that minority students are inherently disadvantaged and a more "level playing field" is needed. I'm not sure of the legality of the practice or whether the private university is mandated to accept more minority students.

On the application itself it asked for your race and I guess these included white, black, hispanic, native-American, etc. If you were considered a "minority", you where coded as such in the database. So they could do a search for all minority candidates to reevaluate them later on.

It's funny because this upper-middle class white girl in my high school applied to Harvard as a 1/8 Native-American and qualified for minority status. I had better SAT and GPA than her and she got into Harvard on the basis of her "minority status", although she was probably better off than I was.

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Thank you very much for posting this! I'm a rising senior and very anxious about the whole college business.

Strangely enough, I'm a little bit relieved that they recalculate everyone's GPA. My school doesn't provide them, or class rank. All of our classes are honors. We also don't have many BS classes. There's two semesters of gym and one semester of fine arts. The rest is math, science, English or history. B)

Two questions:

Do admissions officers make any distinctions (besides in calculating GPAs) between high schools? ie. Do they know that one school is better than another and if so, do they take it into consideration for borderline students?

Also, is it true that "Asian" is no longer considered a minority by many colleges?

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Also, is it true that "Asian" is no longer considered a minority by many colleges?
I'd guess it would work against you with today's quotas; too many asians studying too hard!

Your best bet is to work on a new cover-story about the 1/8th Ottawa blood in your lineage (just kidding) B)

Edited by softwareNerd
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I'd guess it would work against you with today's quotas; too many asians studying too hard!

Your best bet is to work on a new cover-story about the 1/8th Ottawa blood in your lineage (just kidding) B)

That's what I've heard. I'm not very concerned one way or the other though. I usually check "other" unless they have a bi-racial option (most don't seem to). It's pointless though. I may be half asian, but I was raised by my father whose family has been in the US so long he doesn't even know where they came from in the first place. No native American though. :huh: Thanks though; I was curious.

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Do admissions officers make any distinctions (besides in calculating GPAs) between high schools? ie. Do they know that one school is better than another and if so, do they take it into consideration for borderline students?

Yes. The admissions officer won't make an empirical calculation, but it's rather a judgement call.

Basically, every university has "draw schools" which they receive multiple applications from each year. They form relationships with the administration and guidance dept. in those schools for recruiting purposes. So the admissions officer can generally get a feel for the quality of student that comes from each school by talking to the depts and looking at the transcripts. They won't make detailed comparisons, but it's one of those exceptions to the rule.

Also, is it true that "Asian" is no longer considered a minority by many colleges?

I would assume so. Honesly, Asians may have a tougher time than whites because of reverse discrimination. We didn't differeniate between Asian and white.

How did you guys deal with A-'s? For example, at my school 94-100 is an A and 90-93 is an A-. This makes a huge difference in calculating GPA because all A's is a 4.0 and all A-'s is a 3.7.

Thanks for all the insight!

Zak

We didn't differentiate between A-s, As and A+s. That would have taken forever. A B+ would be a B and a B- would be a B. It just would have taken too much time to do the recalcuations and it probably evens out in the end.

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  • 5 months later...
So does it mean that colleges do not really look at extracurricular activities?

do you think it will be better to concentrate on GPA and SAT than afterschool activities such as

sports, theaters, and clubs?

;)

My advice: stop trying to engineer your application. You should work hard on raising your GPA and SAT if you can but it isn't the be-all-end-all. Do extracurricular activities that you're passionate about - colleges can tell when you're simply padding your resume. Remember that good recommendations and essays will go a long way in the admission process. Also, if you have any supplements to your application (creative writing, scientific research, music, art, etc.) you should consider sending them as part of your application process. Good luck.

Edited by Myself
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Thanks to "MYSELF" for your advice!!;)

i have one more question..!

To anyone who raised his or her SAT score,

how did you improve your skill on the SAT?

i've tried really hard to raise my score, and it isn't easy at all.

Especially for critical reading,

I did the problems on CR almost everyday, but it never really

seemed to raise my score.

Math and writing are easy to improve, but CR isn't..

how do you raise your critical reading score?

please don't say "PRACTICE everyday.." because it's not

what it's all about, you know..

Thanks!

Edited by carole4
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Thanks to "MYSELF" for your advice!!:worry:

i have one more question..!

To anyone who raised his or her SAT score,

how did you improve your skill on the SAT?

i've tried really hard to raise my score, and it isn't easy at all.

Especially for critical reading,

I did the problems on CR almost everyday, but it never really

seemed to raise my score.

Math and writing are easy to improve, but CR isn't..

how do you raise your critical reading score?

please don't say "PRACTICE everyday.." because it's not

what it's all about, you know..

Thanks!

The key to doing well on the reading sections of the SAT are to read a lot when you are young. Beyond that, it's difficult to say. Do your problems stem from trying to understand the plot of the story or from difficulty in comprehending the vocabulary, or something else?

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Thanks to "MYSELF" for your advice!!:worry:

i have one more question..!

To anyone who raised his or her SAT score,

how did you improve your skill on the SAT?

i've tried really hard to raise my score, and it isn't easy at all.

Especially for critical reading,

I did the problems on CR almost everyday, but it never really

seemed to raise my score.

Math and writing are easy to improve, but CR isn't..

how do you raise your critical reading score?

please don't say "PRACTICE everyday.." because it's not

what it's all about, you know..

Thanks!

I took Sylvan Learning Center's SAT prep course freshman year before I took the old SAT. I found it completely useless for the math, but it was slightly helpful for the CR.

When you read the passages, do you mark them at all? I've found it's helpful to underline important ideas, circle words I'm unsure of, etc. If nothing else, it helps me focus.

It's hard for me to say anything else without knowing what the exact problem is. Do you run out of time? Do you interpret the passages differently than they expect you to? Do you not know enough of the vocabulary or find yourself guessing a lot? It depends on what you're having trouble with.

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I'm applying to college this year and it's completely nerve-wracking. I applied to the University of Pennsylvania early decision, and I'm really hoping I get accepted. I know I'm competent enough to succeed there. I know they know it, too, because I took a course there this summer and got an A. But there are other factors involved, I know, that I can't really control. But I find out if I got in or not on Thursday!!!

As for improving scores on the SAT, I took a Kaplan course and it helped me minimally. I improved my skills through repetition. Also, the SAT consists of the same problems over and over again, just with different numbers. So understand the pattern of the questions and you should be all set. :lol:

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I'm not very familiar with the U.S. system but as one requirement for my grad school applications I had to take the GRE and TOEFL tests. I think the GRE is similar to the SAT in that it tests some different subjects like math, knowledge of english and writing ability.

For the GRE I got this practice test package that helped me quite a bit, although it was mostly so I knew what to expect. I have to say that I already had all the necessary skills before starting to study for the test, and all in all I did very little studying specifically for this test.

I just got my TOEFL results back, by the way, and I got a 117 out of a possible 120 points. Lost two points in the writing part and one in the reading part. If this doesn't meet the minimum requirements I'm going to laugh out loud. :P

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hello ! did you get into UPENN yet? if so, congratz!!

well. I'm wondering whether Kaplan course really helps for critical reading. I'm planning to take it since it's close to my house :twisted:

or i will take sylvan learning center course... I don't really know.

my problem with the reading section is that I cannot really understand the tone of the specific sentences or like finding out what

the sentence or the whole passage imply.. I'm also bad at comparing two passages..

Any suggestion ???

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Hello ! did you get into UPENN yet? if so, congratz!!

well. I'm wondering whether Kaplan course really helps for critical reading. I'm planning to take it since it's close to my house :thumbsup:

or i will take sylvan learning center course... I don't really know.

my problem with the reading section is that I cannot really understand the tone of the specific sentences or like finding out what

the sentence or the whole passage imply.. I'm also bad at comparing two passages..

Any suggestion ???

if you're having those kinds of problems, then a program like the one kaplan offers is probably a good one to take. it really drills into your head what to look for, what not to assume, etc. it'll give you the standard by which you should judge the passage and make inferences.

no, i didn't get in. but it's their loss :)

good luck!!

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To anyone who raised his or her SAT score,

how did you improve your skill on the SAT?

If you elect to take the SAT multiple times, be mindful that if you repeatedly receive the same approximate scores then the statistics will show that your scores accurately represent your expected performance. That is, you did not just happen to have a great or an awful day when you took the exam. If you are planning to retake a standardized test, only do so if you expect considerable improvement.

While we are discussing college applications, I also recommend taking SAT II subject tests in areas where you perceive that you can perform well.

I wish to strongly second the advice from Myself. Universities are most interested in recruiting bright young individuals. Most insincere attempts to inflate one's applications are visibly artificial and will impede your chances of being accepted. I think it helps to view the college admissions process as an evolutionary game. You want to argue why you are a qualified, unique individual who will contribute to the educational environment at the university. Your chances are not favorable if you are employing the same strategy as everyone else.

Good luck!

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