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In this article, admissions expert Caroline shares tips for B students applying to college. For more guidance on the college application process in general, sign up for a monthly plan to work with an admissions coach 1-on-1.

Though high grades provide an advantage in the college admissions process, earning Bs will not prevent you from getting into a top college. Just as you are more than your academics, your application is more than your GPA. Letters of recommendation, essays, standardized test scores, and extracurricular involvement all impact the outcome of your application.

The Importance of Academics

Your high school grades are incredibly important. Junior year grades matter in particular, especially if you apply EA/ED since colleges will make their decisions before the end of your senior fall.

How do colleges evaluate your transcript?

When evaluating your transcript, college admissions officers will look at the overall trend of your grades. Most importantly, colleges look for consistency and growth. They may see cause for concern if you earned strong grades throughout your freshman and sophomore years but your grades dropped significantly during your junior year. An ideal transcript will show improvement over the years.

Note that your grades aren’t the only things on your transcript that matter – the courses that you have selected are just as important. Admissions officers will attempt to discern whether you are challenging yourself through tougher Honors and AP/IB classes or if you are trying to coast through the second half of high school.

Schools like to see that students are challenging themselves where it’s appropriate to do so. They generally want to see that students are willing to engage in a challenging curriculum, even at the risk of a slightly reduced grade, rather than taking easy courses just to do well. For each student this balance is different, but challenging yourself to excel in a rigorous curriculum is generally a good idea.

Building a Reasonable College List for B Students

Consider checking out US News’s list of schools for B Students.

It is important to create a college list full of schools that you would be excited to attend.

Your finalized list should only contain schools that you would actually like to attend — Don’t put a school on your list just because you need more safety or target schools.

Additionally, while you can still apply to reach schools, focus on expanding your list of target schools. Grades factor more heavily into your admissions decision than any other part of your application, so it may not be wise to apply only to the top 50 schools as a B student. However, many of the top 100 schools may still be reasonably in reach depending on the other aspects of your applicant profile.

Consider applying Early Decision

Building your college list also comes with an element of strategy. If you have a number one school in mind, consider applying in the Early Decision round. Early Action may offer a small boost in admissions chances, but Early Decision can considerably impact your odds.

At some universities, upwards of 50% of the incoming class is composed of students who applied during the Early Decision round. However, only apply Early Decision if you are willing to commit to attending, as it is binding.

Additionally, if financial aid is a consideration for you, applying to a lower-ranked school can result in a greater chance of earning merit scholarship awards.

Demonstrated Interest

Demonstrated interest can also help you stand out if your grades are in the B range. By selecting colleges that track your interactions, you open the door to another category in which you can excel.

Extracurriculars, Recommendations, and other opportunities

Though grades may be important, they are not the only part of your application. B students can supplement their applications with a great set of extracurriculars, teacher recommendations, and more.

Take on leadership positions and be a self-starter

Hone in on leadership opportunities, either formal positions or informal roles, within your extracurricular activities. Especially at competitive or larger high schools, self-started opportunities offer an effective way to show impact. Colleges will review your application holistically, so extracurriculars that align with your intended major or career path help complete the narrative and paint a full picture of your future.

Secure solid recommendation letters

Strong recommendation letters, both from your guidance counselor and two core class teachers, can boost your application. Aim to request recommendations from teachers who know you qualitatively rather than quantitatively. Teachers who know your work ethic, character, and personality can best discuss the impact you will have on your college community.

Stand out with interviews and optional application tasks

Take advantage of other opportunities to supplement your application — ones that could be portrayed as optional. For example, many smaller colleges offer on-campus interviews or alumni interviews. Though these may not be required, you should view them as such if you are serious about getting into the school.

Additionally, some schools will allow you to submit a resume. For students whose achievements cannot be adequately explained in the limited character count of the activities and honors sections, this can be incredibly valuable.

Additional Options for B Students Applying to College

You may be deferred if you apply in the Early Action or Early Decision rounds, and there is a chance that you will be waitlisted regardless of the round in which you apply. Don’t give up. Write a letter of continued interest and show the college or university that you remain interested in pursuing higher education at their institution.

Transferring is also an option. If you do not gain admission to a school that you want to attend, you could transfer to another school following your freshman year. Students who transfer strive to demonstrate strong grades, involvement, and achievement during their first year of college.

Your worth is not determined by your grades, and colleges understand that you are much more than a number on a transcript. If there was something in your life that impacted your grades, integrate it into an essay or utilize the additional information section of applications to discuss its impact. Keep in mind that your application is reviewed holistically and that Admissions Officers use many factors to make their decisions.

This informational essay was written by Caroline Marapese, Notre Dame ‘20. If you want to get help writing your Notre Dame application essays from Caroline or other Bullseye Admissions advisors, register with Bullseye today.