The Naked Truth

High school careers are summarized in one simple number, your GPA (grade point average). No matter how many clubs you’ve joined, or hours you’ve spent volunteering, if your GPA doesn’t cut it, you can kiss the dream of being a college elite good-bye.

To make matters harder for students coming from Loudoun County, or other counties that have higher grade weighting scales, their GPA’s will be stripped of all weightings when applying to certain colleges, such as UVA or Princeton.

“Grades matter. I agree with weight stripping if they take into account the course sections and class ranking,” said senior Marshall Alexander, who is taking seven AP’s (advanced placement courses) and is applying to UVA, Virginia Tech, and Princeton.

In Loudoun County, AP courses come with an extra 1.0 weight to the final grade in that course when the AP exam is taken. In other school systems, AP’s can come with only a 0.5 or no extra weighting at all. The same goes for honors classes, which in Loudoun get a 0.5 weight, but in other systems may be treated the same as academic classes, as far as GPA value.

“I think GPA and test scores are the most important threshold,” said James King, Jefferson Scholar interviewer. “That being said, I think extracurricular activities, especially leadership roles and volunteer work, are used to separate people.  When all the applicants have great grades, you have to look at what separates one from another.”

“There are seven different grading scales in use in Virginia public schools alone. There are schools where 4.0 GPA’s are rare and signify all A’s in the very best courses and there are schools where 4.0 GPAs are common and could be earned with okay grades in average courses,” Dean J said in The UVA Admission Blog. This year, I’ve read applications from schools with pretty interesting GPA scales, including 18 point and 500 point scales.” It’s no stretch to see why so many schools choose to look at GPA’s for their plain academic value, without being fluffed up with weightings.

Although AP weightings may not be taken into account when applying to certain colleges, they do have other beneficiary qualities.

“I hope my AP classes make me stand out more, and show that I’m capable of more of a workload,” said Alexander.

Alexander’s opinion is not shared by all students though. The surplus work and added exam isn’t a key reason many students take AP courses.

“I don’t think it’s fair. There really isn’t a point to taking AP’s if you don’t get the 1.0 extra weighting,” said senior Andy Miles.