Final Grades in High School: What They Mean for University Admission Offers

Posted by Sam on June 30, 2016

Academic Success

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Man giving a speech in front of a brick wall.
Director of Student Recruitment & Admissions, Jock Phippen.

You are a Grade 12 high school student, have just gotten back the final grades from your treacherous high-school adventure — and much to your chagrin, they are not quite what you expected. The university program you applied for required an 80% Grade Point Average (GPA) to maintain your offer of admission, but instead you emerged with a 76% average.

What now?

I could puff up my chest and confidently tell you what to do, pretending I know what I’m talking about, but to be safe, I sat down with York University’s Director of Student Recruitment & Admissions, Jock Phippen, to discuss your options. Jock heads the team in charge of managing York’s admission process, so if there is anyone to listen to on the topic of applications and student entry, it’s him.

Enter Jock:

For context, can you describe what happens when York receives a high-school student’s final grades?

Once we get that grade data in early to mid-July, we go through a bit of a checklist. We place our applicants into categories to better respond to them: Who has met all the requirements and is good to go? Who didn’t graduate? Who graduated but dropped or failed a required prerequisite course? Who graduated, had all the required courses, but didn’t meet the required average? The first group is obviously easy to deal with: we congratulate them and look forward to meeting them in the fall. For the ones who didn’t graduate but met all the other conditions, we’ll reach out and say “What’s the story here?” It could be any number of things. Maybe a student is new to the country this year and they didn’t meet all the graduation requirements, for example. We’ll do an outreach to them and say, “There’s something on your file that doesn’t look right, let’s clean this up.”

If a student has applied to York for a specific program but their final grades do not meet the required conditions for admission, what happens?

The first thing that we do is connect with the Faculties and present them with the student’s final average. There may be a number of students who fall within a few per cent of the requirement, for example, so we discuss with the Faculties these cases and have them reviewed again to see which can maintain their offers. In some cases the Faculties will look specifically at how the average is calculated. So, for example, if a student is coming in to study Science, the Faculty is going to be a little more particular about the required math and science courses. If those grades are strong but the applicant has weaker grades in history or drama, they might say it’s OK. The same principle applies for when math is required, such as in certain programs in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. As long as you are strong in English and math, a weaker grade in chemistry might not concern them as much. It’s about context at this stage, and the question of whether we think a student will be successful in their program of choice, even if their GPA falls a bit short of the requirement. Of course, all these considerations only happen if the program is not already filled to capacity.

Student walking up stairs

The other group comprises students who have graduated, have the right average, but have dropped a course. If they haven’t already reached out to us, we reach out to them in the middle of July. One of two things generally happens: They acknowledge the issue, they provide us with their summer-school registration and we say, “Great, send us your grades at the end of July showing us your results and we will reassess with this new information.” Unfortunately, the other scenario also happens, which is an “Oh, I was hoping you didn’t notice” [laughs]. In those cases, we end up having to rescind the offers of admission because the students didn’t meet the required conditions for entry into their program of choice.

In some cases we can also provide alternative offers. If a student has graduated secondary school with a solid average, which may be below the required average for their preferred program but above the standard we’re demanding for certain other programs, we could potentially offer them another program option.

As a student, what steps can you take, whether it be before receiving back your grades or after, to ensure admission into your desired program?

One of the things we do in advance is to encourage applicants to check to make sure they’re tracking their own conditions. If they think that something is going off the rails a bit, we ask them to consider enrolling in summer school. We have lots of students who write to us early to say, “Hi, I have an offer, I’ve accepted the offer, I’ve failed calculus, I knew I was going to fail calculus, I’ve already applied to summer school, I begin in July and I’m doing a four-week course in calculus.” We then don’t immediately rescind their offer because they reached out and they were proactive; we wait to assess their summer-school results.

If someone failed a course or dropped a course but didn’t enrol in summer school on his or her own accord, we have fewer possibilities. If Winter entry is an option for their program, we might turn their attention to Independent Learning Centre (ILC) courses, which can help them either complete missing courses and/or raise their average while still keeping a slightly later start date open to them.

Everyone really does know how they’re doing. It’s very rare that a student says, “WHAT? I thought I had a 75!” No, you didn’t [laughs]; you knew you didn’t have a 75. Be honest with yourself, with your family, with your guidance counselor . . . . If you’re not, it’s tough. If students miss the mark for summer school, the Independent Learning Center, as mentioned before, is another option. They have start and end dates that are more or less within the control of the student, so that’s also a really good option.

There you have it. Falling short of your program’s requirements does not mean the end of your dream school or career. Enrolling in summer school, taking courses through the ILC, beginning in the Winter term . . . you have options, both before and after receiving your final grades. Take away these three main points to help yourself as much as possible: be proactive, be honest with yourself and, particularly if you’ve received an early offer because of good previous grades, maintain the momentum. It’s tempting to just coast after receiving that early acceptance offer, but for the sake of scholarships and ensured entry, it’s important to put in the effort right to the end.

Thank you to Jock for taking time out of his incredibly busy schedule to shine some light on the topic of final grades. Because of the sheer amount of useful information that resulted from our speaking with him, you can look forward to a “Things You’ve Always Wanted to Ask the Director of Student Recruitment & Admissions” post in the future.

To all you high-school students, we wish you the best of luck!


Sam recently graduated with an Honours BA in Communications.

See other posts by Sam

  • Avatar

    If I fail a course that’s not a pre-req, and I have 7 courses, will I still be able to go to my program in university?

    • Lauren Sutherland
      Lauren Sutherland

      Hi Tahah, thanks for reaching out! Your question would best be answered by York’s Admissions Experts. You can find contact information for York’s Admissions Experts here: You can reach York Admissions by phone or email, and you can schedule an in-person advising appointment regarding your application.

  • Avatar

    hi, first of all, I had a cut-off average of 81.5% with all my 6 required courses, later I got the conditional offer for mechanical engineering from york university. However, now I have received my final grades from my school now my cut-off average has dropped to a 78.5% but the good thing is that all my prerequisite course marks are all above 70% for engineering, so do I still have a chance of gaining admission into mechanical engineering.

    • Lauren Dick
      Lauren Dick

      Hi Naveen! Thanks for reaching out. We recommend you speak with an Admissions Expert who can advise you on your specific situation. There are lots of ways to contact our Admissions team. Please visit this website to learn more:

  • Lauren Sutherland
    Lauren Sutherland

    Hi Mang Li! You can find more information regarding admission requirements for York’s Computer Science programs on the following page: If you have further questions regarding admissions, you can find contact information for York’s Admissions Experts here:”