What Schools Look at in Order of Importance:

  1. Transcript: Classes taken AND their rigor (letter grade > GPA number)
  2. Test Scores (AP’s, ACT, SAT, Subject tests, etc.)
  3. Community Service (where did you volunteer AND for how long)  
  4. Teacher and Counselor Recommendations (usually teachers from junior year)
  5. Clubs, sports, etc (Did you hold a leadership position? What was your contribution?)


Rather than say “average” GPA, some schools will say “median” GPA or “middle 50%” GPA. All of these mean the same thing. The way colleges calculate the GPA they advertise on their website is by doing the following: they take the students whose GPA was considered 25th percentile from the pool of applicants and work their way up to students whose GPA that was 75th percentile of applicants and then find the average GPA of these students. Also, different colleges will reassess your GPA to a metric that they use to put everybody on a level playing field. For example, they will give an “A’s”, 4 points, “B’s”, 3 points, “C’s” 2 points and so on.

→ Benefit: Don’t be discouraged if the average GPA is much higher than yours, remember, the school is only considering students from the 25th percentile to 75th percentile of the the GPA from the pool of applicants. This means that there are 25% of students way below what these schools advertise.   

→ Detriment: While 25% of students are way below what these schools advertise, there are 25% of all applicants have GPAs that are way above what these schools advertise.


A school’s “average” ACT and “average” SAT score is determined the same way the GPA is determined. With that being said, I want to move on to something not a lot of students know about–maximizing your test scores!

→ DID YOU KNOW: The SAT (and sometimes the ACT) will be “super-scored”. This means that the school will select the highest sub-score, regardless of the day you took the test, to determine what the score you apply to that school is. For example, the SAT gives you critical reading, math, and writing scores (these are the sub-scores) that they then plug into a chart to give you an overall score (ACT does a similar thing). “Super-scoring” means that you get the best sub-score for every time you took the test.