Colleges Consider Grade Inflation in Admissions

Most selective colleges consider grade inflation and the school’s grading policies when evaluating an applicant, according to college admissions officers from both Harvard and Yale. ?“I do not think it will hurt our students’ chances for admission. This inflation is a national phenomenon and not just confined to PA,” said John Anderson, Director of Andover’s College Counseling Office.?Grade inflation has resulted in grading discrepancies between high schools, according to Dwight Miller, Senior Admissions Officer at Harvard University.?Some high schools weight grade point averages [GPAs] according to course difficulty, and others do not calculate cumulative GPAs, according to Leonard Satterwhite, Senior Associate Director of Admissions at Duke University.?Jeffrey Brenzel, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions for Yale University, wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “[Yale] receives abundant information from most schools regarding rigor of curriculum, grading policies and grade distributions… We bend our efforts toward understanding how a student appears in the full context of that particular student’s opportunities.”?According to Anderson, Andover submits a school profile to colleges that students are applying to, which lists advanced courses and gives grade and test score distributions.?Satterwhite said, “We evaluate students in the context of their school. We recognize that all courses and grades are not the same. It is hard to come up with some objective standard to evaluate students.”?“What we are always trying to discern with any school and any student has little to do with assigning significance to a particular number such as GPA,” wrote Brenzel.?Miller said, “[Harvard] deals with schools, public or private, on an individual basis about any issue. We tend to have quite good knowledge about many schools because there are applicants from them each year or most years.”?He continued, “We tend to know patterns or characteristics of schools’ grading systems. For example, some schools that compute class rank will have anywhere from 3 to 35 people tied for first.”?The large applicant pool at each school prevents admissions officers from considering all the possible variables, according to Satterwhite. He said, “There are more than 130,000 high schools across the country. [Duke] attracts applicants from eight to nine thousand high schools.”?Anderson said, “Admission processes vary with each college. For example, big state universities follow pretty objective admission processes while more selective colleges might consider the difficulty of courses. It really depends on the familiarity of the college with the high school.”?Some colleges use standardized tests to help evaluate students’ relative potential from various high school settings. Brenzel wrote, “Standardized testing is a supplementary bit of information that does in some cases help us understand better a student’s overall potential.” ?“Most admissions offices would agree that tests are less reliable than grade performance as indicators of success in their respective colleges,” said Miller.?Test prep and re-taking may give students an advantage on standardized tests, especially on AP exams administered in May. ?Miller continued, “Consequently, the Harvard faculty decided to honor only scores of 5 for advanced placement.”?