The average high schools in the English speaking Caribbean do not follow the American school system. That means that whereas US college applicants will be applying with transcripts spanning from Grade 9 - 12, the typical Caribbean applicant's transcript will show Grade 7 - Grade 13 (upper 6).
It opens the space for one of the most common questions we get here at AIM: do my grades before fifth form matter?
First and foremost, remember that when you are applying to schools in another country, the majority of applications they receive will be from students in that country. That is, if you are applying to US colleges, the majority of applicants will be US high school students.
This means that the measuring stick for the transcript component of the college application in the US high school system, which spans 4 years from Grade 9 - 12.
What does this mean for Caribbean applicants who start high school in Grade 7?
The transcript of a typical Caribbean student will include academic performance from Grade 7 to Grade 13. US and Canadian universities are aware of this difference, and typically recalculate GPAs and only take consideration of the final four years of high school.
If you complete both years of 6th form, this will encompass Grade 10 to Grade 13 (fourth form to upper 6).
If you only complete one year of 6th form, this will encompass Grade 9 to Grade 12 (third form to lower 6).
If you don't attend 6th form at all, this may encompass Grade 8 to Grade 11 (second form to fifth form), OR may actually be deemed to be an incomplete high school education, since US high school ends at Grade 12 (not 11).
Click HERE to read more about why we recommend all Caribbean students to attend both years of 6th form.
SO WHAT ABOUT MY FIRST FORM GRADES?
Despite only taking into consideration your previous four years of high school, colleges will still have access to your first, second and third form grades given that they are present on your transcript. Though they rework your GPAs to provide a fair comparison with US applicants, your previous grades are not totally out of sight to a college admissions officer.
In short, will these grades affect college acceptances? No. But the longer, more complex answer is that these grades may affect your approach to the rest of your high school career.
First to third form are an incredibly transformative period that can be beneficial to overall academic development. It is in these years that students develop good or bad study habits, communication skills, and time management practices. So despite not playing a DIRECT role in your college admissions decision, they still should not be neglected during your Caribbean high school experience!
... AND MY FOURTH FORM GRADES?
This is where a lot of students become disappointed. Yes, your fourth form grades MATTER.
US colleges and universities don't operate on the Caribbean / British education system, and though they do take your CSEC / CAPE / GCSE / IGCSE / A Levels into consideration when assessing your application, they are not ONLY interested in how you performed on an exam.
When it comes onto college applications in the US, colleges care a lot about your GPA (among other things like standardized test scores, writing, extracurriculars, etc). Your GPA is calculated throughout your high school career - from classwork, to homework, to exams.
So the lesson here? If you have big dreams of going to school in the US, Canada or the UK, you can't slack off during the school year and then ace exams. It's just not an option!
In general, we do not recommend that students take any time to "slack off" in school. Every single year of your academic journey is leading to something greater - whether it be lessons in coursework or lessons in social & productivity skills, critical thinking, problem solving and communicating.
Are you thinking about applying to college within the next 1 - 5 years? Your college prep journey can begin right now! Our team of incredibly dedicated college counselors are ready to help you toward the college of your dreams.