Monday, November 16, 2015

First Marking Period Grades, College, and You

By:  Patrick O'Conner Ph.D

First Marking Period Grades, College, and You

There’s been a lot of discussion about the use of data in school counseling, especially as it relates to helping students make good college choices.  If you haven’t bought Trish Hatch’s The Use of Data in School Counseling, put it on your holiday wish list.  Meanwhile, here’s my quick take on what you can to with first quarter report cards to help your students make the connection between grades and college access:

Ninth grade  The biggest part of the college counseling program for freshmen is college readiness—having the study skills, time management mastery, and self-knowledge to become a good student.  Good grades are only part of being a good student, but one thing’s for certain—if the grades are low, there’s room for more growth.

This is where report cards can come in handy, especially if they include teacher comments, or codes that teachers can use to suggest how students could improve—more study time, focusing on tests, paying more attention in class, etc.  A quick review of grades and these comments can give a counselor a clear picture of the students whose study skills most need find tuning.  Better yet, a workshop for all ninth graders can offer tips on how to become better students, using grades and comments as a guide.

Tenth grade  The same relationship among grades, comments, and strong study skills can be emphasized in tenth grade, along with a review of the role grades play in college admissions.  With a year of school under their belts, sophomores will want to know what kinds of college options their grades will create for them.  A group presentation showing the average GPA of admitted students at different colleges will highlight this in a powerful way, along with a demonstration of the options a B+ student has from a B student. 

This is also a good time to discuss the role of merit scholarships.  Using the merit scholarship list from Cappex as your guide, you can show students the economic difference their GPA can create if they can just find a way to lift those grades, as college cash becomes more available to students with higher GPAs.

Finally, this may be the time to remind students that higher grades in tenth grade classes can be a factor in qualifying for Honors, AP, or IB classes as a junior.  Grades aren’t the only factor colleges consider in the admissions process; they also consider the degree of challenge in a student’s course load, and sophomore grades can create more demanding junior year opportunities.  This is a good time to remind students of this.

Eleventh grade  The discussion of rigor, scholarships, and admissions becomes more real for many juniors.  The challenge here is that, with half of their high school career behind them, it is harder for students to dramatically raise their GPA.  Still, a stronger junior year can show colleges a trend of growth in the student.  That may not make a previously all-B student eligible for a highly selective college, but you never know.  Juniors need to be reminded of the possibilities.

Twelfth grade  Many seniors will either need or want to send their first quarter grades to colleges, to show how well they are doing with their most demanding year of high school.  In addition, more colleges are reviewing senior grades as part of the admission process, and rescinding offers of admission to students who lose focus.  Now is the time to check senior quarter grades, and alert students who are slipping of the risk they’re running.  A wise word now can keep more possibilities open come June. 

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