Do Colleges Look at Weighted GPA?

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May 19, 2022
Weighted GPA MeaningWeighted GPA vs. Unweighted GPAWhich Type of GPA Do Colleges Care About?How to Calculate Your Unweighted GPAHow to Calculate Your Weighted GPAWeighted GPA FAQsDo Colleges Look At Weighted GPA? Yes, and No

”Rohan

Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 5/5/22

Do colleges look at a weighted GPA? Here we cover what colleges look for in terms of weighted and unweighted GPA, and how to calculate each type of GPA.

According to a report published by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the five most important factors considered during the college application process are: 

Although your grades, known as grade point average (GPA), are important, there is a lot of confusion surrounding what GPAs colleges look at: weighted or unweighted, or both. We’ll answer this question, explore the difference between a weighted and unweighted GPA, examine what GPA colleges look at, and explain how to calculate your final grades.

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Weighted GPA Meaning

Let’s talk about the weighted GPA meaning. A GPA illustrates the average value of your final grades earned in completed courses. A weighted GPA represents the average value of your final grades earned in classes and takes their difficulty into account. 

Several more difficult classes include: 

Weighted GPAs are measured on a 0 to 5.0 scale to account for the increased difficulty of certain classes, though some schools use a 12.0 scale. But what is a good GPA? It often comes down to your individual institution's expectations. 

While some schools may be happy with a weighted GPA of 3.7 or above, the average weighted GPA for ivy league schools is closer to 4.1.

Weighted GPA vs. Unweighted GPA

So, what is the difference between weighted and unweighted GPA? Unlike a weighted GPA, an unweighted GPA does not take the difficulty of your classes into account and is measured on a 0 to 4.0 scale. This can be problematic for some students as an unweighted GPA does not reflect the extra time, effort, and skills advanced-level courses take to complete. 

Consider the table below, which outlines how numeric and letter grades are converted into overall grades on a 4.0 scale. While a 4.0 GPA scale is common, it isn’t universal, so double-check how your high school calculates your overall GPA. 

Table outlining how numeric and letter grades are converted into a GPA

Source: US News & World Report 

So, with an unweighted GPA, an A grade earned in a regular English class is classed as the same grade as an A in an AP English course. As such, a student who earns straight B’s in regular-level courses may have a higher overall GPA than another who achieved similar grades in more advanced classes. 

Which Type of GPA Do Colleges Care About?

So, do colleges care more about weighted or unweighted GPA? Colleges will consider your unweighted or weighted high school GPA alongside other grades, including your semester GPA and cumulative GPA. Admissions officers will look at your official high school transcript to contextualize your GPA and understand which classes you thrived. 

Your high school transcript will usually display your:

Although most high schools provide colleges with your unweighted or weighted high school GPA, universities often recalculate it. Colleges do this to create an even-level playing field for all applicants as there is no universal high school grading scale, and some advanced classes are graded differently. 

For example, say Student A has an unweighted GPA of 3.5, and Student B has a weighted GPA of 4.0. At first glance, Student B seems like the more impressive candidate. However, colleges often look at students’ class placements. 

In this example, Student A is one of the top students in their class, and Student B is 13th. Thus, Student A may have more impressive credentials and potential to cope with the difficulty of college-level education than Student B. 

When universities recalculate your GPA, they typically use their own scales and ignore certain classes. For example, MIT calculates GPAs on a 5.0 scale and ignores the following things in its calculation: 

Filling your transcript with easier electives like gym or band to get a 4.0 GPA isn’t a great idea as many programs do not factor them into their decision. 

How to Calculate Your Unweighted GPA

Now we understand the difference between an unweighted and weighted GPA, and we can learn how they’re calculated. For an unweighted GPA, “all classes are worth the same weight and each letter grade corresponds to a number from 0-4.”  As noted in the table above: 

Some colleges will take into account or ignore plusses and minuses, so research what factors your preferred school considers when calculating your GPA. To account for plusses and minuses, you can use a table like the one below: 

Table outlining how numeric grades are converted into unweighted GPAs

Source: Quad Education

To calculate your unweighted GPA, use the lists noted above and assign your grades a corresponding number. Then, add the numbers to create a total, and your final GPA is this total divided by the number of classes where you earned a grade. 

Calculating Your Unweighted GPA Example 1

If you received two A’s and three B’s, you would have: 

     (A = 4.0) x 2 = 8.0 

     (B = 3.0) x 3 = 9.0

Then, add the assigned numbers together to create a total. In this example, the total is: 

     8.0 + 9.0 = 17

Once you have a total, divide the total by the number of classes you took. In this case, the total number of classes was five, so your unweighted GPA is: 

     17 (total points for grades received)/ 5 (number of classes) = 3.40 

Calculating Your Unweighted GPA Example 2

Let’s look at another example where a candidate received three A+’s, two A-’s, and a B-. Our assigned numbers are: 

     (A+ = 4.0) x 3 = 12.0

     (A- = 3.7) x 2 = 7.4

     (B- = 2.7) x 1 = 2.7

Our total is then: 

     12.0 + 7.4 + 2.7 = 22.1

Finally, our GPA is our total divided by the number of classes: 

     22.1 (total points for grades received)/ 6 (number of classes) = 3.68 

How to Calculate Your Weighted GPA

Let’s talk about how to calculate a weighted GPA. Calculating a weighted GPA is slightly harder than calculating an unweighted one as certain classes are worth more than others; AP, IB, and honors classes are worth more than their standard-level equivalents. 

Take a look at the tables below, which outline how numeric and letter grades in AP, Honors, and standard-level classes are converted into overall grades on a 5.0 GPA scale: 

Table outlining how numeric grades are converted into weighted GPAs

Source: Quad Education

Table outlining how numeric grades in AP classes are converted into weighted GPAs

Source: The University Network 

Table outlining how numeric grades in Honors classes are converted into weighted GPAs

Source: The University Network 

As you can see, achieving the same grades in standard-level and AP classes results in different GPAs. For example, an A in an AP History and standard-level History course is given a weighted GPA of 5.0 and 4.7, respectively. 

Similar to calculating an unweighted GPA, use the tables provided to assign numbers to your grades in AP and Honors classes and add them together to create a total. Then, divide the total by the number of grades you have for the courses you took, and you have your weighted GPA. 

Calculating Your Weighted GPA Example 1

Evan received the following grades in his high school classes: 

First, let’s assign a numeric value to each lettered grade: 

Adding each of these number together creates the total of: 

3.0 + 4.0 + 3.7 + 4.5 + 3.5 = 18.7

Finally, dividing Evan’s total by the number of classes taken gives us his weighted GPA of: 

18.7 (total points for grades received)/ 5 (number of classes) = 3.74

Calculating Your Weighted GPA Example 2

Emily received the following grades in her high school classes: 

First, let’s assign a numeric value to each lettered grade: 

Adding each of these number together creates the total of: 

4.2 + 4.0 + 4.0 + 4.7 + 3.3 + 2.8 = 23.0

Finally, dividing Emily’s total by the number of classes taken gives us her weighted GPA of: 

23.0 (total points for grades received)/ 6 (number of classes) = 3.83

Weighted GPA FAQs

We’ve outlined several commonly asked questions and answers below to help you further understand how colleges look at your high school GPA. 

1. Do colleges look at my transcript during the admissions process?

Yes. Colleges look at your GPA to get a sense of your academic performance and review your transcript to contextualize your GPA and see what classes you have taken. Yale University states that your official high school transcript “is almost always the most important document in a student’s application.” 

Admissions officers analyze candidates’ transcripts to review their courses and if they have challenged themselves. Yale, for example, looks for “students who have consistently taken a broad range of challenging courses in high school and have done well.” 

Princeton University maintains a similar sentiment and recommends you “challenge yourself with the most rigorous courses possible, such as honors, Advanced Placement (AP) and dual-enrollment courses” whenever you can. 

Harvard University’s admissions officers are taught to evaluate applicants and ask questions such as “Have you reached your maximum academic and personal potential?” and “Have you been working to capacity in your academic pursuits?”

Colleges want to see students push themselves throughout high school, including their senior year. After all, admissions officers don’t want to see applicants cruise through high school, take easy classes, and achieve a perfect 4.0 unweighted GPA. So, challenge yourself as much as possible while maintaining good grades.

2. What is a good weighted GPA?

To know if your GPA is competitive, check your target school’s average GPA and GPA requirements on their website. A perfect GPA on a weighted scale is 5.0, although most competitive colleges expect closer to a 3.7 or higher. The average weighted GPA for ivy league schools is typically over 4.0. The average weighted GPA at Harvard, for example, is 4.15.

If you’re still wondering, “what is a good weighted GPA?,” research your chosen college’s average GPA and aim to achieve higher. 

3. Do Colleges recalculate my weighted GPA? 

Most colleges will recalculate your unweighted or weighted GPA using their methods to standardize the admissions process for every candidate. However, the methods used by programs vary considerably. 

For example, Miami University assesses a students’ academic preparation by considering their: 

Miami will use your weighted GPA if it is listed on your transcript and cross-reference it with its recalculation scale to ensure it evaluates advanced courses consistently. If your school doesn’t use weighted GPAs, Miami will use a recalculation table “to add weight [to your courses] and use the better of the two GPAs (original grades from the transcript or recalculated).” 

Here is the table Miami University uses to recalculate your unweighted and weighted GPAs:

Table outlining how Miami University uses students' numeric grades to calculate their overall GPAs

Source: Miami University

4. How do I know if my GPA is good enough to get into college? 

Take a look at how your preferred program recalculates your GPA to obtain a rough idea of what GPA they will consider. Then, look at their admitted class profile statistics to get an idea of what GPA ranges they admit. For example, the University of California Irvine notes that its admitted students achieved a median weighted and unweighted GPA of 4.15 and 3.91, respectively. 

5. How can I improve my weighted GPA? 

There are several ways you can improve your weighted GPA. The most obvious choice is to take more challenging courses and excel in them; however, there is a fine balance between pushing yourself and getting in over your head. Colleges don’t want to see you take too many AP classes and achieve low grades, and they also don’t want to see you achieve a 4.00 GPA in standard-level courses. 

David Graves, Senior Associate Director for Operations at the University of Georgia, suggests “students challenge themselves to the best of their ability while still having strong grades in high school.” Choosing courses that appeal to your interests and individual strengths is a great way to excel in your courses and improve your GPA. 

If you’re struggling to improve your GPA, you can also work with an admissions consultant who can provide you with expert advice and tips to submit stellar college applications. 

6. Do Colleges Look at Weighted GPA?

Colleges will look at your GPA, whether it is weighted or unweighted. The GPA they consider is according to what is provided to them by your high school. 

7. Do weighted GPA requirements differ for in-state and out-of-state applicants? 

The weighted GPA requirements of in-state and out-of-state applicants can vary considerably between colleges. The University of New Orleans, for example, has the same GPA requirements for in-state and out-of-state applicants; they must both meet the minimum 2.0-grade point average on a 4.0 scale and achieve at least a 2.5 high school core GPA.  

The University of California, on the other hand, has different GPA requirements for in-state and out-of-state applicants. Applicants from California must achieve at least a 3.0 GPA to be considered for admission, while out-of-state applicants must earn a minimum 3.4 GPA. 

8. What is the average weighted GPA for Ivy League schools?

Most ivy league schools expect a weighted GPA of around 4.1, with slight variations. For example, Yale, Stanford, and Harvard’s current classes all have average weighted GPAs between 4.1 and 4.2. The average unweighted GPAs for the same ivy league schools are around 3.9. 

9. How can I calculate my high school weighted GPA? 

Use the above tables to assign numbers to your grades in AP, Honors, and standard-level classes and add them together to create a total. Then, divide the total by the number of grades you have for the courses you took, and you have your weighted GPA.

If you’re still struggling to calculate your weighted GPA, consider using a free online GPA calculator such as Iowa State University or Texas A&M’s. 

Do Colleges Look At Weighted GPA? Yes, and No

So, do colleges look at your weighted GPA? The answer is yes, and no. Colleges will review whatever GPAs your high school provides them with, but they typically recalculate them to ensure students are evaluated on a level playing field. Universities may also consider your class rank, the difficulty of your high school’s curriculum, and the classes you completed. 

When calculating your weighted GPA, remember that you need to account for the difficulty of your classes. So, use the additional tables provided above to account for any honors or AP classes taken. Good luck with your application!

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