I think the misconception here is that you need straight A’s or one B at the most. This is
not true at all. I know plenty of people (actually a large percentage) of those admitted to these
universities that had GPA’s that many Asian parents would scoff at. 6 or more B’s? Well you
better have something amazing (see extracurriculars or hooks) to make up for it.
But don’t take this as a declaration that you can get any grades you want. C’s are a no-no.
And remember, the more A’s, the more likely you will get in. And for the record, an A- is really
no different from an A or an A+. Although having only A’s and A+’s probably looks mighty
Also, the competitiveness of your high school will be taken into account. If you go to a well known high school, like Thomas Jefferson in Virginia, New Trier/Whitney Young in Chicago, Lowell/Monta Vista/Lynbrook/Paly/Gunn in the Bay Area, Troy/North Hollywood/Oxford Academy in LA, Stuy/Bronx Science in NYC, or one of the elite private boarding schools like Phillips Exeter or Andover, then you will stand a very good chance at admission if you have a high GPA (top 1% or so). In fact, a valedictorian or salutatorian from one of these schools will usually get into one of HYPSM, since graduating top of your class is in itself a huge achievement (some would say comparable to winning a national competition in something). However, simply being valedictorian of some random high school in North Dakota or Montana probably won’t help your chances too much. Albeit, this is partially offset by geographic diversity.
The next section will detail what tests you need to take and what scores you need to get: SAT/ACT and AP/IB Tests!