Getting into high school can be stressful for many 8th grade students and their families. A big question on students’ minds is “What grades do high schools look at when making admission decisions?”. The answer is more nuanced than just looking at a student’s final 8th grade GPA.

In short, high schools will look at grades in core classes from 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. This includes math, English, science, history, and foreign language grades. Standardized test scores, teacher recommendations, interviews, and extracurriculars also factor in.

Middle School Academics Are a Top Factor

When it comes to assessing a student’s academic performance in high school, middle school academics play a crucial role. High schools typically consider a student’s grades and overall performance during their middle school years.

These grades provide insight into a student’s work ethic, ability to meet deadlines, and overall academic aptitude.

Math and English Grades

Math and English grades are often given significant weight when high schools evaluate a student’s academic performance. These core subjects are considered fundamental and essential for success in other areas of study.

Strong performance in math and English demonstrates a student’s ability to think critically, problem-solve, and communicate effectively, which are skills that are valued in all academic disciplines and future careers.

Science and History Not Far Behind

While math and English are typically given more weight, science and history grades are also important factors that high schools consider. These subjects provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the world around them and help develop critical thinking and analytical skills.

High performance in science and history indicates a student’s ability to grasp complex concepts, conduct research, and interpret data.

Foreign Language and Electives Matter Too

High schools also take into account a student’s performance in foreign language classes and electives. Foreign language proficiency is highly valued in today’s globalized world, and many colleges and universities require students to have completed a certain level of language study.

Additionally, performance in electives such as art, music, or physical education can showcase a student’s well-roundedness and ability to excel in various areas.

Standardized Tests: Quantitative Measures for Comparison

When it comes to evaluating academic performance, high schools often rely on standardized tests as a quantitative measure for comparison. These tests provide a standardized way to assess students’ knowledge and skills, allowing schools to gauge their academic abilities and make informed decisions about their education.

State Tests

One common type of standardized test that high schools consider is the state test. These tests, mandated by state education departments, are designed to measure students’ proficiency in key subjects such as math, English language arts, and science.

The results of state tests provide valuable information about students’ understanding of the curriculum and their readiness for higher-level courses.

For example, in California, high school students are required to take the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) tests. These tests assess students’ knowledge in various subjects and provide schools with a comprehensive overview of their academic performance.

SATs and ACTs

In addition to state tests, high schools also consider students’ performance on college entrance exams like the SAT and ACT. These tests are widely recognized and accepted by colleges and universities as a measure of students’ readiness for higher education.

The SAT and ACT assess students’ knowledge and skills in areas such as reading, writing, and math. High schools often encourage students to take these exams to showcase their academic abilities to colleges and increase their chances of admission.

Placement and Admissions Tests

Furthermore, high schools may also take into account students’ performance on placement and admissions tests specific to certain programs or institutions. These tests are designed to assess students’ readiness for advanced coursework or specialized programs.

For example, some high schools require students to take placement tests for advanced placement (AP) courses. These tests evaluate students’ knowledge and skills in specific subjects, helping schools determine if they are prepared for the rigor of AP coursework.

Similarly, some vocational programs or specialized schools may have their own admission tests to assess students’ aptitude and interest in specific fields. These tests help schools select students who are most likely to succeed in those programs.

The Application: Grades in Context

When it comes to applying to high schools, academic performance is a crucial factor that admissions officers consider. While grades play a significant role in the evaluation process, they are not the sole determining factor.

Admissions officers look at a variety of factors to gain a holistic understanding of each applicant’s abilities and potential. This section will explore three other important components of the application process: teacher recommendations, interviews, and extracurricular activities.

Teacher Recommendations

Teacher recommendations provide valuable insights into an applicant’s character, work ethic, and potential for growth. Admissions officers rely on the perspective of teachers who have interacted closely with the student to assess their academic abilities and personal qualities.

These recommendations often touch upon the student’s participation in class discussions, their ability to work collaboratively with peers, and their overall engagement and enthusiasm for learning. Strong teacher recommendations can provide a well-rounded perspective on an applicant’s academic performance and potential.


Many high schools also conduct interviews as part of their application process. These interviews allow admissions officers to get to know the applicant on a more personal level and assess their communication skills, confidence, and overall fit for the school.

Interviews provide an opportunity for students to showcase their interests, goals, and passions beyond what can be captured in grades or test scores. It is important for applicants to prepare for interviews by researching the school, reflecting on their own experiences, and articulating their aspirations.

Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular activities play a crucial role in the high school application process. Admissions officers look for well-rounded individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to activities outside of the classroom.

Participation in clubs, sports, community service, or leadership positions showcases an applicant’s ability to manage their time effectively, work collaboratively with others, and pursue their passions.

Admissions officers value the skills and qualities that students develop through extracurricular activities, as they contribute to a diverse and vibrant school community.

How Middle School Grades Impact High School Admissions

When it comes to high school admissions, middle school grades play a crucial role in determining a student’s academic eligibility. High schools often consider middle school performance as a key indicator of a student’s potential for success in their institution.

Here are a few ways in which middle school grades can impact high school admissions:

GPA Cutoffs at Selective Schools

Selective high schools, which have limited seats and high competition, often set GPA cutoffs for admission. These cutoffs are typically based on the cumulative GPA achieved by students in middle school.

Meeting or exceeding these cutoffs becomes a crucial factor in securing admission to these prestigious institutions. Students who consistently perform well in middle school have a higher chance of meeting these GPA requirements.

Meeting Course Prerequisites

High schools may have specific course prerequisites that students need to meet in order to be eligible for admission. These prerequisites are often based on the courses taken and grades earned in middle school.

For example, a high school may require students to have completed certain math or science courses with a minimum grade of B in order to be considered for admission to their STEM-focused programs. Therefore, middle school grades in relevant subjects become important in determining a student’s eligibility for such specialized programs.

Demonstrating Work Ethic

High schools often look for students who demonstrate a strong work ethic and a commitment to their studies. Middle school grades can serve as an indication of a student’s dedication and ability to consistently perform at a high level.

Students who consistently achieve good grades in middle school show that they are diligent, responsible, and motivated, which are qualities highly valued by high schools.

It is important for students to put in their best effort in middle school as it can significantly impact their chances of getting into their desired high school. By maintaining good grades, meeting course prerequisites, and demonstrating a strong work ethic, students can increase their chances of securing admission to the high school of their choice.


While grades alone do not determine high school admission decisions, they do play a significant role. Students’ performance across 6th-8th grade core classes gives high schools a quantitative measure to evaluate applicants.

Scoring well on standardized tests, excelling at interviews, and participating in meaningful extracurriculars will also bolster a student’s high school application.

The takeaway: work hard and demonstrate your academic abilities in middle school. This will set you up for admission success in high school.

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