What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

Do Colleges Look at Middle School Grades?

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What’s Covered:


You got a poor grade on your algebra test, one that you’re worried could mean that you’ll end the year with an overall grade lower than what you wanted. Now, you’re going into a bit of a tailspin. What will this mean for your future? Will it impact your chances of getting into a good college?


Colleges are getting increasingly selective. So, it’s natural to wonder whether a hiccup in your earlier years as a student will come back to haunt you when you’re applying. Do your middle school grades matter in the college admissions process?


Do Colleges Look At Middle School Grades?


The short answer is no.


Most selective schools perform a holistic review of your high school performance, including your GPA, the rigor of the classes you took, your extracurriculars, essay, and other information. People change a lot from middle school to high school, and the grades you earned when you were 11 don’t carry much weight in terms of predicting your success as a college student. Your high school grades and record are a better indicator, and while they, too, don’t always predict how you’ll do in college, adcoms have to start somewhere — but it’s not middle school.


If you take high school courses while you’re still in middle school, it’s possible that your school will add them to your high school transcript while not factoring them into your GPA. In other words, colleges may see them, but they’re unlikely to consider them as part of your admissions decision. An exception is if you actually earned high school credit while you were in middle school, rather than just took a higher-level course, although even then, they won’t carry as much weight as your actual high school grades.


Does Middle School Matter at All in Admissions?


While middle school grades won’t affect your chances of admission to college, middle school itself matters for your future.


Middle school is a time to prepare yourself for a more rigorous curriculum. It’s true that your freshman year matters less than the others — generally speaking, junior and senior years are the most important for college admissions — but the grades you earn in ninth grade will factor into your overall GPA. In middle school, you should lay the groundwork for a successful high school career so you can start on a high note when you start freshman year.


Additionally, some high schools will determine placement based on your middle school performance. For example, you could be put on an honors math track because of your success in your 8th-grade math course.


So no, middle school doesn’t matter in terms of what adcoms see, but it does matter for preparing yourself for high school and college.

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How to Prepare for High School & College in Middle School


How do you lay the groundwork for a successful academic future? Here are some tips to get you started as a middle school student.


1. Develop good study habits.


Developing good study habits must start early — middle school early. You’ll be grappling with more challenging material in high school, and when you head to college, it will become even more rigorous and difficult.


If you don’t have solid study habits in place already, you’ll likely struggle later on. So, begin to cultivate positive habits now. Start studying for your big tests a couple weeks beforehand. Tackle that long paper as soon as it’s assigned. You don’t need to do everything weeks in advance, but try to space out your work so it’s more manageable. 


This is also a good time to experiment with different methods and find the ones that work best for you, whether that’s flashcards, study buddies, peer editing, apps, planners, or timed sessions. 


2. Take courses that will prepare you for success.


Many middle schoolers don’t have many options when it comes to their curriculum. Still, if you have some leeway, take advantage of it to prepare yourself for later. For example, if you have the option of pursuing high school level coursework, do it!


Remember to think carefully about the choices you do have. You might, for instance, be able to take a language class (or even study multiple languages). Before immediately selecting Spanish because that’s what your friends are doing, consider the language that will serve you best in the future. That could be Spanish, but maybe it’s French. Or perhaps you’re intrigued by Latin. Do some research before you decide so you choose a path that aligns well with your goals and interests.


3. Try different extracurriculars


While you’ll have time to explore in high school, it’s a good idea to start trying out different activities now. This won’t just be helpful for your college applications — it will also give you a chance to discover and begin to cultivate your passions, which will help you grow as a person and give you enjoyable ways to spend your time.


Consider volunteering, for example. While some organizations might not accept younger students, there are still plenty that do. Or, join a sports team, learn a musical instrument, or work on a blog. If you can find an activity you really enjoy and stick with it throughout high school, you’ll demonstrate commitment. You also could reach a leadership-level position, which will impress colleges, too.


4. Build strong friendships


The transition to high school can be a difficult one, but having solid friendships can help you get through it. They can serve as a support system — you’ll be able to lean on each other and help each other through the difficult times, whether or not they’re school-related. Of course, you’re sure to make new friends in high school, too!


5. Make a four-year plan


Sure, it may seem a little early to start mapping out your future. But if you get in the habit of planning now, it will come more easily later on, when you really need to. Consider your goals for high school and college, from the rigor of your coursework to the kinds of activities you want to pursue to awards and scholarship you hope to win.


Don’t be afraid to change your plans as you learn what you can handle and what’s realistic for you personally. This is just an idea at this point, something that you’ll adjust depending on how things go.


Here are more ideas for how to prepare for high school as a middle-school student.


How Do Your Grades Impact Your Chances?


If you’re in high school, you may be wondering how your grades measure up to those of others applying to your dream school. Typically, they account for about 20% of an admissions decision, though selective schools will first evaluate grades and test scores to filter out academically-unqualified candidates. Only then will they review the qualitative aspects of your application, such as essays and extracurriculars.


Not sure if your grades are good enough? Using data like your GPA, standardized test scores, and qualitative factors, CollegeVine’s free chancing engine will predict your real chances of admission to top colleges across the country. We’ll also give you tips for improving your profile and suggest schools that are a match for your preferences. Sign up for a free account today!


Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.