Test Scores and Air Bags

  David Graves      May 21st, 2019

This past weekend, I was driving my father to the Atlanta airport, and as is usual, the topic of college admissions came up. There was a recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal which discussed the SAT. In one section of the op/ed piece, the writers stated “the SAT is still the best objective measure of student aptitude and has proven to be a good predictor of college performance.” While discussing the editors knowledge (or lack of ) about grades/course rigor vs test scores, the sunlight hit the windshield just right and I flipped down the visor to block the light. On the back of the visor was the airbag warning sticker, and it got me to thinking about the interplay between different systems in trying to solve a problem. Putting aside the other variables of a college admission review (essays, activities, recommendations), how can a college best utilize grades/rigor and test scores? If you actually read the airbag warning, you will see that one of the key points is “Always use seat belts and other child restraints”. In other words, while airbags can help in an accident, seat belts are the actual key factor in auto safety, while airbags are secondary safety devices that, along with the seat belts, help to best avoid serious injuries. In looking studies on the effectiveness data on seat belts and airbags in possible fatalities for drivers, three-point seat belts alone had a 48% effectiveness rating, airbags alone had a 14% effectiveness rating, […]

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Why Self-Reported Grades?

  David Graves      October 2nd, 2018

In our admissions recruitment system, we have 39,427 organizations listed as high schools. We have schools with 1,500+ seniors and schools with one senior. We have Syrupmakers and Sea Kings, Jaguars and Leopards, Dragons and Wolverines, and even Jem Bears and Unicorns (You go Unicorns!). And you know what? It seems like all 39,427 schools have their own way of doing things, especially when it comes to grades. Different grading scales, different grades, different weighting systems, and just plain being different in how they do things. Even the transcripts look different, with some being hand-written, some being 12 pages long, and some with grades from kindergarten up to 12th grade. The one big thing in common is that many of them will have students applying to UGA, and we have to somehow convert these varying grades and grading scales into a somewhat common GPA system so we can look at the academics on a level playing field. As you can guess, the recalculation of GPA’s for 27,000+ applications takes a while. And the more time we spend on trying to figure out a GPA, the less time we have to do holistic file reads. As well, the longer we take in trying to decipher each grading system, the longer it takes to get out admission decisions. This is why we decided roughly eight years ago to ask our applicants to self-report their high school grades on their application. UGA uses these self-reported grades as a framework for the GPA calculation, […]

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Freshman Denies – A Post Mortem

  David Graves      April 9th, 2018

My wife loves Grey’s Anatomy. She is a nurse, and can handle seeing blood spurt out, people impaled on poles, and limbs sticking out at seriously wrong angles. Me, I can’t even handle the site of the scalpel cutting into a body. But some of the most interesting scenes for me are when they do post mortems. The doctors look at what went wrong, either with the person’s health or the medical treatment, to determine the cause of death. While doctors can never tell you exactly how to live to be 100, many times they can tell you what to avoid so you can have a good chance of a long life. One thing we cannot do in admissions is tell students/parents the exact path to getting admitted. Life in admissions changes too much for this, with shifting application numbers, academic strengths, etc. But what I can do is take a closer look at the denied students (an admissions post mortem so to speak), and give out some information on trends in our denied group. FYI-This is not a post about data on the overall denied applicant group, but only a view on some data which stands out within that subset. I apologize up front for the somewhat gruesome medical comparison, but if nothing else, it catches your attention. Core Course Rigor: One of the biggest correlation factors for applicants being denied was their course preparation for UGA, and for college as a whole. If you were going to prepare […]

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Admissions, Russell Wilson and the NFL Draft

  David Graves      January 16th, 2018

The NFL Combine – Four days set aside for potential pro football players to show their skills, and for team scouts and fans to drool over odd statistics such as the 3-cone drill, the Wonderlick IQ test and 40 yard dash times. For those of you who don’t follow NFL football, the draft combine is where the NFL  invites prospective players to travel to Indianapolis, IN to showcase their talents for NFL scouts. They will be timed on how fast they can run the 40 yard dash, how high they jump, how many times they can bench press 225 lbs, among other things. In addition, they will be measured and weighed, interviewed, poked and prodded all to try and determine their strengths and weaknesses. The NFL teams will then take all this data, along with a wealth of film on how each player performed on the football field during their time in college, to try to determine who they should draft for their team. Every NFL team participates in the combine, but one in particular, the Oakland Raiders, has made it a habit of focusing a great deal on the numbers coming out of the combine. If a player had a great 40 yard dash time, you could bet that the Raiders would have them on their watch list. Jacoby Ford, Darrius Hayward-Bey and Bruce Campbell are all great examples of “workout warriors” with great combine stats whom the Raiders have drafted. Unfortunately (as many of their fans know), the […]

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Sharks, Test Scores and Fear

  David Graves      September 22nd, 2017

Sharks are terrifying. They are big, they have huge pointy teeth, and and they like to eat. But the chances of you dying from a shark attack are pretty small. I mean one in eight million or so small. So while sharks are big and scary, in reality, you shouldn’t worry about them too much. In the same way, two words, three little letters each, cause an overwhelming amount of stress and angst. The SAT and ACT. They also seem big and scary, just without the pointy teeth. But in the same way that people overestimate the chances of a shark attack, they also overestimate the importance of the SAT and/or ACT tests. While a wide range of colleges use the SAT and/or ACT in the admissions review, the importance of these tests is generally overblown, and a number of colleges are test optional. Almost all (if not all) colleges, including UGA, state in their admissions review information that what a student does in the classroom is much more important than what a student does on a standardized test. At UGA, we give a rough estimate of 75+% of the academic portion of our review is focused on core grades and curriculum, with a much smaller percentage being the test score information. During our holistic file review where we look at everything, the importance of test scores becomes even smaller. Yet even with this information, the panic over test scores still runs wild. Here are some lifetime odds on the […]

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Updated AP/IB grade Weighting for 2016

  David Graves      June 10th, 2015

Ever since I have been at UGA (18 years or so), we have added .5 to every AP or IB grade during the calculation of the UGA GPA (excluding schools who add points to actual teacher grades on the transcript). In a review of the weighting practices of a large number of high schools with which we work, we have seen a growing trend of schools adding 7 to 10 points to every AP/IB teacher grade, so that an 85 in AP Biology becomes a 92 or 95 on the actual transcript. In light of these changing high school policies, UGA is changing the weighting policy for the applicant pool for 2016 and beyond and will be adding 1 point to each AP/IB grade in our calculation of a GPA (still excluding schools who add points to actual teacher grades on the transcript, where we will just use their weighted teacher grades). In practice, this means that if a student makes a B in AP Biology, this would count as a 4.0 (3.0 + 1.0) in our GPA calculation process. The University of Georgia values students challenging themselves in rigorous high school courses, as the best way to prepare yourself for college courses is to challenge yourself in the high school classroom. We encourage students to take the strongest courses possible in which they can still be successful, and we want to recognize this in how we calculate a GPA. We will continue to add weight only to AP or […]

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File Reading Part II – Academics and Strength of Curriculum

  David Graves      December 1st, 2014

From January through mid-March, the admissions staff will hide out in our offices and read files during our holistic file reading process. There are six main areas that we look at in our file reading process, and this post covers the second two areas, focusing on a student’s academics and the strength of curriculum. While we look at these sections in our initial review of applications, we now look at them in much more detail. Academic Review When we look at a student’s transcript during the holistic review process, we are trying to understand how a student has progressed over their 3+ years in high school. Have they been consistently strong throughout the years, did they start slow and then jump up to all A’s, did they have a tough time in a specific subject, are all their B’s low or high B’s, etc. We then use this in combination with the other factors impacting their life, from family issues that occurred where we saw a dip in grades to how a student did once they got into a specific AP course. If a student made a D in Geometry in 10th grade, did they bounce back from it or keep on a downward trend. If there is a downward trend or low grade, we also want to know if there were any mitigating circumstances that led to this issue. All of these factors help us understand the overall picture that the transcript gives us. Three quick warnings/notes on grades: […]

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Grades vs Rigor, or What should my child take?

  David Graves      April 4th, 2014

Every day of every year (except for decision days), the most popular question asked of an admission counselor is “Is it better to take a tough HS course and make a B, or an average HS course and make an A?”. The most popular answer? A half-hearted smile and the statement ‘We would prefer an A in the tough class”. The real answer lies somewhere in between the two options, and it depends on a student’s goals in high school and how well the student can handle a tough course load. First, I want to dispel some rumors. You do not need to have a 4.00 GPA (or a 3.90 or 3.80, etc.) to be admitted to UGA. You also do not need to take X number of AP/IB courses to be admitted. There are no hard and fast requirements on what it takes to be admitted, as every high school and every applicant is different. We do have mid range numbers for the GPA and AP/IB courses taken by admitted students, but these are mid ranges, not requirements. The next two parts are the keys to the discussion. First, we suggest that students challenge themselves to the best of their ability while still having strong grades in high school. We do not want a student to take 5 AP courses in one year, and come out having 3 C’s and 2 D’s. A student needs to be successful in their classes. But a 4.00 GPA while taking some of […]

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Calculating a UGA GPA

  David Graves      November 19th, 2013

During every admissions cycle, the question of how UGA calculates a high school GPA arises. I have seen so many GPA’s thrown out on college “discussion forums” that I start to cringe when I see these three letters. Because there are so many school systems using such a wide variety of grading scales, my best answer is always that we try to start everyone out on as level a playing field as possible. To give you an idea of the range of grading/GPA scales, here is a small sample; 10 point grading scales, 7 point grading scales, E/S/U grades, narrative grade reports, 6 point GPA scales (to include AP weighting), 4 point GPA scales, plus/minus grades, numerical only grades, 16 point GPA scales adding all four years together, etc. As you can see, the GPA on one student’s HS transcript could vary greatly from another’s. So step one is to look at the GPA(s) on your transcript, and then completely ignore it. Scratch it out, mark it out with a Sharpie, rip that section off the transcript, but do whatever you need to do to get it out of your mind. Step two, understand that UGA re-calculates all high school GPA’s, and it is based upon the individual grades (be it semester, trimester, full year, etc.) in all the academic classes using the grading scale at that school. In addition, we add 1.0 weight to every individual AP or IB grade (unless a weight has already been added to the […]

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Grades vs. GPA

  David Graves      November 21st, 2011

In the wake of Early Action decisions going out, we generally have a number of questions about why a decision was made, and a great deal of confusion surrounds the concept of GPA. Most of the disappointed comments and email I am seeing have a GPA listed in them, and usually they do not match what I have as a GPA. As such, here are a few examples of why UGA looks at the grades on a transcript (and recalculates a GPA), and not on the GPA listed on a transcript. In case you have not guessed, I have written about this in the past, but this is an updated version of previous posts. While writing this post, I have selected three files from the EA applicant pool that all have the same UGA GPA of a 3.32. Why did I select this GPA? Because it was the first random GPA to pop into my head. I then reviewed the transcript for each file and looked at the GPA listed on the top of each transcript. The first applicant has a GPA listed on their transcript as a 3.44 transcript GPA, the second has a 4.01 transcript GPA, while last one has a 4.45 transcript GPA. As you can see, what a high school has as a GPA may vary greatly from what UGA has calculated (that last one has a difference of 1.13!). Why is this, you may ask (yes, I know you are asking it right now). As […]

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