Grade Point Average…three words you will hear throughout high school and college.

What is a GPA?

A grade point average (GPA) is a cumulative average of your grades for your coursework and is usually determined on a 4.0 scale.

Your high school GPA begins the moment you take high school level courses – whether that is in 8th grade taking Algebra I, Art I, Spanish I, etc. or your freshmen year taking all high school level courses. Your slate will NOT be wiped clean until you enter college. All high school courses make up your high school GPA which in turn will be a deciding factor for your future. Your grades matter for your future as a college student and scholarship applicant.

What’s the difference between weighted and unweighted GPA?

An unweighted GPA assigns courses a 4.0 for A’s, 3.0 for B’s, 2.0 for C’s, and 1.0 for D’s. Therefore, there is no distinction between a 90 and a 100; they are both a 4.0.

College Board provided a table to quickly convert your letter grade and or percent grade to a 4.0 GPA.

Letter Grade Percent Grade 4.0 Scale
A+ 97-100 4.0
A 93-96 4.0
A- 90-92 3.7
B+ 87-89 3.3
B 83-86 3.0
B- 80-82 2.7
C+ 77-79 2.3
C 73-76 2.0
C- 70-72 1.7
D+ 67-69 1.3
D 65-66 1.0
E/F Below 65 0.0

*Source: College Board

A weighted GPA gives extra points for challenging courses such as Advanced Placement (AP) or Honors. The harder coursework is weighted at 5.0 but on a 4.0 scale. So, an honor student could possibly have a 4.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale because they took more rigorous courses.

According to the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), about two-thirds of high schools use the weighted scale. Since it is unfair for the admissions office to compare weighted and unweighted GPAs due to coursework varying, more than half of the colleges recalculate students’ GPAs to equalize the comparisons.

How important is my GPA?

Your high school GPA along with standardized tests (SAT/ACT) are predictors of how well you will do as a college freshman. Joyce E. Smith, NACAC’s CEO, stated in a 2016 report that “year to year, we find that getting good grades in challenging courses is what college admission offices value most when reviewing applications from first-time freshmen.” Admissions offices look at the courses taken and determine, based on your GPA and how many challenging, college prep courses you took, how prepared you are to succeed at their university.

Students’ GPAs are compared for scholarship and admissions applications. While GPAs are not the only piece examined, it is one of the most important factors in determining winners for scholarships and admissions over other students to a postsecondary education institution.

Other factors looked at by scholarship and admissions applications include your community impact-service to your community, athletics and extracurricular activities in school, and leadership positions. While being well-rounded is vital, your GPA can make or break your chances of receiving scholarship funds or acceptance to your first choice of schools since many large universities put a great deal of weight on your GPA alone.

BONUS TIP: Check out BigFuture’s College Search to compare your GPA with those who got in and enrolled to the university of your choice.

What if my GPA isn’t anything to brag about?

  1. Start studying and putting in the extra work to get your GPA higher.
    1. Complete any and all extra credit opportunities given
    2. Prioritize studying
  2. High standardized exam scores
    1. Prepare for your ACT & SAT
    2. Continue studying and taking the exams to increase your score
  3. Commitment to community
    1. Volunteer as much as possible
    2. Get involved in extracurricular activities in and out of school
    3. Serve as a leader when possible

Bonus Tips:

  • While your GPA isn’t everything in determining your future, it can make or break your college admissions and scholarship application results.
  • Aiming for a 3.5 GPA should be your goal if your desire is to attend a selective college.
  • Lookup admissions requirements for schools of interest to set a goal.
  • Take challenging college prep courses to demonstrate your desire to be successful in your college endeavors.

Your GPA is important to keep in mind as soon as you take your first high school level course. Although it’s not the only admissions and scholarship determinant, it is very important to maintain as high a GPA as possible so your applications don’t end up at the bottom of the pile.