Harvard Students Told College Applicants Not To Go To Princeton Because They Wouldn't Get As Many 'A's'

Students at top colleges across the country — including Harvard, Yale, and Stanford — used Princeton University’s limit on A range grades to dissuade potential applicants from attending the New Jersey Ivy, according to a new report from Princeton.

A 2004 policy adopted by Princeton sought to end grade inflation at the university by recommending that departments place a 35% cap on A-range grades for each academic course. However, The New York Times reports, students have resisted the policy since it was implemented a decade ago, saying that it devalued their work and potentially gave their peers at rival schools a competitive edge with post-graduate opportunities.

Now, Princeton may change its grading policy following the release this week of a report commissioned by Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber. The report recommends that Princeton remove the “numerical targets” from their grading policy, as they are often misunderstood as quotas or inflexible caps.

The report also found that this policy inadvertently led potential applicants and their families to question whether they should apply to Princeton, with students at other highly ranked schools citing the policy to recruit applicants elsewhere:

The perception that the number of A-range grades is limited sends the message that students will not be properly rewarded for their work. During the application process, students and parents consider the possible ramifications in terms of reduced future placement and employment potential … Janet Rapelye, Dean of Admission, reports that the grading policy is the most discussed topic at Princeton Preview and explains that prospective students and their parents see the numerical targets as inflexible. The committee was surprised to learn that students at other schools (e.g., Harvard, Stanford, and Yale) use our grading policy to recruit against us.

Harvard made news last December when it confirmed that the most common grade given to undergraduates is an “A” and the median grade is an “A-.” The Yale Daily News has also reported that 62% of students’ grades were in the A-range.

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