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College statements on the importance of grades and coursework

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This page provides supporting evidence for the assertions on the page: High school coursework

Here are some quotations that substantiate the claim that the most important factor for college admissions is the courses that you take in high school and the grades that you earn in them. Not all colleges say this, but the ones listed below do, and we don't know of any colleges that report that another factor is more important.

Emphasis ours in all cases.

Stanford University

The primary criterion for admission to Stanford is academic excellence. We look for your preparation and potential to succeed. We expect you to challenge yourself throughout high school and to do very well. The most important credential that enables us to evaluate your academic record is the high school transcript. — Stanford University admissions department
We expect freshman applicants have engaged in a rigorous curriculum and chosen from among the most demanding courses available in secondary school. It is not necessary to have loaded your schedule with every advanced course offered; but if such courses are available to you, we expect you have taken advantage of many of them. Our most competitive freshman applicants often have four years (grades 9-12) of English, four years of math (including calculus), four years of social studies, four years of science (including biology, chemistry and physics) and four years of a foreign language. —  Stanford University admissions department

Yale University

Yale is above all an academic institution. This means academic strength is our first consideration in evaluating any candidate. The single most important document in your application is your high school transcript, which tells us a great deal about your academic drive and performance over time. We look for students who have consistently taken a broad range of challenging courses in high school and done well. [...] While there is no hard and fast rule, it is safe to say that performance in school is more important than testing. A very strong performance in a demanding college preparatory program may compensate for modest standardized test scores, but it is unlikely that high standardized test scores will persuade the admissions committee to disregard an undistinguished secondary-school record.— Yale University admissions department

University of Pennsylvania

Secondary School Record and Transcript —  The most important factors in your application: how much you’ve challenged yourself, and how well you’ve done. — University of Pennsylvania admissions department

Northwestern University

Regardless of the college or university to which you apply, you want to do everything you can to prepare yourself for the rigors of a college curriculum. The best way to prepare is to take the most challenging schedule possible for your ability level while in high school. — Northwestern University admissions department

Williams College

Applicants to Williams should pursue the strongest program of study offered by their secondary schools. [...] Academic record is the most important factor in the admission process. Williams College admissions department

Amherst College

We give the greatest weight to your academic transcript. The rigor of the courses you've taken, the quality of your grades and the consistency with which you've worked over four years give us the clearest indiction of how well you will do at Amherst. While there is no specific set of secondary school classes required for admission, the most competitive applicants have pursued the strongest program of study available at the secondary level, typically including four years of study in English, math, science, social studies and foreign language, and have achieved the highest levels. Amherst College admissions department