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Do UGA and other colleges weight GPA more than test scores? Should they?


I’ve been skeptical of the claim by colleges they care more about grades than test scores, but the University of Georgia may turn me into a believer.

UGA says its main criteria are the rigor of the courses and the grades. I've talked to several kids admitted early action into UGA last month on the strength of their GPAs, which were all 4.0 or better, rather than their test scores.

How do I know their GPAs outpaced their test scores? Because these teens are taking the SAT or ACT again in an effort to raise their scores enough to qualify for the Zell Miller Scholarship, which covers full tuition. To earn Zell, a Georgia student has to have at least a 3.7 GPA in core courses and earn a minimum combined score of 1200 on the math and reading portions of the SAT or a minimum composite score of 26 on the ACT. The catch -- they have to do it in single sitting; they cannot mix and match the best scores from several sittings, known as super scoring, as they could for admissions.

A 1200 SAT or a 26 ACT far exceeds the statewide average, but it is below what's typically required at highly selective schools. For example, the mid-range for this year’s freshmen class at Georgia Tech was 30 to 34 on the ACT and 1330 to 1490 on the SAT.

To further build the case about UGA putting more faith in GPA, consider these recent Reddit and College Confidential comments from high school seniors disappointed not to be admitted early action despite strong test scores. They were deferred into the regular admission pool and will find out in the spring if they are admitted:

•I applied early action and was deferred so I'm wondering what my chances are of getting in now.  Here are my stats: SAT- 1360 (710 English & 650 Math), GPA is 3.65. By the end of the year, I will have taken 8 AP courses.

•I have a 3.7 GPA and a 1290 SAT with Dual Enrollment. Multiple extracurriculars and leadership in them.

•With this first half of senior grades in, I'll end up with around a 3.65 core GPA and will have taken 8 APs. And a 32 on the ACT.

•I was deferred with a 3.79 GPA and 31 ACT.

In talking to readers about this issue, several maintained UGA shouldn't trust GPA since grade inflation is rampant in Georgia. And some of the folks were teachers.

What's surprising about the grade inflation argument is that it doesn't hold up when you look at the research on student performance in college. A major 2014 study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling found no difference in the academic performance of students at colleges that don't mandate SAT scores and those at schools that do require test scores. The study also showed high school grades predict student success. High school graduates with strong high school grades and low tests scores end up earning strong grades in college as well.

What do you think?


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.