What is the most important piece of your college application? University Magazine receive data from schools every year, and from that, we know there are two factors that weigh most heavily in college admission:
- Your High School GPA
- Your College GPA
- the rigor of your curriculum
Standardized test scores, like those from the SAT and ACT, are a close third.) Since GPA is so important, here’s a quick breakdown of how to calculate yours.
Your grade point average (GPA) is the sum of all your course grades throughout your high school career divided by the total number of credits. Most high schools (and colleges) report grades on a 4.0 scale. The top grade, an A, equals a 4.0. Here’s a simple chart that shows how to convert your letter grades to the 4.0 scale.
|Letter Grade||Grade Point||Numerical Grade|
Weighted vs. Unweighted GPA
An unweighted GPA is the average of all your grades on the 4.0 scale above.
Some high schools use a weighted GPA scale, which gives more points (greater “weight”) to grades in accelerated courses like Honors Biology or AP French. So, while a B might normally equal a 3.0, a B in an AP class would be more like a 3.3 on a weighted scale.
What is a Good GPA?
The answer to this depends on where you want to go to college. Check out the GPA ranges for accepted students to the schools on your wishlist, and see how your grades compare. Use our college search to research schools that interest you or grab a copy of our book Best 384 Colleges to help you find your best-fit school.
Colleges will also consider the rigor of your high school schedule. Did you take Honors and AP courses when they were available? Were you enrolled in your high school’s IB program? Besides doing well in the courses you took, colleges want to see that you are challenging yourself academically.
Great Grades Can Equal Financial Aid
Your GPA will help you get in, but in these budget-tight times, great grades can also translate directly into dollars and cents. As Kal Chaney attests in our book Paying for College, “Every tenth of a point a student raises her high school GPA can save her thousands of dollars in student loans she won’t have to pay back later.”
Even at schools where students are awarded aid based only on their financial need, applicants with high academic achievement get preferential packaging. (Their award packages have a higher percentage of grants and a lower percentage of loans.) Some colleges offer full scholarships for great GPAs.
There are other schools (more and more in recent years) that give out large merit-based grants, regardless of need. These grants are not necessarily just for 4.0 students, either! We know of several colleges that award merit-based grants for students with B averages.
Get Your Grades Up—and Keep Them That Way!
Senioritis is real, but colleges keep an eye on your grades even after you’re accepted. So don’t think you can let your grades sink once that acceptance letter hits your mailbox! Plus, if you were waitlisted for your dream school, keeping your grades up you could boost your chances of getting off of it.