Big Dog wrote:
since it is still pretty difficult to get a 3.7 or so at stanford...
Ummm, not really. Stanford has the best grade inflation on the west coast. As recently as 2005, the mean gpa of its grads was a 3.55, and that includes their engineers. Approx half of all grades were A or A-.
You can't make this assumption. It depends a lot by major and sometimes those statistics are very, very misleading.
The GPA college mean on my academic summary report is almost 3.5. Of course, that's not a real mean GPA since there's natural selection of higher GPAs going on, but it's fair to say that my UG is what most people would call grade-inflated.
Except this is what is sort of strange: The cut-off for cum laude is around 3.7. Means everyone gets latin honors, right? Wrong. Only the top 16% of the class in our college of arts & sciences gets any sort of latin designation. A-s at our school are 3.7, not 3.66. Our average GPA is inflated as hell, but less than a fifth of our students maintain an A- average or better. So basically, what this is means, is that Bs are easy as hell to get at my UG (and this is definitely true in my experience, you have to turn in dog shit to get in real trouble), but As are ridiculously hard to get.
Now let me throw another rut into the equation. I have two majors. Both of them are social sciences. One isn't curved, with rare exceptions. The other is entirely curved. For the major that is curved, grades are distributed approximately normally with a median of B- or B. It's very possible to go to a grade-inflated school and end up in a major that places you in some of the most competitive UG environments in the world. This is ESPECIALLY true at top UGs since you're essentially competing against kids that were all smart as hell to begin with.
In a nutshell, btw, the above is the other reason (the main one being that they care about their medians and the numbers they report to USNWR) why schools don't give a shit about UG institution and usually don't care about major: They don't have the time to separate the two and truly evaluate how difficult someone's UG experience is. Whereas someone majoring in Comm or Music or Journalism at my school can EASILY pull a 3.9, it's ridiculously hard for an Econ or Stats major to do the same.