The Wrong Take-Away

A popular “GPA Doesn’t Matter Game” is played with either the sophomore
or junior class at most high schools. This is an admissions game that is designed
to show that test scores and GPA are not the only things that matter in admissions.
But this message gets missed by most students.

The game generally works like this. Several students are given a card that contains
the details of a fictional character applying for college, including GPA, SAT scores,
and all the other pieces of a college admissions application. The students are then
sorted by GPA, highest to lowest. Through a series of questions, the students
shuffle around depending on the likelihood of getting admitted based on the
qualities on their card. Eventually, the student with 2.5 GPA “wins” the game
because this character’s grandfather donated significant money to the college library.
Thus the take-away: “GPA doesn’t matter.”

GPA and course rigor account for 50% of the application’s evaluation. Test scores
(SAT, SAT II, ACT) cover the next 25% of the evaluation. Only if GPA, course rigor,
and test scores pass the minimum expectations are the remaining items in the
application considered: essay, athletics, art, music, leadership, service, legacy, race,
economic status etc. Even the highly recruited athletes are expected to have a
minimum GPA to be accepted.

Admissions officers state, “…a great essay and extra-curricular activities can be
medicine to a sick GPA, but they cannot raise the dead”. Certainly the extras can make
the difference when choosing between a 4.6 GPA and a 4.0 GPA. But to think that
the 2.5 GPA has a much better chance at admissions than even a 3.5 GPA is just wrong.

Though that dreaded disease, senioritis may attack you as early as October, senior year;
don’t be tempted to give in. Your GPA and test scores REALLY do matter and can
make the difference between admissions and waitlist (as well as scholarship money).

Susan Teerlink is the accountability and admissions coach for College Funding Advisors, LLC,
located in Harrisonburg, VA. She was also a co-author on the book Secrets Of How To Avoid
Overpaying For College  and is involved with GRASP, the Great Aspirations Scholarship
Program, a non-profit based in Richmond, Virginia.  You can read her other articles at

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