When it comes to college admissions, numbers aren’t everything—but how much do they count? In this post, we’ll discuss the holistic college admissions evaluation process and the relative weights of various parts of your application. We’ll also give you access to our latest publication, The Frontier 49, which features average GPAs and SAT/ACT scores, along with admission rates, for the 49 most popular colleges where Alaska students apply.
What Does It Take to Get In?
As you can see in the graph below, the top three factors colleges consider, on average, are your grades, the rigor of your coursework, and your SAT/ACT scores.
We’ll be the first to remind you that many colleges will evaluate your application holistically, meaning they consider you as an entire person, looking to your essays, letters of recommendation, and extracurriculars to get a sense of who you are. But your numbers do count, and comparing your GPA and SAT/ACT scores with the norms for the colleges you’re considering can give you a rough sense of where you stand versus the applicants you’re competing against.
Comparing Your Numbers: The Frontier 49
To see where you stand, download The Frontier 49, our annual factbook, which lists the average GPA and SAT/ACT scores of admitted applicants, along with admittance rates, for the 49 most popular colleges where Alaska students apply.
Where Do I Go from Here?
After flipping through The Frontier 49, you will have developed a sense of the admissions norms for a representative cross-section of colleges. What should you do next?
First Things First: Develop Your College List
If you don’t yet know where you want to go to college, now is the time to start. Your final list, which you ideally will have refined by the end of your junior year, should include 6-10 total colleges, with a balance of “reach,” “match,” and “likely” colleges—determined by comparing your GPA and SAT/ACT score against the norms for each school. The colleges on your list will determine the GPA and SAT/ACT scores you should aim for. In other words, all roads lead from your college list—check out our blog post, A Four-Fold Framework for Developing Your College List, for step-by-step guidance on developing your list.
Need to Improve Your GPA? Use Our GPA Scenario Calculator to See What It Will Take
Our GPA Scenario Calculator is GPS for your GPA. Use it to determine what grades you need to earn in order to meet your GPA goals. It's built specifically for Anchorage School District students and takes into account AP/IB weighting. Here’s how it works:
- First, enter your current unweighted GPA and weighted GPA (from Zangle or an unofficial transcript from your high school counselor).
- Next, enter the classes you’re currently taking, along with the classes you’ll take through the end of your junior year (for competitive college admissions purposes) or the end of your senior year (for scholarships such as the Alaska Performance Scholarship and WUE scholarships). For each class, enter the grade you expect or aim to earn.
- Test the impact of taking various classes/earning various grades on your GPA—and see what it will take to reach your desired GPA. For example, if you currently have a GPA of 3.5 and want to apply to colleges where 3.8 is the norm, in how many classes will you have to earn an A?
If you need an extra edge to help you achieve your target grades, consider our one-on-one academic tutoring programs, where you’ll work with one of our expert Tutoring Specialists to help you master the material and build effective study habits in your math, science, or English classes.
Remember, the more courses you complete, the harder it becomes to improve your cumulative GPA. So work on maintaining or improving your performance today and every day—don’t push it off until next semester.
Need to Improve—or Establish—Your SAT/ACT Score?
If you need to improve your SAT/ACT score, or establish your baseline score, follow our 3 Steps to SAT & ACT Success. You can get started on this process as early as spring semester of your sophomore year, and ideally sometime during your junior year.
Step 1: Determine whether to focus on the SAT or ACTAll four-year colleges accept either the SAT or ACT for admissions purposes. That means you should determine which test better suits your strengths, then focus exclusively on preparing for that test. Take a free practice SAT/ACT to establish your baseline and learn which test better suits your strengths.
Step 2: Set your target score
Determine the score you would like to reach based on your college admissions and scholarship goals. View required scores for popular merit-based scholarships by downloading our infographic, SAT/ACT Scores: A Big Deal.
Step 3: Select your study strategy
Evaluate your baseline score and target score in the context of your strengths and learning style preferences. Determine whether you should go pro, study on your own, or try both.
No matter what, your first move should be to take a free practice SAT/ACT. It’s the fastest, easiest way to see where you stand. After testing, you’ll get a custom score report with a roadmap to score improvement and expert guidance on choosing the right test for you. We’ll then discuss your goals to help you determine your target SAT/ACT score and the best way to prepare.
And for a complete overview of SAT/ACT strategy, check out our flagship publication, the Ultimate Guide to Designing Your SAT/ACT Strategy.
Schedule a Custom Strategy Session to See How It All Fits Together for You
We’ve given you plenty to read. But when you’re ready to talk about how all the pieces fit together for you, the college admissions experts at Frontier Tutoring are here to help. Get expert guidance with North to My Future, your free, individualized college admissions strategy session for students in Anchorage. We’ll sit down with you and a parent for 45 minutes and discuss how your GPA, SAT/ACT scores, and entire profile compare relative to the norms for the colleges and scholarships you’re considering. We’ll also develop an action plan of specific priorities for you between now and when it’s time to apply. If our SAT/ACT prep, college admissions consulting, or academic tutoring programs are appropriate, we will also provide recommendations on how you can best use these professional resources.