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The Academic Review: GPA

In the previous post, we talked a little bit about the high school transcript and specifically how we look at curriculum as we review applications. Now, let’s talk about performance – measured by a student’s grades achieved – and how we use your GPA in the review process.

First of all, we recalculate all GPAs here at PC, and compute each applicant’s grade point average on our own Providence College scale. Why do we do this? Simply put, each year we receive applications from thousands of different high schools, and it feels like there are thousands of different grading scales out there. We see everything, from 4.0 scales to 5.0 scales to 100-point scales to high schools that do not calculate GPAs at all. I remember one application from early in my admission career where the high school had a 13-point scale and the student had something like an 11.28 GPA. Hmm… what does that mean in the context of our review process and in comparison to all of the other applicants we are looking at? Good question. That’s why we recalculate. When we reach our final “Committee on Admission” review process, where our entire counseling staff is gathered together to make final decisions on about 1,500-2,000 applications, it is helpful if we are able to look at these students on the same “playing field” (or grading scale), so all students have their GPAs converted to our PC scale.

Moving all applicants to our grading scale not only makes sense for that committee review process, but also helps us to get a true sense of how a student has performed in his or her academic courses. These include the subject areas of English, Math, Science, History/Social Science, Foreign Language, and Religion (for students who attend religiously-affiliated high schools). We also would count other courses that a student has taken at the Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate level. For example, an AP Music Theory course or an IB Film Studies class would be included in the GPA recalculation.

However, since we are focused on the academic courses you have taken, there are also some courses that we will not count that your high school might include in your GPA. These can include such courses as Physical Education, Health, Driver’s Ed, Yearbook, Photography, Banking, Chorus, and others that do not fall within the core academic subject areas. This way, the GPAs that we consider for all applicants include only the academic areas we are most interested in, and are not inflated by non-academic coursework.

What type of GPA are we looking for?

Well, the average last year for students accepted to PC was between a B+ and an A- (unweighted) in an Honors-level curriculum. That last phrase of the sentence about curriculum is incredibly important, because we never look at GPA on its own. Your GPA is always considered within the context of the course schedule that you have taken and achieved your grades in. I cannot stress enough the importance of curriculum in our review process (which is why I talked about curriculum in the last post before we even got to GPA!). We’ve found that the best predictor of academic success here at PC is the combination of the classes a student has taken during high school and the grades achieved in those courses.

One more note: While the average GPA is in that B+/A- range, that is not meant to be a cut-off. We are very aware of GPA progression (an upward trend from freshman to senior year) and digression (a downward trend in GPA), and a student who might not be at that B+/A- average but has had very strong sophomore, junior, and senior years after a weak freshman year can certainly be a competitive candidate for admission. On the flip side, a student who is at the average but has their GPA held up by a strong freshman year and has digressed since then will likely not be invited. The average GPA is just that… the average.

Of course, all of our applicants are more than just the courses they have taken and the grades they have received throughout high school. The subjective pieces of the application – activities, involvement, leadership, writing samples, recommendations – often play a critical role as the admission committee makes our decisions. We’ll consider these pieces in a future posting!


  1. Scott, your openness with your processes is very helpful for the student who knows he or she wants to attend Providence. Thank you for the good information.

    How do you evaluate, say, a home school transcript? Would it be in the student’s interest to also provide a third-party opinion of the strength of the curriculum, or perhaps a student’s reading list or more detailed description of the courses?


    • Hi Andy,

      Thanks for your comment – glad that you’ve found the blog helpful!

      Good question on the home school transcript. Admittedly, these transcripts can sometimes be more difficult to evaluate than a transcript from a traditional high school environment. Many home schooled students are associated with a particular home schooling program that has a prescribed curriculum, and often has “third-party” representatives grading the students’ assignments. If this is the case for a student, providing the official transcript from their program and a program profile prove to be very helpful to us as we attempt to understand the student’s academic match to Providence. If the student is part of a home school program, we are often also able to get a recommendation from the student’s advisor/teacher in the program, which helps us to get a better sense of the student’s preparation.

      Of course, many home schooled students do not participate in a home schooling program, and that’s okay, too. In this case, we would want to see a substantial resume/profile of the student’s home school experience: an outline of the student’s high school work, level of challenge, and depth and breadth of their curriculum. As you mention, a detailed reading list is important for us to see in this instance, and it is also helpful for us to see a graded writing sample. All of these pieces help us to understand the student’s academic preparation for our curriculum here at PC.

      I hope this information helps – we certainly see our fair share of home schooled applicants each year, and we find many of them to be very well prepared for the classroom experience here at Providence.

      Thanks again for posting –

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