Stanford, MIT, etc. for International Student With Strong Tests but So-So Grades?

Question: First of all, thank you for taking the time to answer my question.  I’m an international student currently taking the IB diploma and I am about to apply to college but I have a very bad academic history. My predicted IB grades are all 6 and 7s, but my grade 9 to 11 grades have been  mostlyBs and some Cs with occasional As, although through the 3 years there has been an increasing trend in my overall grade. I’m thinking about engineering and my SAT subject test scores for Math 2 and Physics are 800.

How much will my grade 9 to 11 grades hinder my chances of getting into top schools like Stanford, MIT, UCB etc? Thank you very much and best regards from the other side of the world 🙂

Why would Stanford, MIT, Cal Berkeley, or any of the other pickiest places on the planet choose a student with a “bad academic history” when they are besieged by the top candidates from around the world? If you think there’s a reason that these venerable and hyper-selective institutions should want YOU, then you must make it crystal clear in your applications. You will need to provide a compelling reason for your so-so grades (life-threatening illness? homelessness? the death of a parent or sibling?) as well as evidence that you have the potential to become an academic and/or professional superstar.

Strong senior grades, SAT’s, and IB exam results alone won’t do the trick. Most of of your “competitor applicants” will have these as well. You will need to present proof of uncommon independent research, an invention awaiting a patent, or other atypical achievements. (And at these big-name schools, it can be tough to be “atypical” because so many outstanding accomplishments turn up on applications and résumés.)

However, with excellent test scores and senior grades, you will find that other fine US colleges will welcome you if you are not applying for financial aid, and some may take a risk on you, even if you are. (If you come from a country that is not already well represented in US applicant pools, so much the better.) But if you have your sights set on Stanford, MIT, Berkeley, et al, then you better get cancer cured by December!

(posted 10/9/2016)

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