freshman year of high school

by Kyra Tyler, former admissions officer at Brandeis University

Do Freshman Grades Matter for College?

We get this question all the time, whether from a student who is excited about a top-notch start to his high school career, or a parent who is concerned about a rocky adjustment to a more rigorous curriculum. To put it bluntly, yes, colleges do look at freshman year grades on your college application. However, if a student doesn’t receive her best grades during her first year of high school, all is not lost. Admission officers recognize that some students need time to adjust to the rigor of high school work, and can forgive a rocky start if things eventually improve and even out. So if a student starts off with a less-than-stellar academic performance, an upward trend will be noted and appreciated.

If, on the other hand, a student gets terrific grades in his first year, it’s important that he not rest on his laurels. Colleges will be looking for consistency from its students, and will care much more about Cs in eleventh grade than about As in ninth. A student’s transcript tells the story of her academic readiness for college, and freshman year is only part of the story. Check out our college preparation timetable for students to gain college preparation advice and view important application dates. 

There is one large caveat to all of this which applies to the California public system, i.e. the University of California and California State University institutions. Both school systems only request marks received after the conclusion of ninth grade. In the application review process, they will take freshman (and senior) year course choices into account, but will use only grades received in sophomore and junior year when calculating students’ GPAs. If a student is accepted and chooses to attend, he will then be responsible for forwarding a final transcript which includes all high school grades. But even at that point, a sub-par ninth grade performance would not affect a student’s enrollment.

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Written by Kyra Tyler
Kyra Tyler is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions consultants. Kyra is a graduate of Harvard University and Northwestern University. Prior to joining College Coach, Kyra worked as a senior admissions officer at Brandeis University. Visit our website to learn more about Kyra Tyler.