Getting into private school: report cards and grades

Expert advice and insights into the role of report cards and grades in private school admission

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We provide all the information you need on the application and admissions process on Here we focus on report cards and grades. We asked school officials and education consultants to weigh in on their importance in applications. What follows are valuable insights.

For expert advice on a wide range of questions related to “getting in,” read our comprehensive guide. For valuable insights on the more general question of choosing the right school, read our in-depth education expert and parent interviews and our choosing guide.

On report cards and grades

“Report cards are very important, but to me, grades are less important than teacher comments and learning skills. Recent research that I conducted, supported by the Eureka! research grant provided to UTS by the Newton Foundation, and working with an OISE researcher, revealed some really interesting information that can be drawn from teacher report comments. Every school will have different criteria and things they look for. At UTS, students with good work habits, high resilience, and strong collaboration skills, tend to be very successful, so indicators in the report comments that point to those characteristics are important to us.”
—Garth Chalmers, Vice-principal, University of Toronto Schools, Toronto, Ontario

“We are more concerned about potential than test scores, transcripts, and past academic successes. We believe that if students have the ability, we have a great track record of getting them to fulfill it. There may be underlying reasons that students are getting low grades, and there may be emotional costs to students who are achieving As. Bottom line, don’t be too concerned about grades. If students have ability that has been unfulfilled, we are interested!”
Clayton Johnston, Director of Admissions, Brentwood College School, Mill Bay, British Columbia

“There is certainly a range of grades considered to make sure a student is able to handle the academic program, but if learning skills are weak, this will have just as much of an impact on the ability to manage pace and expectations of the program. Strong learning skills will positively impact grades, so this is something which parents should pay attention to. If a student’s marks are low across all areas, the concern is that there must be gaps in the foundation of skills and knowledge that will impact the student’s transition to the academic program. While families should not place all emphasis on grades, they should be aware of strengths and needs in the area of learning skills, as well as looking at potential learning gaps indicated in progress reports and report card comments.”
Kathy LaBranche, Director of Admissions, Trinity College School, Port Hope, Ontario

“As with standardized tests, grades are weighted differently by each private school. Our general advice, though, is that the more competitive the school, the more grades will matter. Especially at the more selective schools, that tend to be oversubscribed in the number of applicants, grades will be weighed more heavily, as these schools have their picks of top performing candidates.

That said, for applicants to pre-K through Grade 3, academics are not weighed as heavily. Rather, factors such as classroom readiness are important. However, as a student moves up through the grades, families can expect academics to increase in weight, especially for high school admissions.

Academic performance is an important factor, but it’s certainly not the only criterion, as students should have a balanced profile of academics and extracurriculars.”
Bryan Ide, Educational Director, KEY Education

“We are not looking to admit only those students who have straight As or whose grades are in the high 90s. There are many other factors we consider—such as why they want to join Appleby, their involvement in the community, are they interested in playing a sport that they’ve never played before, are they willing to get involved in student life, etc. Being a student at Appleby is about being a well-rounded individual.”
Luke Seamone, Executive Director of Admissions, Appleby College, Oakville, Ontario

“Reports cards give us a window into the applicant’s learning style and social and emotional development. We review marks, learning skills, teacher comments, days late, and days absent to get a broader profile of the applicant. At Branksome Hall, we require the two previous years’ June report cards and any interim reports from the current year, so that we can assess and understand a girl’s patterns and growth.”
Kimberly Carter, Director of Enrolment Management, Branksome Hall, Toronto, Ontario

“As a school known for its rigorous academic program and student achievement, it’s important to be mindful that strong grades are important to SMUS. However, we also take a long view, i.e.: are the applicant’s grades improving? In other words, we know that life and interruptions happen, and so we also consider the general trend.”
—Alexis Lang Lunn, Assistant Director of Admissions, St. Michaels University School, Victoria, British Columbia

“Our school is an IB school, therefore students are required to be in the top 20% of their respective class (i.e., they should be an “A” student.) Yes, parents wanting admissions at GNS are encouraged to seek additional support in areas of need (before applying). Again, the grades are one part of the application process; albeit an important one.”
—Kevin White, Director of Student Recruitment, Glenlyon Norfolk School, Victoria, British Columbia

“Academic readiness and accomplishment are very important, but the admissions committee also considers other criteria, such as social/emotional development and co-curricular engagement. Quantitative and qualitative data matter—we look at the whole boy.”
—Chantel Kenney, Executive Director of Admissions, Upper Canada College, Toronto, Ontario

“There is some emphasis placed on grades, but it is part of a larger process. Grades are very subjective and can vary greatly from school to school and even within a school based on the individual teacher, and we are aware of this.”
—Chris Strickey, Director of Admissions, King’s-Edgehill School, Windsor, Nova Scotia

“We are not looking for perfection, but rather progress. Is the student working hard? Are they responsible? Do they communicate well with others and work well in a group? Are they interested and engaged in the classroom? Those are the types of things we will look for in a report card.”
Maggie Houston-White, Executive Director of Enrolment Management, Havergal College, Toronto, Ontario

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