Back to Summer School

A previous post some time ago “Boosting Grades at Summer School” looked at the implications of doing summer school, and found that there was a small difference in the average grade of those who did summer school versus those who didn’t.  While this is one way of looking at it, there is another way which is possibly better for admission purposes, so that’s what we will do here, with some interesting results.

A significant minority of our Ontario applicants do at least one course in summer school (about 20 to 25%), and it seems to be more common with British Columbian applicants too, but relatively rare with applicants from other provinces and countries.  We ask people to describe why they do courses outside of regular day school, and frequently the reasons include “I wanted more spares in Grade 12 so I can focus on getting better grades in fewer courses”, or “I wanted to focus on this course alone because it’s the hardest for me”.  These are reasonable from an admissions competition point of view, but from my side they don’t inspire much confidence.  In an engineering program, there are no spares and no opportunities to focus on one course, so it’s an educational strategy that is going to fail as soon as they start university.

The concern from some applicants and parents is that doing summer school provides a higher mark for an individual than they would have achieved in a regular program, and that provides an unfair advantage especially for admission to highly competitive programs where a few marks can make the difference.  So to consider this another way, I took some previous years’ data for ENG4U (Ontario grade 12 English, because that is course most students do at summer school).  Instead of looking at the grades, I looked at the difference between ENG3U and ENG4U (i.e. how much the mark changes from Grade 11 to 12 level courses).  I will refer to this difference as ΔENG (delta ENG; a typical shorthand for differences). This provided some interesting results.

For over 3,000 students who did ENG4U in regular day school, I found that the average ΔENG was 2.5.  This means that on average, a student’s grade 12 English mark is about 2.5 points higher than the grade 11 mark.  I was somewhat pleasantly surprised that the marks are fairly consistent, on average.  (Of course there is a lot of individual variability…some students’ grades go up more, and some go down too.)

Now comparing with over 1,000 students who did ENG4U in summer school.  For them we found that the average ΔENG was 6.2.  So this suggests that on average they get a bigger boost than I would have expected from regular day school.  The first thing we need to do is test whether this difference is statistically significant, or just some random noise.  The statistical test shows that the probability of this difference being due to random noise in the data is about 3.4E-35 (i.e. 0.0000000000000000000000000000000034).  That’s a vanishingly small probability, so it’s safe to say there is a significant difference in the two groups of students.

So, it seems reasonable to conclude that using summer school is a way to boost grades over what they might have normally achieved (on average) and gain some advantage for admission purposes.  So what do we do about it?

We have nothing against summer school, although we would strongly prefer that students get work or volunteer experience to boost their employability in our co-op program.  But we also want to try to keep a level “playing field” for all applicants.  Therefore, we will start using adjustments to the admission score (used for ranking applicants) that will deflate any unusual advantage that summer school appears to provide.

In practice, this will mean that if a required course was done at summer school, we will look at the difference between the Grade 11 and Grade 12 results.  If they are reasonably consistent (say within 10), then no adjustment is likely.  If they are dramatically different we will apply an adjustment that removes much of the advantage.  So for example, with a Grade 11 English grade of 65%, and a Grade 12 summer school mark of 95%, we might adjust the score so that the Grade 12 mark only acts like a 75% when calculating the rankings.  Of course, if the marks went down in summer school or stayed about the same we won’t apply any adjustments.  So there is no automatic “penalty” for summer school courses, just an adjustment if it seems to result in a very unusual boost and unfair advantage.  From my estimates, probably less than 20% of applicants with summer school required courses will see any significant effect.


55 thoughts on “Back to Summer School

  1. Do you think a difference from an 85 to a 93 is large enough for a deduction considering I simply worked much harder during one month compared to three.

  2. Thank you so much for this informative article! Just as an example, I took English 4U in the summer for the reason that you mentioned (to have both spares in order to focus on my other classes) and my English 12 grade was less than 5% higher than my grade 11 mark. Just as a confirmation, would I likely be penalised for this decision (as compared with a hypothetical me who got the same marks in all courses and had the same AIF, but took English during the regular school year)?

  3. Hello professor, I had a 82 final in ENG3U, and a 92 final in my ENG4UE summer school class. I took the course on the recommendation of my guidance department. Will I be adjusted?

  4. Would there be a deduction for an increase from 84% to 93% in Grade 12 English? Is this reasonable if it was due to volunteering during the school year in Grade 11 and more time during summer in Grade 12 to work? What kind of response would you expect for there to be no deduction?

  5. Hi Professor,
    I always wondered; how do students support claims they make on their AIF. For example, do they somehow link their website/take picture of their award? Also, is the general AIF system staying the same? Just more weight put onto contests and awards?

    • A weblink can be cited. I don’t think our system can handle pictures. We don’t ask for proof up front, but will follow up on selected random cases later. The AIFs are staying the same for this year.

  6. Some people choose to do a course in summer school, drop it, and then perform the same course during the regular school year. This gives them the advantage of knowing the material before and is treated by universities as being done on first attempt. Does Waterloo acknowledge this?

  7. Not to be disrespectful but isn’t it kinda unfair that we are getting this information now? Everyone who took summer school didn’t know this.

  8. I took English 12 at summer school, and I got a 93. I had received consistent low 80s in English throughout high school (84 in grade 10), not due to my lack of competence(aced the PSAT’s Writing and Comprehension…)but rather due to my lack of interest in the subject which oftentimes led to assignments being completed late. I do not believe the mark I recieved is due to summer school, rather I believe it is due to my change in work ethic for grade twelve. Will I really be penalized for taking a course in the summer? I think that would be unfair as I am really counting on that 93 to recieve the mid 90s average I need for SE. (I know you said within ten is “reasonable” but last time when I read your blog, it said there would be no penalty, and I want to make sure that this does not limit my chances.) Thank you professor!

  9. Sir, I had a 75 in grade 11 and 87 in grade 12 summer school. Could you give a rough estimate on how much my mark will be deflated?

  10. Would my mark be adjusted even though i did chem 12 in summer school (90%) at the same school with the same teacher i did chem 11 with (73%). There is a huge jump between my grade 11 and 12 marks throughout all my courses done in normal school too. If my average in grade 11 was about 76, and my average in grade 12 is about a 92 (Just assuming a drop of 2-3 percent from now till may) Would all my marks be adjusted?

  11. I love the work you put into helping us all Bill!
    I took ENG4U in the summer and finished with an 88%,
    however my ENG3U mark was only 70% (Was acting like a huge idiot that semester)
    but my grade 10 English mark was a 91%

    What kind of adjustment would be put on this?

  12. Is this data analyzed with private schools as well? I have friends that did private school and they got 95% in ENG4U, where they got 70% in ENG3U. This data could affect the delta ENG greatly. I say this because I did summer school ENG4U, however my mark stayed the same as my grade 11 mark, despite the fact that I put more effort and time into my ENG4U course. The teachers were equally as difficult, if not, more difficult in summer school (because of lack-of-communication). Because of my experience, I feel that the change in grades from summer school to day school are not different, and due to the time restraints and different teaching/learning styles of online courses, they could arguably be more difficult than day school courses.

  13. Hello,
    I’m confused as to how deductions work. Firstly, you mentioned in the original post that a student with a 65% in ENG3U that achieved a 95% in ENG4U in summer school would only have a mark that acted as a 75% towards rankings. Is this to say that a student that received a mark of 65% in ENG3U and a 75% (within the 10% range) in ENG4U summer school would essentially attain the same mark as a student that attained a 95% mark?

    Secondly, can you provide a rough estimate as to how much a final mark would be deducted from a 15% raise from ENG3U to ENG4U done in summer school?

    Thanks a lot!

    • Yes, a 65% to 95% (in summer school) mark would effectively be treated the same as someone who got 75%. Going up 15% in summer school would result in a 5% adjustment, which in an average of 6 courses would reduce the ranking average by 5/6 = 0.83 points.

  14. Hi Prof Anderson,

    In grade 11, I received a 79% final mark for chemistry in day school. Unfortunately, there are some horrendous teachers out there. If I were to receive an inconsistent mark (eg. 90) for grade 12 chemistry in day school, would I receive an adjustment or other penalties as well?

  15. Hi!! I received 70% in ENG3U. What if I do night-school for ENG4U and get 90? What type of adjustment would be done?
    And do I need a proof or something to show where I worked or have volunteered in the AIF?

    • There is usually no adjustment for night school if you are also doing courses during the day. You should explain in the AIF why night school. You don’t need to submit proof, but should have something available in case we ask later.

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  17. Hi! I’m a Grade 11 student and am interested in Waterloo’s Software Engineering Program, I did Grade 11 Physics (85%) in Grade 10. If I were to take Grade 12 Physics in Summer school (2016) and receive a mark of 97%, would my mark be adjusted considering the fact that I took the Grade 11 Physics course in Grade 10 First Semester?

  18. Hi Professor,
    I took grade 12 religion in the summer, and I have a few questions regarding that…
    a) If this ends up as my highest U/M course (excluding the 5 required courses), then will the decision to apply an adjustment factor be based on the fact that this was not a required course? My counsellor said that thy would take this into account, but I wanted to verify this nonetheless.

  19. Hi professor, I took ENG4U in summer(and got 78%) , but that was before I started this year. I was happy with that mark at the time, but now I’m getting such high marks compared to last year and that mark is really hindering my average. If took ENG4U again during day or night school(more preferred than day) and got a really high mark(90), would there be adjustment

  20. Thanks you PROFBILLANDERSON for providing such in-depth information on admission process..
    I am grade 11 student and planning to take ENG4U as summer school as my teacher and guidance also suggesting the same. I completed ENG3U with 89% in last semester..

    As per your admission analysis, even if, i bring 99% in ENG4U in summer then also i am not going to adjusted.. i will be applying for 2017 year.

    Please confirm..

    1. are we planning to change policy again or this will remain same..
    2. How other university like UOT, Mcgill etc consider of summer school? good ? or Bad or neutral..

  21. Hi Professor,
    If someone would earn an average of 67% in Grade 11 English, due to family reasons, and earns a 90% average in summer school Grade 12 English, my question is how much penalty will there be(if there is a penalty)?

  22. Pingback: Admissions 2017: How it’s going to work | A Professor in Waterloo Engineering

  23. Hello Professor,
    Would this adjustment also be applied to taking an online (Virtual High School) course during the school year? I am currently taking a required math course online and my mark will be within 5% my grade 11 prerequisite. Will there be a penalty for this? My reason for taking the course online is that it simply suits my learning style much better.

    Thank you

  24. Hi Professor,
    I got a 76 in SPH3U (Day School) and a 92 in SPH4U (Summer School) what could I expect my SPH4U mark to be adjusted to?

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  26. Hello Professor,
    Do these rules for penalization apply to other department’s admissions besides engineering?

  27. Hi Professor,
    I recently moved to Canada and am considering applying to Waterloo for engineering. Though I completed half a semester of Grade 11 in India, they were not considered here as a credit in high school. I was 2 credit short. So I took them in summer school so that I could graduate with my peers without having to do an extra year of high school. I was wondering if it will have any impact on my AIF

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