Colleges That Don’t Count Freshman Grades

The first year of college can be a scary time. You’re starting your academic career, meeting new people, and learning how to balance all the responsibilities that come with school and life. But what if you could take some of that pressure off? What if entering freshman year didn’t mean having to worry about grades as much? While it’s unlikely that every school in the country will soon adopt this practice, there are several institutions across the United States that don’t count your first semester high school GPA when calculating their admissions decisions.

Colleges That Don’t Count Freshman Grades

1 University of California System

  • University of California System

The UC system only counts your highest GPA. This means if you have a 4.0, but got an F in one class your freshman year, they won’t count it against you. They will only look at the highest GPA you’ve earned since enrolling in the UC system.

  • University of Chicago

The University of Chicago also doesn’t count freshman grades against applicants when calculating their admissions decisions. Instead, they look at the highest overall GPA for each applicant and how well that student performed in their most recent courses (even if those courses were taken before matriculation).

2 Yale University

Yale University does not count freshman grades. Instead, they focus on the student’s high school record, as well as their SAT/ACT scores. If a student has taken the SAT or ACT more than once, Yale will use their highest composite score from any given test date in their admissions process.

There is no portfolio or personal statement required for admission to the undergraduate program at Yale. In addition to this, there are no essay prompts for any of its application materials either; instead students are asked to share information about themselves through short answer questions throughout each section of their application (such as “What is your favorite place?”).

3 Cornell University

Cornell University is a private Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York. Cornell operates on a semester system and grants Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Engineering degrees to its more than 24,000 students at its main campus alone.

Cornell University is a large, comprehensive university with a strong focus on academic excellence. It provides an environment where faculty members are encouraged to develop research projects that challenge students to think critically about issues affecting humanity and cultivate their leadership skills through extracurricular activities such as internships or study abroad programs. The school’s location near the farmlands of upstate New York also allows it access to many research facilities including Cornell’s Agricultural Experiment Station.

4 Columbia University

Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university in New York City, located on the southern tip of Manhattan. It was established in 1754 as King’s College by royal charter of George II of Great Britain and renamed Columbia University in 1896.

Columbia’s main campus can be found at Morningside Heights in Upper Manhattan, beginning around 116th Street and stretching along Broadway to 125th Street; this section is sometimes referred to as “SoHo.” The university also has campuses elsewhere in New York City (including Lincoln Center), Westchester County outside the city, and locations abroad including Paris, Beijing and Tokyo. Columbia continues to be one of the most selective universities in the United States; for example it admitted only 6% of its applicants for Fall 2016 admission into its undergraduate program (compared with Harvard’s 5% admission rate).

5 Brown University

Brown University is a private Ivy League research university located in Providence, Rhode Island, United States. Brown is the third-oldest institution of higher education in New England, and one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution.

Brown University was organized on April 7th 1764 as a way to educate young men for the ministry and other professions. In the 19th century, Brown University became known for its commitment to open admission and diversity when it began admitting women in 1891 followed by African Americans in 1964. Since then it has remained committed to keeping its doors open to all students regardless of race or religion while also providing an excellent education through its well-respected faculty members who are known around campus as some of “the best minds” (that’s right).

6 Davidson College

Davidson College is a small liberal arts college in Davidson, North Carolina. It was founded in 1837 as the first coeducational Presbyterian college in the South and has been recognized as one of the best colleges in the country by U.S News & World Report for decades. In addition to having a high-quality academic program and affordable tuition rates, Davidson College is also known for its excellent athletics programs, particularly those of its men’s basketball team (which is currently ranked 15th).

The university’s liberal arts curriculum emphasizes writing and communication skills alongside subject matter expertise; students are required to complete an interdisciplinary capstone project before graduating from this school.

7 Case Western Reserve University

Case Western Reserve University is a private research university located in Cleveland, Ohio. The university was founded in 1826 and is the second oldest private university in Ohio. Case Western Reserve consists of nine schools and colleges with an enrollment of approximately 12,000 students (10,000 undergraduate).

The school’s distinctive name came from a combination of two names: “Case” for surgeon Dr. Leonard Case who donated his holdings to create an institution that would be affiliated with Western Reserve College (which itself came from a land grant given by Rutherford B. Hayes) when the two merged in 1967; and “Western Reserve” due to its location on land that once belonged to Connecticut settlers but became part of Ohio after statehood was achieved during Thomas Jefferson’s presidency.[1][2]

8 Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University is a private liberal arts college in Lexington, Virginia. It was founded in 1749 and has a total undergraduate enrollment of 2,020. Washington and Lee University is ranked #3 for its best undergraduate teaching quality by US News & World Report (2019).

The Annapolis Group is an association of 60 liberal arts colleges that share significant commitments to community service, interdisciplinary learning and student success through faculty-student mentoring relationships. Washington & Lee University was one of the original founding members when The Annapolis Group was formed in 1976.

9 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT does not count freshman grades and does not have a minimum GPA requirement or maximum GPA requirement. Similarly, they do not require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores, though they do highly encourage it.

10 Freshman year doesn’t have to be a scary time.

  • Don’t worry about freshman year grades.
  • Don’t worry about your GPA.
  • Don’t worry about getting into your dream school.
  • Don’t worry about your SAT scores.
  • Don’t worry about extracurricular activities, even if you love them and have been doing them since childhood, because it’s all going to be worth nothing in four years anyway (and no one will care).
  • And don’t stress about those college applications either—it’s not like the admissions officers are actually reading them or anything!


As you can see, there are many benefits to starting college right away. If you’re ready to get started on your college education, visit our directory of schools that don’t count freshman grades. We’ve compiled a list of the best universities and trade schools in the country so you can find one that fits your needs perfectly!

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