'U' to no longer recalculate GPA in admissions process

BY ANNIE THOMAS
Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 28, 2009

In a reversal from current practices, University officials have announced that when students apply to the University, they will no longer have their grade point average recalculated.

University officials say this new approach will provide for a more holistic review of applications.

In an interview yesterday, Provost Teresa Sullivan laughed and admitted that she didn't really even know why GPAs were being recalculated in the first place.

Sullivan said she thought GPAs were previously recalculated to put students on a “more parallel standing” since some schools don’t calculate GPA in the same way, but admissions officers already look at individual grades instead of just the cumulative GPA.

"The recalculated GPA was really something that was used in the early admissions system and it doesn’t seem to make as much sense now,” Sullivan said.

Ted Spencer, associate vice provost and executive director of undergraduate admissions, said in an interview yesterday that the old method involved admissions officers reviewing transcripts, noting trends in student progress and the grades earned in their courses — something that remains unchanged under the new plan.

However, the process also included a GPA recalculation that removed certain classes — including most fine arts courses — altogether from an applicant’s GPA in order to review applications on a more even playing field.

Spencer said that by taking out GPA recalculation, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions will be able to focus on other admissions processes.

“We wanted to spend more time actually reviewing the files and recruiting,” Spencer said. “We thought this was a method to both allow us to put most of our efforts in the places where we could do the best, because we are already in our present review looking for those very same things that the recalculation was looking for as well.”

Admissions officers already note certain courses for applicants who may have taken a more challenging curriculum, Sullivan said. She added that since applicants are never compared to one another, it doesn’t matter how much one school weighs an Advanced Placement course, or an equivalent, in the GPA.

With this new process, students who apply to the University with a GPA over a 4.0 will not have an advantage since admissions officers will continue to review the entire transcript, looking at how the student responded to the courses available at their high school.

“What we’re going to still do is that we’re going to look at the courses that were available in the school and we’re going to look at how many of those courses the student took and we’re going to look at it in the context of other students from the high school and we’re going to look at the grades they made in those courses,” Spencer said.

“Just because you have a GPA of 4.3, if you didn’t challenge the curriculum, if you didn’t take the right kind of courses and you didn’t do well in those you won’t be advantaged in our system,” Spencer continued. “It will remain the same, virtually.”

Spencer said that after researching the issue, the difference in recalculated GPAs did not significantly change students' GPAs. Sullivan said the average change was as little as 0.08 points on a four-point scale.

Dick Tobin, director of college counseling at Greenhills School in Ann Arbor, said admissions offices at many colleges and universities around the country do not recalculate GPAs.

He said he believes this change is understandable, given the amount of time it took to recalculate GPA.

“I think that the GPAs that Michigan will work with, the ones that we submit, and this is what they’ve found, will be almost identical to what they were finding when they recalculated," Tobin said. "So in that way I don’t think there will be a difference."