Study: High School Grades Best Predictors of College Completion


What is the best predictor of student success? According to a new study, it’s high school grade point averages.

The study, published recently in Educational Researcher, found that a student’s high school grade point average is five times stronger than their ACT scores at predicting college graduation.

According to its findings, every incremental increase in GPA was associated with an increase in the odds of graduating college. This held constant for all high schools in the study.

“While people often think the value of GPAs is inconsistent across high schools, and that standardized test scores, like the ACT, are neutral indicators of college readiness because they are taken by everyone under the same conditions, our findings indicate otherwise,” said Elaine Allensworth, one of the study’s authors.

“The bottom line is that high school grades are powerful tools for gauging students’ readiness for college, regardless of which high school a student attends.”

It seems that admission officers likely agree with these findings.

According to NACAC’s 2019 State of College Admission report, a student’s high school record remains the primary consideration of colleges when reviewing applications, a finding that has been consistent over the past three decades.

Grades in high school courses and grades in college prep courses are the top two factors in admission decisions, followed by the strength of a student’s high school curriculum and admission test scores.

Ashley Dobson is NACAC’s senior communications manager for content and social media. You can reach her at

One thought on “Study: High School Grades Best Predictors of College Completion”

  1. This study fails to account for which college a student attends. This means the lower ACT score students are attending easier colleges. It also makes very few distinctions at the high end of the grading scale, so most of the statistical power comes from including GPAs well below 3.

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