How do colleges calculate the difference in rigor of classes at different schools?

By Maxine Seya

How do colleges calculate the difference in rigor of classes at different schools?

– student in Seattle, WA

Earning an A in a class at your school might mean something completely different from an A in the same class at the school across town. We got details from a recent exclusive interview on how application readers take this into consideration.

A former admissions director at Chapman University and University of Richmond and a current admissions officer at Pomona College gave us a peek into how different schools are judged based on their rigor. In a recent interview, he told SocratesPost that admissions officers use a variety of tactics to understand each school’s context. Here’s what he means:

SocratesPost: Earlier you said every high school has its own context. What tools do you utilize to judge the context of the applicant’s high school, so as to better understand the implications of the student’s performance there?

Grant at Pomona: There is a variety of tactics that we utilize. Almost all admissions officers are regionally divided. You have a certain region, so you might have the Southwest, you might have certain parts of Texas, you might have certain parts of California. And while there isn’t a general GPA scale for those areas, it basically means that you can get a deeper relationship with counselors and high schools that might have more nuanced ways of grading.

Grant at Pomona: And so more often than not, when students are applying from schools, 9 times out of 10, we will not only know the school, but also be able to give you a breakdown of who’s applied here before, or, “We have a student from this school here, and their counselor comes and talks to me every single year when I come and visit.” So you have a pretty good relationship with high schools, so much so that now when I meet somebody, and if they come from one of the areas that I recruited from, I usually ask them what high school they’re from,

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Maxine Seya
Maxine Seya is a former investigative journalist, college consultant, and admissions interviewer. She studied at Peking University (Beijing, China) and Université Paul-Valéry (Montpellier, France) and investigated for CNN and Huffington Post before graduating from Northwestern University. She founded SocratesPost to share the human stories behind the admission gates and offer parents clarity as they help their teens with college.