Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Why Self-Reported Grades?

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, and our evaluation team then reviews the transcript in every file to make sure we have the correct grades and GPA. Occasionally students make minor errors in self-reporting grades, and that is okay, as we double check them compared to the official transcript. In the past eight years, we have been able to roughly double the number of files we review in the holistic file reading process, and we have also made decisions roughly 3-4 weeks earlier than our time frame prior to self-reported grades, all while having roughly the same level of staffing.

While we have tried to make our self-reported grades system as simple as possible, here are a few common issues we face every year:

  • First things first, get a copy of your transcript. We will be looking at your grades on a transcript, so it only makes sense to have the same thing in your hands when you self-report your grades. Enter in the grades from the transcript, even if your school has added "points" to a teacher's grades on the transcript. See grades, enter grades.
  • A secondary reason for self-reported grades is so you can see your core courses and grades over the past three years, as you might have forgotten exactly how you did in your classes from 1-2 years ago.
  • Most of our applicants have taken HS courses in middle school, so this is not an uncommon thing for us to see. But in our GPA calculation, we only want to use the grades made in 9th grade and beyond. Only enter in grades made in your HS years. HS courses taken in middle school years can be used for state requirements, but we do not use them in the GPA.
  • If your transcript has only year long grades in your core courses worth a full credit, use the year long grades in the self-reported section (so generally 5-6 grades per year on average). If your transcript shows semester grades worth half a credit, put in the semester grades in the self-reported section. Many semester system grades might have a yearly average grade as well, but we only want the semester grades. The one oddity is if your school has a mix of grade types (usually semester for most with occasional courses having only year grades). If this is the case, report everything as semester grades, and count the year grades twice (as 1 year grade = 2 semester grades). Use what is on the transcript. 
  • If you have taken DE courses, or courses at another high school, you should only report these grades if they are on your official HS transcript, and only if they are core courses. As well, if you took summer courses, we are fine with you listing these under either year that surrounds that summer (for example either junior or senior year if taken in the summer prior to senior year).
  • We ask for the total number of AP/IB grades because that is what we use for adding weight for the GPA. We don't use Honors in our weighting system because, unlike AP and IB courses, Honors courses are not standardized nationally. We still use Honors and Advanced courses in our curriculum review, just not in our GPA calculation.
  • We have been doing this for eight years, so trust that we know all the oddities, and go by what the instructions say on the self-reported grades. This is not our first self-reported grades rodeo.
Please let me know if you have questions, and Go Dawgs!

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