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


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

Parents: Why Freshman Year GPAs Matter

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If you’re the parent of a rising high school freshman, you may be wondering how your role as a parent will evolve over the next four years. You will undoubtedly step back to allow your teen more and more independence as the years progress, but you’ll still need to provide structure, guidance, motivation, and plenty of support. It can be a difficult balance to strike.


For some parents, freshman year is the time that they step back and let their teens take the lead. While this can be a great opportunity for self-motivated students to take on more responsibility, if your student is less academically inclined, you could find that letting them take the lead doesn’t go as smoothly as hoped. Though you might have heard that grades don’t really matter during freshman year, it’s a bit more complicated than that.


Think you’ve got another year before you need to worry about your ninth-grader’s GPA? Think again. In this post, we will outline how much your teen’s academic performance during freshman year of high school actually matters and why.


How Much Do Colleges Care About Grades From Freshman Year?

There’s no universal formula to reveal how heavily freshman year grades are weighted in the college admissions process, but we can tell you that they aren’t completely overlooked.


Although admissions committees are overall more interested in your teen’s GPA during later grades, most will still review grades from freshman year, and none will tell you that the year is a total write-off. Consider this—if an admissions committee is choosing between two very similar candidates and one performed well throughout high school while the other stumbled freshman year, who is the more desirable candidate?


More importantly, your teen’s cumulative GPA will be a prominent piece of data on his or her college applications, and this number will include grades earned during freshman year. Plus, class rank is also impacted by freshman year grades. Even if a college doesn’t explicitly review grades earned during freshman year, there are other data points on the application affected by these grades that will be weighted by most admissions committees.


To learn more about how much grades matter throughout high school, see these CollegeVine posts:


How Important Is Freshman Year of High School?


Do Grades From Freshman Year Matter in Other Ways?

The grades your teen earns during freshman year aren’t just an indicator of how well he or she adjusts to high school, though this can certainly be reflected. Grades are indicative of a number of different factors, including academic aptitude, the ability to utilize support networks, time management skills, study skills, and perseverance. If your teen struggles during freshman year, it could be that he or she needs to strengthen some of these skills.


A 2017 study out of the University of Chicago focusing on the predictive power of ninth grade GPAs indicates that how well students perform in ninth grade is directly correlated with future success. Specifically, success during freshman year can predict graduation rates and grades during ninth grade mirror those achieved during 11th grade. In addition, academically strong ninth graders are more likely to attend college after high school. Clearly there is more to the ninth grade GPA than its value on your teen’s college applications.


What Is a Parent’s Role During Freshman Year?

While your teen might think of the start of high school as a milestone in his or her independence, many teens actually need more parental involvement and support during ninth grade than they did during eighth. As your teen starts high school, his or her academic load will increase at the same time that he or she is likely to be forging new friendships and pursuing new activities, clubs, and sports teams. These multiple commitments can add up quickly, and your teen might need your guidance to strike a healthy and productive balance.


Furthermore, your teen may need advice about utilizing the support network in place for him or her. Encourage your child to recognize when he or she feels stressed, confused, or overcommitted, and help him or her to identify the appropriate people to discuss these issues with. Make sure that your teen knows that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength.


Finally, make sure that your student has the time and space to work productively on his or her classwork. A dedicated homework spot at home is a great start. Also be sure that your student isn’t overcommitted between school, work, friends, and family. If it seems like he or she is struggling to find enough time to complete homework and study effectively, have a conversation about goal setting and priorities.


Many parents believe that their role in the high school years is to step back. If your teen is ready for increased responsibility, this is a great time for you to do so. But if your teen seems to struggle with the transition to high school and the increased responsibility, this might actually be the time for you to step in, not back.


For more about parenting a high school student, see these posts:


Parents: What to Do When Your Teenager Just Isn’t Living Up to Their Potential

Parent Perspective: What You Need to Know About Today’s College Applications

How Can I Help My Child Prepare for College Applications?

What Parents Need to Know About SAT and ACT Studying Prep


What If My Teen Doesn’t Do Well During Freshman Year?

Of course, if your teen does struggle during freshman year, it’s not the end of the world. An upward grade trend is also highly regarded by admissions committees, so continual improvement will be looked upon favorably, even if the starting point is low.


Further, your student will get the chance on his or her college applications to explain any anomalies. If your teen performs well throughout the rest of high school, he or she should be able to explain why freshman year was a stumbling point and indicate the skills that he or she developed to overcome these struggles.


To ensure that your teen gets back on his or her feet as quickly as possible, give him or her the tools for success. To learn more about class choices and extracurriculars during freshman year of high school, tell your teen to check out these posts:


For tips about organization and time management in high school, see these posts:


Time Management Tips To Make the Most of Your Test Prep Time

How Using a Planner or Calendar Can Make Your Life Easier

Eight Tips to Use Your Time Efficiently and Stay Organized in High School


For general study tips and advice, see these posts:


Handling Your Homework: Time Saving Tips

Successful High School Students Do These 10 Things

5 Ways to Actively Learn During Class

10 Real World Study Tips to Improve Processing and Retention

CollegeVine’s Top Six Study Tips for High School Students


For information about class choice and extracurriculars, see these posts:


A Guide to Extracurricular Activities for Grade 9

How to Pick Your High School Courses Freshman and Sophomore Years


Does your teen want access to expert college guidance — for free? When they create their free CollegeVine account, they will find out their real admissions chances, build a best-fit school list, learn how to improve their profile, and get their questions answered by experts and peers—all for free. Encourage them to sign up for their CollegeVine account today to get a boost on their college journey.

Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.