What The Test-Free Admissions Movement Means

Grades Matter More Than You Think in College Admissions

Grades matter in college admissions. But it’s not as simple as just getting a report card full of straight A’s, experts say.

Today recently spoke to college admissions experts on how colleges view grades and what sort of role report cards play in the admissions process.


Despite many colleges offering holistic admissions, experts say grades still play a significant role in whether or not applicants get accepted.

“Academic performance in high school has been the most important consideration in freshman admission decisions for decades,” according to the 2019 National Association for College Admissions Counseling published “State of College Admissions.”

So while other aspects such as extracurriculars or essays do play a role in admissions, grades still very much influence how admissions officers view applicants.

“The straightforward answer is that grades do matter over the trajectory of a student’s high school years,” former University of Pennsylvania dean of admissions Eric J. Furda tells Today.


While grades matter in admissions, experts say it’s more so the context of a GPA that admissions officers care about. In other words, a strong GPA is only impressive in context to the strength of a curriculum.

“Two students with identical GPAs could have very different coursework and grades on their transcripts. This is why we talk about the transcript being the most important factor in understanding your academic preparation,” University of Virginia admissions dean Jeannine Lalonde tells Today. “The GPA attempts to summarize the work you’ve done, but we use the courses and grades on the transcript to fully understand your academic strength.”

The context of a GPA is perhaps the most important factor in whether or not you get accepted or rejected, experts say.

“The courses you take in high school and the grades you get in them matter more than anything else in the application,” Jeffrey Selingo, author of “Who Gets In and Why,” tells Today. “Admissions officers are looking for grades that are either consistently good throughout high school or on a steady rise from the start. What concerns them is a downward trend or where grades are all over the place.”

Sources: Today, National Association for College Admission Counseling

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