Becoming Debt Free in 2009

March 25, 2009

Tips for Getting Scholarships (Part 2)

Filed under: Scholarships — ambercouric @ 8:56 am

Course Selection and Grades  (GPA)

What I know about this is limited to information from 8 schools.  Both private and public.  If there is a particular school that you are interested in call the admissions office and ask how GPA is calculated.

All students have a high school GPA.  This is the average grade of all classes taken during high school (sometimes includes high school classes taken in junior high).  Many schools also have a weighted factor for honors or AP classes.    The GPA calculated by the college may be very different from the high school GPA. 

The universities that my son applied to had this formula.  They take the core courses ( you can find the course requirements on each college website) and use only the grades for those courses to determine if you have a high enough GPA  to meet their standards.  My nephew was an average student and had a mediocre GPA.  His parents decided to put him in PE classes to pull up his GPA.  His high school GPA was up but the college GPA didn’t change.   Colleges are more interested in grades from academic courses and also the level of those courses. 

Choosing course levels – rule of thumb here is to choose the class that gives you the best GPA outcome.  For example, taking a Calculus class that is honors and is weighted 4 for an A or taking an AP Calculus class that is weighted 5 for an A.  It seems like it would be better to take the AP class.  But if your child is not the strongest math student an A is honors Calculus is better than a C in AP Calculus.  But a B in AP Calculus is weighted the same as an A in honors Calculus  so you should take the more advanced AP class. 

Since the above is now clear as mud I’ll go on to discuss other classes.  Colleges are looking for academics.  There is an exception.  A passion class.  For example, if you child is a talented musician it is fine that they have four credits for band.  Same for art.  But to have the minimum academic courses and lots of PE or basket weaving, home economics, etc. basically tells the school that you were only interested in getting what you had to have.  You didn’t take enough of the classes that would challenge you.

Public high schools some times are horrible for getting students in the right classes.  Each year I had to go to the guidance counselor and redo Ashby’s schedule.  One year in particular they had him scheduled for English, AP Statistics, 2 study halls, 1 PE, Yearbook, Creative Writing, and SAT prep.  I had to have the scheduled changed to AP English, AP Statistics, Biology 101 (college credit class), Biology 202 (college credit class), AP US History, and one study hall.  There were less classes overall because some required two periods.  This seems like a heavy load but knowing my child I knew that it was not to much for him.  Make sure you help your child arrange his classes.

Students can get into good schools only taking the minimum required classes but in most cases they won’t be the ones getting the scholarships.

Tomorrow I will post about extra curricular activities.



  1. This is a good post. My son is in 11th grade now, and while he has always been “GT” all the way (not all school systems have this, but it’s the top-level classes, replaced by AP in some subjects in the higher grade levels), he has chosen to drop back to “honors” (which is a step down from GT/AP) in calculus and physics “so I can pass them,” he said. He’s doing better than passing, but I got his point, and I think he’s old enough to decide what he’s capable of – after all, it’s him taking physics and calculus, not me. Our gut feeling was that great grades a step down from GT is better than struggling at the C level in GT, so of course we supported him in this plan. He stayed in GT for English, History, etc. Funny thing is that he’s planning to be an engineer, but GT in math and science is just insanely difficult in our part of the country (northeast U.S. near Johns Hopkins University, etc.)

    Comment by 444 — March 25, 2009 @ 9:58 am

  2. My college and my high school had very different methods for calculating GPA. My high school GPA was a little over a 4 but based on the college’s formula my score was a 4.7! My high school used a scale of up to 4 for all courses and then added .07 for every AP class you took. The college used a scale of up to 5 for AP and honors classes, hence the discrepancy. It makes it hard to compare GPA across different school systems.

    Comment by Miss M — March 26, 2009 @ 3:20 pm

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