Top 9 Colleges That Don’t Look at Freshman Year Grades

According to a report that appeared in the Education Digest, freshman high schoolers are at higher risk than other students because of the transition from middle school to high school, which is frequently marked by poor academic performance, increased absences and heightened behavioral problems.

While the 9th grade is several years away from the senior year of high school, what students do during this part of their high school career can impact their admissions chances when it’s time to go to college.

It’s a good thing that some institutions of higher education do not look at freshman high school grades — they usually take into account grades obtained during the sophomore and junior years, with some considering senior grades, too.

Many of these schools, surprisingly, are some of the most prestigious around.

Visiting a school’s website, in some instances, is enough for you to learn whether or not it checks out freshman-year grades.

Emailing the admissions office, of course, is always an option. Or you may also pay your high school counselor a visit because no one else on your high school campus knows college admissions better than him or her.

There is never a shortage of helpful information on forum sites — some of them are the result of research, while others are obtained from the personal experiences of participants while applying to colleges.

It doesn’t mean, however, that it’s fine to get terrible grades during your first year of high school since you are planning on going to a college that does not consider them.

Always keep in mind that your high school GPA and class rank, both of which are academic admissions factors, can be affected by the numbers you get during the 9th grade.

While college admissions officers are happy to see students who exhibit an upward trend in academic performance, they are more inclined to admit those who demonstrate consistency throughout their high school careers.

The following are some colleges and universities that don’t look at freshman-year grades:

Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University

When reviewing applications, admissions officers at Carnegie Mellon University check out grades obtained by applicants throughout their high school career.

However, when it’s time to compute their GPAs, the only ones taken into account are grades obtained during the sophomore and junior years of high school.

Carnegie Mellon University is one of the most highly-ranked and selective institutions out there. Among admits, 45% have high school GPAs of 4.0 and 89% graduated in the top tenth of their high school class.

Read our review of CMU here.

CSU System

For as long as you are applying to any of the 23 campuses of the California State University (CSU) system, there is no need to worry that your bad performance in the 9th grade will keep you from getting in.

Acceptance rates at the different schools of the CSU system can range anywhere from 38% to 90%.

Due to the fact that the different campuses compute an applicant’s GPA using only the sophomore and senior grades, having a nightmarish freshman year at your high school is unlikely to disadvantage you in the admissions process.

Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University

Ranked #7 in National Universities 2022 to 2023 by US News, Johns Hopkins University is one of the most prestigious and selective institutions of higher education in the land — it has a single-digit acceptance rate of only 8%. Up to 70% of all students accepted to it have a high school GPA of 4.0.

It’s true that Johns Hopkins University takes a look at the grades of applicants throughout their high school career, including their grades in the 9th grade. However, they’re the least important grades that its admissions officers check out.

McGill University

McGil University
McGil University

Thinking about being an international student but fearing that your academic performance in your freshman year of high school might keep you from being one? Then consider sending your application to McGill University — it requires applicants to have a minimum GPA of 4.0 or an equivalent unweighted average during the last 2 years of high school.

A public institution located in Quebec, Canada, McGill University has an acceptance rate of 46% for international students. Over 12,000 students attending it are from abroad, comprising around 30% of its population.

Read Also: How to Get Into McGill as an American

Michigan State University

Michigan state university

According to Michigan State University, which is ranked #77 in National Universities 2022 to 2023 by US News, high school GPA is an important admissions factor. However, it adds that it pays special attention to recent trends in one’s academic performance. So, in other words, it focuses more on an upward grade trend.

Some other factors taken into account by admissions officers at Michigan State University include the strength of the high school curriculum and extracurriculars. As of this writing, the public institution is test-optional.

Princeton University

Princeton university

It’s true that Princeton University has a very low acceptance rate of 4% and the majority of admits have high school GPAs of 4.0.

However, the Ivy League is known to conduct an arduous process of getting to know the story behind the grades obtained by applicants, including the ones earned during the freshman year of high school.

Needless to say, there’s no need to fear that your phenomenal academic performance during your sophomore, junior and senior years of high school is going to be eclipsed by some bad grades in the 9th grade.

Read Also: How to Get Into Princeton University: Complete Guide

Stanford University

Stanford website

Because of its prestige and competitiveness (it’s ranked by US News #3 in National Universities 2022 to 2023 and has a low acceptance rate of 4%), Stanford University is often mistaken by many as an Ivy League. It’s not!

Still, it’s just like Princeton University (an actual Ivy League) when it comes to getting to know applicants — the private institution, which is located in Stanford, California, devotes time to knowing the reason behind the less-than-impressive first-year high school grades of some of its most desirable applicants.

Read our review of Stanford University here.

UC System


The University of California (UC) system is made up of 9 campuses.

No matter where you apply in the system, you can rest assured that your grades during your freshman and senior year of high school will not be factored in the computation of your high school GPA — only your sophomore and junior grades will count.

But since some of the campuses in the UC system are quite selective, including UCLA and UC Berkeley, having high grades throughout your high school career can give you an edge in the admissions process.

University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

University of Michigan

Around 56% of applicants admitted to the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor have high school GPAs ranging from 3.75 to 3.99. On the other hand, about 31% of them have GPAs of 4.0.

With only a fifth of all applicants receiving an acceptance letter per admissions cycle, there is no denying that UMich is a selective institution of higher education.

But, for a long time now, it’s one of the few schools known to not consider freshmen high school grades when computing the GPAs of applicants.

Read our review of UM here.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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