Academic Requirements For U.S. College Application

Posted on: 2010 -11-25

When evaluating a student's application materials, the admission committees often first look at the student's academic performance. If that student's academic performance meets the basic requirements, they'll evaluate the overall quality of that student. This is even truer at public universities, in order to save manpower on the admissions review committee. American universities usually evaluate a student's academic performance in three ways:

1.Grade Point Average ( GPA)

When applying to colleges, an applicant must provide high school transcripts and proof of current study status to the universities he is applying to. American High School has four-years of education (equivalent to China's middle school 3rd year to high school 3rd year). Maximum score is 4.0 points. High school GPA is usually calculated as the grade of each high school subject multiplied by the credit for that course, and then divided by the total credits. GPA has two types: weighted and unweighted. The maximum score of a course for an unweighted GPA is 4 points; for weighted GPA, the maximum score of a difficult course can be more than 4 points, 4.5 points or 5 points. For example, considering the difficulty of AP courses, a number of schools in the United States have set the maximum score for AP courses at 5. So for students in good academic standing, attending AP courses may increase their weighted four year high school GPA.

If the school you are studying at in China does not calculate grades, your school can still provide original copies and English translations of your transcripts starting from the middle school 3rd year, with the official seal of the school. When you are applying to a university, first mail the transcripts to the university before the deadline, then mail the mid-year report to the university while you are waiting for the admission results (mid-year report), you should send the final academic report as soon as you graduate (final report).

High school GPA is very important. Some universities even have a minimum GPA requirement. A low GPA will have a significantly negative impact on the application, especially if when the GPA trend goes downward. High school grading systems in most schools in China are quite strict. To eliminate this disadvantage, it is better to explain it, either on your transcripts or in the recommendation letters.

2.Class Ranking

Try your best to have your school provide the class ranking (including the total student number ) or the ranking percentage. The percentage has several levels: above 5%, 10%, 25%, 30%, 50% or more. The applicant's transcripts should indicate his/her level. If a student is ranked very high in an elite high school, it will give a comparative advantage to his application.

3. Course Difficulty

Course difficulty means the breadth and difficulty of courses a student takes in high school, such as a high school science curriculum, IB, AP and so on. Students in China cannot select courses, but many schools have fast classes, special classes, art and science classes. If you are studying in a special class, you should indicate it in your applications.

Many American secondary schools offer elective AP. Hence, AP (Advanced Placement) performance has become an important factor for the admission decision of an elite school. After finishing AP courses, students can sit for the AP exams held by the College Board. Also, AP courses and exams are supposed to be closely related to the majors a student will study in a university because AP test scores of 4 to 5 can offset college credits.

4. Can a Student Send Transcripts Along with His Other Application Materials?

Should the high school send the report cards or can the school put the transcripts in an official school envelope, seal them, stamp across the sealed area of the envelope, and let the student mail it with other application materials? For this question, a NACAC member recently conducted an unofficial internal inquiry with admission officers inside NACAC forum.

He wrote: according to the admissions officer's responses, it showed that more than 90% of universities accept transcripts inside a sealed envelope stamped by the high school and mailed together with other application materials by a student, but still about 10% of schools don't think so, and request transcripts to be mailed directly from the high school. Therefore, we recommend that before applying you'd better get clear answers from the schools you are applying to, especially from your top choice universities and colleges.