I'm spending the week on the road to attend evening programs for juniors and their parents at a few high schools. The counselors at the programs go over all the incredible sources of data that students can access these days when doing research about colleges. Many of my schools use a system called Family Connections, created by a company called Hobsons, to assist with career discernment and the college search (among other things...it's a robust system, from that I've seen). One of the tools in the system is the college scattergram.
|A scattergram I found online. This is NOT for UVA.|
Scattergrams plot admission decisions from a college on two axis: GAP and test score. I always have to caution people to remember that scattergrams are plotting the results of a much more elaborate process using just two factors. They show the user correlation, not causation. An admitted student on a scattergram wasn't admitted because of their GPA and test score, but because their entire application was compelling.
How Do We Use GPAs?
The way I see it, the GPA is the schools' way of summarizing the work that's on the transcript. GPA methodologies vary from county to county in Virginia (and this is fine with us...each district uses the method that works for their students). The GPA doesn't tell you the full story, though. You may have classmates with identical GPAs who have very different coursework and grades on their transcripts. Resists the urge to fixate on GPA and instead think about how we read your transcript.
The transcript is where we learn about your academic progress. We know that most first years in high school are told much of what they are going to do, but most schools give students more options as they gain seniority. We're looking to see that you challenge yourself with an interesting program that includes advanced options (whatever your school has - AP, IB, DE, etc) in a way that's appropriate to you.
"In a way that's appropriate to you" means we want you to stretch and challenge yourself when it comes to course selection, but we also want to see strong grades. Hopefully, your counselor and parents have helped you think about the right mix of courses for you.
What Does Holistic Mean?
Holistic admission means we look at the entire application before we render a decision. There are no "cut offs" (remember GPA is not standardized, so that doesn't make senses in Virginia). We read every file, front to back, before we make our recommendations. We read and double check our files multiple times. You can read more about the holistic review here.
As always, I'm happy to answer questions in the comments.