The University is enrolling more students with top high school academic records than they have in recent years.
The number of incoming students with an unweighted GPA of 3.9 and above has increased every year for the last five years, rising from 14 percent in 2013 to 25 percent last year, according to a report by Provost Forrest Maltzman released last month. Experts in higher education said high school students across the nation have more access to challenging courses, which creates a stronger applicant pool when they apply to GW or any other university.
The report showed a gradual increase in students’ high school GPAs over the past five years, with nearly half of students entering GW with a high school GPA higher than 3.75 last year. The number of incoming students with a GPA below 3.2 has plunged over that span from 22 percent in 2013 to 8 percent last year.
Costas Solomou, the dean of undergraduate admissions, attributed the increase to GW’s continued effort “to broaden its reach and expand its programming.” He said improvements to academic facilities like the Science and Engineering Hall, which opened in 2015, have helped make GW more attractive to top students.
“More and more academically gifted students are recognizing the strength of GW’s academic programs, its faculty, resources and research,” he said in an email.
Solomou said GW’s applicant pool “continues to consist of” students who have taken difficult coursework and succeeded in high school.
“Attracting diverse and highly qualified students demonstrates our genuine commitment to enrolling a dynamic and interesting class comprised of students who recognize our value and academic strength,” he said.
Solomou declined to say if more students with high GPAs have applied to GW between 2016 and 2017.
Admissions experts said students with high secondary school GPAs are more likely to have academic success in college because they have enrolled in higher-level courses throughout high school, which could better prepare them to take on more rigorous work.
Andrea Felder, the assistant vice provost for undergraduate admissions at American University, said higher GPAs in high school could be attributed to grade inflation – where high school administrators push many of their students through school with As or Bs to advertise positive outcomes from their students.
Some institutions may have also increased their reputation with prospective college students, she said.
“We’re seeing a wave of students who have done well throughout high school, who are applying to institutions that may not necessarily have several years ago been among the top tier,” Felder said.
She added that because highly selective schools are increasingly difficult to get into, high-achieving students are also applying to more schools, which could boost GPAs for enrolled students at GW because they’re declined from top-tier institutions.
The University admitted a record number of students last year, predicting fewer would enroll. But typically the number of accepted students declines when a university’s applicant pool strengthens, Felder said.
Jeff Schiffman, the director of admission at Tulane University, said enrolling students with a strong high school record often leads to strong academic performance in college because high school GPAs are the best predictor of college success.
“It’s important to look at their academic credentials in their high school career first and foremost,” he said. “I think that should be the most important part of the application.”