Using GPA to Determine College Acceptance is Prejudicial: Here’s Why


Acceptance statistics taken from Niche’s page on the University of Georgia showing that high school GPA is a required part of the application process.

Stella Garrett, Editor-in-chief

The college acceptance process is a flawed one to say the least. It is stressful and tedious and completely at the mercy of the great capitalist monopoly we know as College Board. However, most people need to go to college (or they at least feel like they need to) so it seems as though we have collectively accepted that applying to college sucks and there’s nothing we can do about it.

In light of recent events (i.e. Covid-19), I’ve begun to realize that the way of college application that we’ve all become too familiar with actually can change when the circumstances require it. For some people, the fact that some schools are no longer requiring SAT scores is a miracle sent straight from above. For others it’s their living nightmare. 

I, personally, have always been a decent test taker. Standardized tests, that is, because I have absolutely zero studying skills and a lot of standardized testing is common sense and guessing. Unlike some of my peers and classmates, taking the SAT is at the bottom of my list of worries. I’ll be candid, my math SAT score was pretty pathetic but I know that my overall score is decent for it having only been my first time taking the test. My GPA, however, isn’t looking too hot. 

For starters, I completely understand why colleges care so much about GPA. To be fair, it does seem like the best judge of academic capability and effort. I personally just think that it’s unfair to measure every person on the same scale without taking into account their individual strengths and weaknesses. I’d like to think of myself as a relatively competent person and a fairly capable student. For the most part I find that my teachers recognize my hard work, even if it isn’t always reflected in my grades. For the students, many of which I know, that have high GPAs, they won’t need to worry about applying to colleges come fall semester because they won’t be relying as heavily as I am on standardized test scores. 

Despite the fact that my personal GPA isn’t exactly impressive, I have a few key issues with it as a concept as well as a practice. First off, it is absolutely detrimental to rank students by numbers. I am fully aware that it isn’t really realistic to ask each college to look beyond grades, but to assign a number to a name and call that a student completely dehumanizes applicants. Ranking lowers students’ self-esteem and creates unnecessary competition. Not to mention that it undermines all of the hard work that lower-performing students have done throughout their high school career. 

Secondly, GPA doesn’t accurately portray how much a student learned in their classes, nor how rigorously they worked. Aside from AP classes, which are a problem all their own, the same class can differ not only from school to school but also between teachers. Using a personal example, I have always struggled in math and I haven’t gotten an A in a math class since middle school. My math grade may be low, but it doesn’t take into account the tutoring sessions I’ve attended or the tests that I studied for despite still failing. I’m not necessarily good at science but my chemistry class was what I would consider to be an easy A. It wasn’t that I learned a lot in chemistry (honestly, the only thing I remember how to do is balance equations) but I had a laid back teacher, I was able to study to test and quickly forget the information, and there was a lot of easy busy work.

Lastly, GPA doesn’t take into account inevitable lapses in performance due to uncontrollable factors (family problems, mental health) that come with us all being human. There is so much more to a “good student” than grades and unfortunately the supplemental essays and resumes are too often outweighed by GPA. Applying to college is stressful enough without the feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy that is embedded in the process. I believe that there has to be a better way of weighing a potential collegiate student’s capability without completely disregarding their humanity and that starts with discontinuing the GPA scale.