Do Colleges Look at Middle School Grades?

Do middle school grades matter when it comes to college admissions? Find out the answer and more about what colleges look at.

Do Colleges Look at Middle School Grades?
Pedro Gandra

A lot of factors go into college admissions decisions and which applicants are the best candidates for acceptance. Academic achievement — such as having a high grade point average (GPA), good scores on the SAT or ACT exams, and the rigor of the classes that you’ve taken — as well as extracurricular activities, leadership roles, college application essays, and much more all are factored in.

An interesting question that prospective college students have wondered about is how far back college admission boards look. For example, do colleges look at middle school grades? In this BrokeScholar article, we will address the very common question of whether or not colleges look at your middle school grades when they are considering your application.

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Do Colleges Look at Middle School Grades? 

The question of whether colleges look at middle school grades is a common concern among students and parents alike, given the increasing competitiveness of college admissions. In general, college admission officers typically do not look at middle school grades directly. Their main focus usually rests on high school performance, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities, personal essays, and letters of recommendation.

Primarily, colleges consider high school academic records because they tend to be more indicative of a student's intellectual maturity, focus, and potential for success in a rigorous academic environment. High school courses are generally more challenging and diverse, providing students with the opportunity to explore various disciplines and excel in specific areas of interest. The rigor of classes chosen, the grades received, and the consistency of academic achievement throughout high school play significant roles in the admissions decision-making process.

Do Middle School Grades Matter?

This doesn't mean, however, that middle school grades are entirely insignificant. For instance, the academic habits and skills that students develop in middle school often set the foundation for their high school performance. A student who thrives academically in middle school may be better prepared for the challenges of high school. Additionally, some high school programs may look at middle school grades for admissions into specific advanced placement or honors courses.

What’s more, middle school performance may indirectly impact college admissions through its influence on a student's self-perception, motivation, and educational trajectory. Excelling in middle school can inspire confidence and ambition, encouraging students to aim for higher-level courses in high school, participate in extracurricular activities, and pursue leadership roles — all elements that can strengthen a college application.

In the end, while colleges do not directly consider middle school grades in their admissions process, the experiences and habits formed during this period can significantly influence a student's high school performance and overall readiness for college. Therefore, it is essential for students to take their middle school years seriously, not necessarily for the sake of their middle school GPA, but for the long-term academic and personal growth they can achieve during this critical developmental period.

Situation Where a College Might Look at Your Middle School Grades

Though it's relatively rare for colleges to directly consider middle school grades during the admissions process, there are unique situations where they might become relevant.

Let's consider a hypothetical situation involving a highly specialized early college or dual-enrollment program. In this scenario, a student may apply to such a program during their middle school years, seeking to start taking college-level courses in high school. The program is highly competitive and seeks to admit only students who demonstrate strong academic potential, maturity, and readiness for advanced coursework.

In this case, the early college or dual-enrollment program might review middle school grades as a component of their admissions process, as these grades might be the most substantial academic record available for the student at the time of application. The program would likely evaluate the rigor of the courses taken in middle school, the student's performance in these courses, and their overall academic progression.

This information, along with standardized test scores (if available), letters of recommendation, and potentially an interview, could help the program gauge the student's readiness to handle college-level work at an earlier than typical age.

Still, it's critical to remember that such situations are the exception, not the norm. Most colleges and universities primarily consider a student's high school record, standardized test scores, and other elements such as personal essays and extracurricular involvement. 

The Bottom Line on Do Colleges Look at Middle School Grades

Technically, colleges almost never consider your middle school grades when making a decision on admission. All the key factors that college admissions offices consider are primarily related to your high school career and activities you’ve performed during your high school years, for example, taking on a leadership role in an organization unrelated to your school. 

So, while colleges do not typically look at your middle school grades, your middle school academic career is very important for your own self-development. Middle school is the bridge between elementary school and high school, and therefore, is a critically formative time in the life of a prospective college student. If you do not maintain good academic standing in your middle school years, this could easily carry over into your high school career — and thus potentially hurt your chances of getting into the college you want to go to.

Andrew DePietro

Author: Andrew DePietro

Senior Researcher, and Content Strategist

Andrew DePietro is a finance writer covering topics such as entrepreneurship, investing, real estate and college for BrokeScholar, Forbes, CreditKarma, and more.