Are You Worried for Nothing?

Are You Worried for Nothing?

By Tasha

Thanksgiving means you get a break from school...but it doesn't necessarily mean you get a break from worrying.

Hi! I am rather worried about my college options this year, and I am desperately in need of advice:

So I am a high school junior in a very competitive high school, and freshman and sophomore year I received great grades, even for my school: I got all As with 2 MG classes and one honors freshman year, and all As sophomore year with one honors and 2 AP classes. (I got a 4 on one test and a 5 on the other)  My average GPA for then was a 4.08.  We do not get our ranks until the end of junior year, but the teachers know them now, and one has hinted to me that I am at least in the top 30 out of about 500-600 people. On top of that, I also got pretty good PSAT scores those years (a selection index of 196 freshman year and 201 sophomore year) and I expect to have improved this year as well.  Also, I played varsity softball and soccer for a local team (and still do this year).  I also am close with my class sponsor, so I anticipate a killer letter of recommendation.  Basically, I set the standards for my future really high.

But here is the problem.


This year has been a struggle so far.  I have 3 APs and 2 honors (no regular classes) and I am not having anywhere near as much ease as I experienced my previous 2 years.  The first quarter is coming to and end, and I will likely be getting between 2-3 Bs on my report card (though with the weight my GPA may still stay over 4.0.)  While I do understand that many would kill to get such grades, I am deathly afraid.  I know that I still have time to fix up my grades to have cumulative As, but there is a chance that I just will not improve and be stuck with these Bs, especially since I have some notoriously tough teachers.  Honestly, I am miserable thinking about how much I have fallen- I just feel like I am not living up to my (or others') expectations and am just going to have to settle for mediocre standards.

So here is my question: Before this year, I might have had a legitimate chance at an Ivy League, or other really competitive school.  However, my grades this year will likely suffer, though may still stay at a 4.0.  Will colleges look at my grades and still see a smart girl who took challenging courses and her grades altered accordingly, or will they see a formerly smart girl who lost her edge?  Should I set my sights lower?  What should I do??

I applaud your decision to enroll in challenging courses. Two or three B’s will not necessarily kill your chances of getting into an Ivy, but they won’t help. What you will have to do (and I’m sure you already know this) is work hard to make those 2 or 3 B’s the only B’s on your transcript (especially if you are set on applying to an Ivy). Look carefully at your schedule to see how you can fit in more study time. If you are involved in too many extracurricular or volunteer activities, cut back on them in order to get your grades back up.

Many students don’t realize that when it comes time to fill out college applications, what they are doing is essentially marketing themselves to schools. You want to show the admissions staff a record of academic success, awards earned, activities accomplished, and letters of recommendation that all show you are a serious student who will not be overwhelmed by high-level college courses. You want to demonstrate that you will thrive in a rigorous atmosphere where you'll be challenged to think critically. That's why it's so important to keep your grades up. They're part of your marketing pitch.

Don’t think for a minute that you don’t have a chance at getting into a competitive school. I would still apply to an Ivy if I were you. You have a record of success, lots of high school involvement, impressive test scores, and more.

At the same time, try not to fixate on the Ivies or assume that you'll be unhappy unless you attend one. For a welcome dose of perspective, I recommend the book Colleges That Change Lives, by Loren Pope. It's full of useful information about colleges you may never have heard of—but that may be ideal for you. Lots of students get stuck on the idea of going to an Ivy, but as you know, not everyone can.

My advice: Don’t worry! Focus on your courses and keeping your GPA high. When it comes time to fill out college applications, make sure to apply to one or two places you're reasonably sure you could get into, just in case things don’t work out at the most competitive schools.

Best wishes,

Tasha

To contact Tasha, email advice@sparknotes.com.

Topics: grades, college admissions, GPA, ivies

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