Admission GPA

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  • #1
mathwonk
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Moderator's note: thread split off from https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/university-search-for-a-physics-major.1008062/

To an old guy like me these admissions standards look strange. It said online that to get into virginia tech one must have at least a 4.04 GPA. In my day no one had that, as the top GPA possible was 4.0. But it also said they admit 70% of applicants to Va Tech. Hence 4.0 GPA or better seems very common today, at least among their applicants. Is everyone so much smarter these days? I hadn't really noticed it. Or does Va Tech succeed in winnowing their applicant pool to only the best by putting this info out there? I.e. to me this information could make them seem either very selective or not at all selective. Maybe it just means they are very clear about communicating who their target audience is, namely an exclusive one, and they do take that audience of applicants, which seems a good thing. I always heard it was a good school.
 
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  • #2
CrysPhys
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To an old guy like me these admissions standards look strange. It said online that to get into virginia tech one must have at least a 4.04 GPA. In my day no one had that, as the top GPA possible was 4.0. But it also said they admit 70% of applicants to Va Tech. Hence 4.0 GPA or better seems very common today, at least among their applicants. Is everyone so much smarter these days? I hadn't really noticed it. Or does Va Tech succeed in winnowing their applicant pool to only the best by putting this info out there? I.e. to me this information could make them seem either very selective or not at all selective. Maybe it just means they are very clear about communicating who their target audience is, namely an exclusive one, and they do take that audience of applicants, which seems a good thing. I always heard it was a good school.
On the website referenced in Reply #36, it does not say that a 4.0 GPA is required for admission; only that a GPA must be submitted. The scatterplot of GPA vs SAT/ACT for admitted students does in fact show lower GPAs for admitted students.
 
  • #4
hutchphd
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I am surprised to learn that an A+ is strictly an honorific in the 4.0 system. Perhaps someone should tell the folks at Virginia Polytechnic Institute.
 
  • #5
onatirec
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VT doesn't give A+ grades; 4.0 (A) is indeed the max there.

These days, IMO, high schools inflate GPAs. Students will take advanced placement classes (AP) which will count as much as 5.0... Many more students are taking these to become competitive, and are entering university with 4+ GPAs.

A while back, was a bit surprised to find out a student I knew had transferred from MIT with nearly a 4.0... Made a lot more sense when I found out they use a 5.0 grading scale...
 
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  • #6
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some universities skew admission statistics by offering an admission offer that is conditional on their enrollment! One university I recently applied to for the masters program, did this to raise their enrollment rate I think (not to inflate their average GPA of enrolled students, so maybe less pertinent).
 
  • #7
hutchphd
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VT doesn't give A+ grades; 4.0 (A) is indeed the max there.
I think they were talking about the potential incoming class high school experience, so I share @mathwonk confusion. (and I prefer UVa anyhow)
 
  • #8
Vanadium 50
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TeethWhitener
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When I was in high school (in the US) in the late 90’s/early 00’s, our county school system scored IB/AP classes out of a weighted score of 6, “gifted” classes out of a weighted score of 5, and regular classes out of 4. Other counties had different schemes. On many of my college applications, I was required to indicate what the scoring system was, and on at least a few of them, I was required to report both weighted and unweighted GPAs.

Personally, I would have preferred a simple 4.0 grading system with the acknowledgment that IB/AP classes were college prep-level classes. Many popular classes like band, theater, photography, auto shop, etc., were treated as regular classes and brought down your GPA if you chose to take them instead of whatever IB/AP classes your school offered. So there was at least somewhat of a disincentive to freely choose electives. In addition, IB/AP level electives filled up pretty quickly, so your GPA could be lowered by mere bad luck if you got stuck in a non-IB/AP elective.

Reporting both weighted and unweighted GPA isn’t the worst system in the world, as it gives an idea both of how tough your classes were and how well you did in them. I’m not sure what a better metric would look like. Grade inflation at the individual class level is probably a bigger problem than GPA inflation, since the most competitive schools seem to have systems to sniff the latter out.
 
  • #10
Dr Transport
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Most universities have a handle on the grade inflation by local high schools. They recalculate the GPA based off of their history with grade inflation. One of my boys went to a really good out of state university, they admitted that they didn't know how his grades were inflated, so they took them unaltered, but again, he had less than a 4.0.
 
  • #11
CrysPhys
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Reporting both weighted and unweighted GPA isn’t the worst system in the world, as it gives an idea both of how tough your classes were and how well you did in them. I’m not sure what a better metric would look like. Grade inflation at the individual class level is probably a bigger problem than GPA inflation, since the most competitive schools seem to have systems to sniff the latter out.
<<Emphasis added.>> Well, that was initially the whole point of standardized tests. But, for whatever reasons, they seem to have fallen out of favor.
 
  • #12
TeethWhitener
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<<Emphasis added.>> Well, that was initially the whole point of standardized tests. But, for whatever reasons, they seem to have fallen out of favor.
SAT and ACT were required when I was applying, but as I understand, they’ve become de-emphasized because the rich kids are all enrolled in Kaplan, etc. and the schools felt it was giving them an unfair advantage in the testing department without actually improving their aptitude.
 
  • #13
mathwonk
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By the way, I apologize for apparently leading the other thread astray. I intended my post, #1 above, to be relevant to the OP for determining whether Va Tech was a reasonable choice for him, in the sense of helping him gauge whether he would get in. Since the posted data on admissions to Va Tech was somewhat contradictory to me, I was trying to help make sense of it. I.e. I understood that the OP wanted suggestions of schools that would both be good for physics and that he could get into. My conclusion was that Va Tech seemed a reasonable choice for him if he indeed had the credentials they ask for, or as good or better than their average student has. Unfortunately my initial remarks about GPA's having changed their meaning, apparently made my post seem not to be about Va Tech admissions, as I intended, but admissions generally. I had no intention or desire to branch off into a general discussion of GPA's.

I suppose now this paragraph is irrelevant to the current general thread, so apologies again.
 
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  • #14
hutchphd
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No harm no foul I think. I found the VPI website odd indeed.
 
  • #15
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Reporting both weighted and unweighted GPA isn’t the worst system in the world, as it gives an idea both of how tough your classes were and how well you did in them. I’m not sure what a better metric would look like.
How about a standardized high school curriculum?
 
  • #16
TeethWhitener
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How about a standardized high school curriculum?
My first instinct, given the wide variance of student ability coupled with schools’ tendency to teach to the middle, is that this would require huge changes in the way high school works currently (at least in the US) in order to be successful. Not that it couldn’t work, but high school would probably have to look a lot more like a Montessori program than it does currently.

The argument could also be made that it’s a university’s, and not a high school’s, responsibility to determine which students to admit, and that the high school is under no obligation to alter its established system simply to make that process easier for the university.
 
  • #17
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The argument could also be made that it’s a university’s, and not a high school’s, responsibility to determine which students to admit, and that the high school is under no obligation to alter its established system simply to make that process easier for the university.

On the other hand, if a high school had zero seniors get into college, I doubt the parents would be assuaged by the principal saying it wasn't their job to make sure universities could properly evaluate their school work.
 
  • #18
TeethWhitener
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On the other hand, if a high school had zero seniors get into college, I doubt the parents would be assuaged by the principal saying it wasn't their job to make sure universities could properly evaluate their school work.
Of course there’s an incentive (but not an obligation) for the high school in terms of increasing percentage of college-bound kids in the graduating class, but no high school is starting from zero, and universities seem to have their admissions process figured out, so it’s debatable how strong the incentive would actually be.
 
  • #19
CrysPhys
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How about a standardized high school curriculum?
* But then how do you accommodate honors and advanced placement classes for the sharper kids?

* Even if you had a standardized curriculum (same material, same texts), you would then need standardized homework, quizzes, and tests to provide a uniform basis of comparison. And of course there would be variability in the quality of the teaching which would affect how well students performed.
 
  • #20
onatirec
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Standardized curriculum is a whole 'nother can of worms...

I dug around the VT website myself; it's not entirely clear where their listed GPA stats come from. A few articles on their website list the "incoming freshmen", so presumably it's not just admitted students (which later decline) that skew the numbers upwards, but even that much is not entirely clear.

I can give a bit more anecdotal info on VT; I've amassed more credits there than most people bother to get through their entire university career. I was accepted early-decision over a decade ago. This process amounted to writing my name on a piece of paper passed around in my class senior year, followed up at some point by a five minute interview which ended in an admission offer (declared physics major). I think my GPA was around 3.55 at the end of HS, no weighted classes. I never took the SAT or ACT. I did however have quite a few dual-enrollment classes (~50 credits worth) and perfect scores on the standardized math course tests that are administered here. I did end up leaving the physics program, but later finished it while completing another degree.

My general impression is that admission there has become more competitive since then. One big caveat is that VT is primarily an engineering school. It's going to be much more difficult to be admitted as a mechanical engineering student than as a physics student, even though the engineering student body is much much larger. The students accepted for some of these more competitive disciplines likely skew the average incoming freshmen GPA upwards (and again, many of these competitive students likely have a 4+ weighted). It was not my impression that the average student at Tech was a straight-A student...

As an aside, VT does have some sort of agreement with a few community colleges whereby after completing a certain number of hours at CC with a minimum GPA, admission is guaranteed.
 
  • #21
CrysPhys
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One big caveat is that VT is primarily an engineering school. It's going to be much more difficult to be admitted as a mechanical engineering student than as a physics student, even though the engineering student body is much much larger.
Are you saying that you have to declare a major when you apply? If so, are you allowed to switch majors after enrollment?
 
  • #22
Vanadium 50
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Are you saying that you have to declare a major when you apply? If so, are you allowed to switch majors after enrollment?
This is increasingly common, for "impacted" majors - mahors that are over-enrolled. Switching is possible, but the university can limit the numbers who do this, and commonly require a strong GPA.
 
  • #23
CrysPhys
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This is increasingly common, for "impacted" majors - mahors that are over-enrolled. Switching is possible, but the university can limit the numbers who do this, and commonly require a strong GPA.
Thanks for that info. That's too bad, though. I always thought that was a plus of the US university system: spend your freshman year on core requirements and exploratory electives; then decide on a major.
 
  • #24
onatirec
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It is possible to enter undeclared and then decide or switch majors later. I'd say it's much more common to select a major when applying. Vanadium is spot on about restrictions in place for more in-demand majors.

I believe on the initial application, students select one or two back-up majors - so that sometimes students are admitted to the university, but not in their desired field.
 
  • #25
gwnorth
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* But then how do you accommodate honors and advanced placement classes for the sharper kids?

* Even if you had a standardized curriculum (same material, same texts), you would then need standardized homework, quizzes, and tests to provide a uniform basis of comparison. And of course there would be variability in the quality of the teaching which would affect how well students performed.
You make them the standard curriculum for students applying to 4 year colleges then you don't have to worry about weighted average as all students will be completing the same level of coursework. It would be similar to say the UK where all students applying to university present with A levels.
 
  • #26
CrysPhys
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You make them the standard curriculum for students applying to 4 year colleges then you don't have to worry about weighted average as all students will be completing the same level of coursework. It would be similar to say the UK where all students applying to university present with A levels.
I'm not familiar with the UK system, so I can't comment on it. But in US high schools, there typically is a basic curriculum (dependent on the high school); and honors and advanced placement classes are optional (dependent on the high school). If you have a single standard curriculum (which would need to be standardized across all high schools in the US; good luck with that), then you are also faced with the difficult choice of either (1) making the basic curriculum the standard curriculum; that is, optional honors and advanced placement classes would no longer be offered; or (2) making the standard curriculum require a certain set of [what are presently] honors and advanced placement classes; that is, these classes then would become mandatory, and would no longer be optional. Option (2) would also impact the first-year curriculum at universities.
 
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