Do grade 12 marks matter past high school
Wondering how your school marks will influence your chances for success later in life? You might be surprised.
If you’ve been thinking about life after high school and whether your GPA (grade point average) will propel you to bigger and better things – or hold you back from pursing your dreams – this article will answer all your questions.
What universities look for in high school applicants
Admissions officers at universities will definitely look at your grades, along with the grades of hundreds or thousands of your peers. But they look for a lot more than just a good GPA. They want to see the full story of your true potential.
Among other things, they want to see:
- If you’ve challenged yourself with a course load that has gotten increasingly more difficult each year.
- Evidence of leadership and teamwork through extracurricular activities, along with any outstanding accomplishments or accolades.
- If you have been involved in any community organizations and any direct impacts you’ve had. It shows that you’re a well-rounded person with empathy for others.
- If you have any work or entrepreneurial experience – especially if you have your own business. Running a business takes maturity, creative thinking, work ethic, leadership, and persistence.
- Letters of recommendation from others (teachers, coaches, bosses) who can share insights on the type of person you are.
Some universities may also put a strong emphasis on:
- Strong scores on standardized tests
- Top percentage of class standing
- Attendance at a public or private high school
So don’t despair if you don’t get straight A’s in high school. Your GPA is just a part of what makes you a good candidate for university.
Did you know?
Studies show that high school marks do not predict how well you’ll do later in life. They don’t even predict how well you’ll do in your first year of university.
Plenty of successful Canadians struggled in high school:
- Angus Reid failed grade 12 English but went on to build a successful polling business. He even gave his Winnipeg high school money to build a wing named after him.
- Ron Joyce, the co-founder of Tim Hortons, dropped out of school after failing English in grade 9 (although he did score 100% in math).
- James Orbinski got straight C’s in high school and dropped out of university. He eventually returned and became a doctor. And not just that. In 1999, he won the Nobel Peace Prize for the international organization he led, Médecins sans frontières.
Junior vs senior high school grades
Do grade 11 marks matter, too? The simple answer is yes. In fact all years matter when it comes to getting admitted into a university. After all, your GPA is your grade point AVERAGE. This average reflects ALL of the marks you’ve received for ALL of the courses you’ve taken in high school up to now.
Dreaming of getting into a highly selective university?
Keep this in mind:
- Take your high school classes seriously early on. Your grade 9 and 10 classes are likely to be easier than your grade 11 and 12 classes, so you need to get high marks in these easier courses to show you’re capable of handling more challenging content.
- Some courses build on each other as they get more advanced. For example, you are more likely to do better in your grade 11 and 12 math classes if you understood your grade 9 and 10 math classes.
Did you know?
Grade 11 is particularly important because:
- This is the last full year of grades that university admissions officers see before making a decision.
- It’s when high school courses tend to be most advanced.
- It’s also when you’re likely to take on leadership positions in your extracurricular activities.
What if you mess up grade 11?
If it’s still early in the year, you might be able to get your grades back on track:
- Talk with your teachers about what you can do to improve your marks.
- Ask to do extra-credit work.
- Consider getting a tutor.
Even if it’s late in the year, poor performance in grade 11 doesn’t mean the end of your university dreams. There’s lots you can do improve your overall academic achievement.
Good grades aren’t everything when it comes to university admission, but they definitely help. After all, universities are institutions of higher learning, and your GPA is a good indicator of your ability to succeed in an academic environment.
Here’s how you can give your marks a boost this coming school year:
- Push yourself academically
If your school offers it, take a more advanced curriculum that includes AP (advanced placement) or college-level courses. Just be sure you’re ready to take on this extra challenge. Getting poor grades in advanced classes won’t do you much good.
- Make up for past mistakes
Admission officers care more about where your marks are going than where they’ve been. If you had a rocky start to high school, or a particularly bad year, do your best to improve your grades during your remaining high school years. Turning around poor performance shows maturity, determination and dedication.
Here’s how you can make a not-so-impressive GPA look more appealing to a university admissions officer:
- Ace other tests
Admissions officers will also look at SAT and AP exam scores. Taking these tests is another chance to show you are university material.
- Explain the situation
Universities include an essay portion on their application forms for a reason: they want to hear what you have to say about your accomplishments to date, as well as your future goals.
Use this essay to explain:
- The obstacles you’ve faced and the steps you’ve taken to overcome them.
- How you plan to correct course and get back on path.
A well-written essay won’t always guarantee admission, but it won’t hurt.
What if you try everything but still don’t get into the university you want?
You can always attend a less selective school at first and then try to transfer to your dream university after a year or two. Many students at top universities took this route.
Universities care about extracurricular activities – a lot. It lets them see how students rise to the occasion and become leaders who make a difference.
If you can, get more involved and take on more responsibility. Aim for leadership roles. It will boost your self-confidence and give you a real sense of accomplishment.
Keys to success for university
Doing well in university requires solid critical thinking skills and work habits. At the very least, you need to always attend class and take good notes!
Here are 7 tips for succeeding in university:
Set goals and stay focused
Everyone encounters some ups and downs during their university years. If things get rough in your personal life or schoolwork, stay focused on your academic goal – why you enrolled in the program in the first place.
- Set SMART goals that are: Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
Regardless of the results of your mid-term exams, keep working hard until the end of the semester. Also steer clear of anything that might prevent you from reaching your goal.
There are lots of people around you who can help you do well at university. However, you – and you alone – are responsible for your academic results.
It’s your job to:
- Attend classes and take notes.
- Make sure you understand the course material.
- Get help if there’s something you don’t understand.
- Complete and hand in assignments on time and as instructed.
- Prepare for exams.
- Make sure you’re taking the right courses and obtaining the necessary credits.
Attend classes, be on time and ready to learn
No one will make sure you’re attending your university classes. That’s your responsibility.
- Attend all classes and show up on time.
- Arrive ready, with your textbook, notebook, pens, paper, computer, etc.
- Do assigned readings before lectures.
- Ask questions if you don’t understand.
- Sit in the first few rows to make it easier to pay attention.
Be serious about studying
To pass university level courses, you need to really know and understand the material. This requires a fair amount of studying.
- Set a clear and realistic study schedule and stick to it.
- Know where your time goes (especially if you tend to procrastinate).
- Study for 2-3 hours for every hour of class time (e.g. if you have 6 hours of class per week, study at least 12-18 hours per week).
Communicate with your instructors
If you have to miss a class, let your instructor know. It’s also your responsibility to make up any missed assignments.
Fix problems early and don’t give up
If you start to struggle in a course, don’t wait until the exam to get help. Address the problem right away and don’t give up! Universities have student support services that can help you work things out.
- Get tutoring.
- Increase your study time.
- Form a study group.
- Make an appointment with your instructor to discuss your performance.
University is really about doing your very best. Aim as high as you can and diligently work toward that goal.
- Enter a program you are genuinely interested in.
- Look forward to what you will learn.
- Try to learn as much as you can.
Learn how to study and efficient study techniques
Being organized and prepared for tests can make all the difference between acing an exam and failing it.
Effective studying starts with the right attitude. If you view studying as a punishment instead of an opportunity to learn, then it’s time to change your mindset.
Did you know?
Having effective study habits actually makes it easier to learn and get better grades.
Everyone is different and there are many different ways to study effectively.
Here are 14 study tips that will help you make the most of your study time:
- Get organized
- Carry a homework planner at all times.
- Enter homework, projects, tests and assignments as soon as they are assigned so that you don’t forget.
- Pay attention in class
- Concentrate on what’s being said in class.
- Take notes in your own words to ensure you understand.
- Avoid distractions
- Remain attentive in class.
- Avoid sitting next to friends if they distract you.
- Turn off your cell phone.
- Take good notes
- Write clear and complete notes in class; they will also be your study notes for tests.
- If you miss a class, talk to classmates or your instructor to make sure your notes are complete.
- Make sure you understand
- Ask questions in class if you don’t understand something.
- If you don’t feel comfortable asking a question in class, talk to your instructor immediately afterward.
- Make a study schedule/plan
- Use your planner to figure out what you need to do and when.
- Think about the topics and types of questions that will be on the test so you know what to focus on.
- Set specific goals for each study session, such as how many topics you need to cover during that session.
Read textbooks and course readings
Scan through chapters before reading them; read the chapter summary and look for bold and italicized words to identify important concepts.
- Review chapters and readings before class and re-read them after class.
- Make study notes.
- Review your class notes daily
- Always review and edit your class notes within 24 hours, when the content is still fresh in your mind. This will move what you learned from your short-term memory to your long-term memory, which is what you need to get ready for a big test.
- Make sure your notes are complete and that you understand them.
- Follow up with a classmate or your instructors if your notes are incomplete or unclear.
- Simplify your study notes
- Condense the notes you take in class to make remembering information easier.
- Underline or highlight key words.
- Organize information by creating visual aids like charts, story webs, mind maps, or outlines.
- Create a study space
Everyone’s needs are different, so it’s important to find a spot that works for you. But as a general rule, a good study space should:
- Be well-lit and in a quiet, low-traffic area.
- Having enough room to study and write on.
- Study often and in short bursts
Your mind is able to retain more information when you study in several short sessions versus one long session.
- Aim for 3-4 major reviews of your notes before exams.
- Take a 10-15 minute break for every 30 minutes you study.
- Study when you are refreshed.
- Study with a group
Studying with classmates can help you stay motivated. It also lets you quiz each other to test your knowledge and boost each other’s confidence.
- Choose partners who are interested in studying, not just chatting!
- Find a suitable spot that’s quiet and free of distractions.
- Choose the right time to study – when you are refreshed and able to learn.
- Prepare for exams
Leading up to exams:
- Know the type of exam to expect.
- Review past exams.
- Make practice study questions.
- Memorize definitions and formulas.
- Make cue cards.
- Get a good night’s sleep and eat a good meal before exams.
- Arrive early with an extra pen and any necessary supplies, such as a calculator if permitted.
- Read the test questions and instructions very carefully before beginning the test.
- Budget your time and leave time to review your answers.
- Do you best and don’t forget to breathe!
Take extra courses on topics related to your university program of choice
You don’t have to wait to be in university to take courses related to your program of interest.
Talk to your guidance counsellor to explore what courses are offered at:
- Your own high school
- Local colleges
- Local summer school courses
- Online courses
- MOOC (massive open online courses)
Not all high school students manage to get great grades or awesome part-time jobs to make their admission application stand out from the pack.
Volunteering can give you the edge you need to get admitted by allowing you to:
- Gain valuable experiences outside the classroom.
- Showcase another side of yourself – such as speaking passionately about a cause you believe in.
- Develop leadership skills and demonstrate generosity.
- Win scholarships through various organizations.
One final piece of advice
High school is an important time in your life. The stakes might feel high, but it’s an opportunity to figure out who you are. It’s a time to explore new things, discover new strengths and passions and become the person you want to be.
Universities are looking for creative, hardworking people who want to make the world a better place. So challenge yourself and dream big. You can go far!