I just thought of a little thought experiment for those considering colleges for undergrad Suppose there is a HS senior student A (2100+ SAT ,3.8+GPA,research,science fairs) decides to go to a top 7 school not particularly known for grade inflation ie. Caltech,Cornell,MIT. Choose Caltech as example . All classes regardless of the students composing it have a grade distribution centering around a B especially for schools not known for grade inflation. Assume student ends up on the C side most times but not in all classes composed of other students that are IMO,Intel Sci,Putnam high scorers and such. Senior year comes around and student A has 2.3GPA and some research no publications. This is followed by 820PGRE and assume 1400+ general GRE. Very likely student A could have 3.0+GPA in a different school. I suppose A could work even harder but then this would displace a student so that he gets the C in which case make him student A ie someone has to get a C at least some of the time otherwise it would be perceived as grade inflation which goes against the initial assumption. Student B is a slightly above average student (3.4GPA 1870SAT no research science expt). Attends school around 100(University of Kentucky, Iowa, Hawaii). Graduates with some research experience and a 3.7 GPA and 800 PGRE. Both apply to school X in top 10 like Columbia, UIUC. Who is more likely to get in? Interestingly enough some schools have GPA requirements to even apply like UCBerkeley so student A is immediately disqualified.