How Long Ago Did You
Attend College?

We talk in other sections about a number of different variables that concern older applicants, including:

There's one more factor that affects returning students, especially those who completed college more than twenty years ago: grade inflation.

What is Grade Inflation?

Once upon a time, a long long time ago, colleges curved to about a C+. Then (as legend has it) one day Harvard said, "Why should our students suffer in a declining job market because they have C's? Surely a C at Harvard guarantees as good a candidate as a B at other schools." Harvard administrators told professors to curve to a B instead of a C. And Harvard students regained the top of the job-seeking heap.

Soon Columbia noticed it was losing market-share in the job market. Its administrators said, "Why should our students suffer whenever they compete with Harvard grads? Our school is much better than..." And thus with ever-expanding waves of reaction, schools raised their grading curve. Soon Harvard was no longer at the top, and so it escalated again. And thus was grade inflation born. (Ha! And I bet you thought The Wave was something that happened at a football game!)

This tale may be entirely apocryphal, but it serves to describe the phenomenon of grade inflation. Sometime between 1965 (baby boomers? Vietnam war draft resisters?) and today, grades took on a whole different meaning. Your 2.8, a respectable number 20 years ago, would place you in the bottom fifth of the class at most colleges today.

A Happy Ending

Fortunately for you, most admissions officers know that. They will compare your gpa to those of others in your graduating class, not with those of current students. How do they do that? Law Services does it for them. Archivist's of data that they are, they compare your gpa with that of other applicants in the data base from your college and graduating class. Your abilities will be measured in this context, to your great advantage.


  • Five years ago is NOT "a long time;" if you think it is, you're only proving your youth.  
  • If you have low grades from any time in the last decade, see our section on Split and Low Grades.


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