**By Randy Lai - New York University
Competitive colleges and even competitive jobs in college strongly emphasize GPA and corresponding class rank: they want to see what students are capable of achieving academically throughout their high school careers, beginning with their freshman year. This idea spurs a highly debated topic among high school and college students: How important is my freshman year GPA?
The Luxury of Experimenting: Don't Sink Freshman Year
A high cumulative GPA starts with Freshman Year. Students that are motivated to learn and improve will put in their greatest effort from the beginning and will therefore allow for more experimentation in class selection or extra-curriculars later on in school. As students begin college or job applications at the start of their senior year, a solid freshman year GPA will help their cumulative GPA as not all senior year grades will be included. If a student has a very poor start, he or she will have a tough time trying to recover and will have to be very careful about class selection as an upperclassmen.
Build Relationships with Teachers and Faculty.
A strong desire to excel freshman year builds strong student-teacher relationships students that can carry throughout a school career, resulting in meaningful and authentic recommendation letters. Many students are guided by teachers into more advanced classes that might meet their interests. Teachers are a great resource for helping you figure out what you want to study, what your passion is, and different opportunities.
Check to See the Freshman Year Grade Calculation.
On the opposing side, others validly assert that many colleges and employers do not account for freshman year GPA, only averaging the grades of sophomore and junior year. All University of California schools, such as Berkeley and Los Angeles, follow this rule and do not account for grades attained in the first year.Carnegie Mellon University employs a similar system but also alters the weighting and importance of courses. Some affirm that it is always better for students to be improving GPA-wise. Even if they do not achieve their desired grades, what matters is that they try their hardest. It is crucial that students self-reflect and learn from past poor performances to understand how they best learn and improve in upcoming courses.
What Do The Experts Say?
Recently, I visited UCLA and UC Berkeley. At Berkeley I asked the admissions counselor what the generally established rule is for getting into Berkeley and other elite colleges. She told me that good grades do not equal guaranteed acceptance.The Berkley admissions counselor stressed that "the most important goal is to develop a well-balanced application of grades, extracurriculars, standardized test scores, compelling personal statements, and notable honors or distinctions. Each is important in its own way, as schools tend to have their own system to evaluate each student."
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To stand out as an individual, regardless of a strong or weak freshman year performance, apply for awards in areas you shine in outside the classroom. Recognition of unique skills or talents is a stellar way to bolster your college application and get Admissions' attention.
It is imperative that those who've faced the challenges of freshman year know that, although freshman grades do matter, there is always room for self-improvement. Whether you start off weak or strong, what truly matters is that you finish your high school career with a diverse experience you can expand on in college applications.