Getting In – The Book
June 26, 2016

Turn Your Pluses Into Minuses

When you’re applying to college, even little things can make a big difference. Points on your GPA, a notably sincere recommendation letter, that one extra year of an extra-curricular activity-these are the application elements that are going to set you apart.

Think of this: this year, over 60,000 students applied to University of California Los Angeles for less than 15,000 available spots. Roughly two thirds of them had a 4.0+ GPA. There’s no doubt in saying that every hundredth of a grade point average point could be the push you need to get into the school of your dreams. Every student who starts high school is ranked number one in his class on day one. So the question is: in the fury of grade inflation and severe competition, how do you maintain a high grade point average.

Our philosophy is to “turn your pluses into minuses.” That means turning a C+ into a B- or a B+ into an A-. It means making sure that you have every extra bonus you can. When a college calculates a student’s GPA, they count each letter grade (regardless of the plus or minus) as a certain amount of points out of four. For example, they count a B-, B and B+ as 3 grade points; an A-, A and A+ as four points. So if a student can manage to get an A- instead of a B+, their GPA is altered significantly. Two pluses turned into two minuses can take a GPA from 3.2 to 3.5. Don’t let the perception of borderline grades lead you down the wrong path.

When it comes down to report card time, don’t settle for a plus. Tier 1 colleges (3.8-4.5 weighted GPA) look at your high school grades fourth behind the rigor of classes you took, extracurricular activities and class rank. So when applying to these prestigious universities, you must get the best grades possible in the hardest classes possible. However, Tier 2 (3.2-3.8 weighted GPA) and Tier 3 (2.4-3.1) look at your grades differently.

These schools take a more holistic approach, meaning that they evaluate your application as a whole instead of prioritizing different elements of it. Grades, curriculum, extracurriculars, SAT/ACT scores and your personal statement factor more evenly into the selection process. What appeals to these colleges is the “All-American” student. That means you have more freedom to compensate in your application. For example, if your GPA is not outstanding, strong SAT/ACT scores might act as a buoy to help your application out. That said, have no doubt that grades are always a key element in every college’s decision-making process.

Now that the importance of having good grades has been established, the question remains of how exactly to do it. You need to earn your grades. If you aspire to attend a prestigious college, then you need to be willing to work hard, prioritize, and sacrifice your time. There is no secret formula besides dedication and passion.

Remember, too, that every teacher wants their students to achieve their highest potential. Teachers are not out there to ruin your GPA. In fact, if students were persistent with their teachers like they were with their parents when they really wanted something, they could easily change those pluses into minuses. Work with your teacher, put in the extra work, and show that you truly care about your grades.

The equation for success is a subtraction, not an addition. Turn the pluses into minuses and you’ve got the solution. An effective coach working with a passionate high school student can have a significant impact on their pre and post college experience preparing them for the rigors of college by creating a realistic admissions strategy based on truthful introspection, a strong personal brand, meaningful extra-curricular activities with an aggressive pursuit of test scores and grades.