Do Colleges Look at Weighted GPA? - Detailed Guide

A guide to colleges looking at weighted GPA
Updated:
April 26, 2024
8 min read
Expert Reviewed
Contents

”Mary

Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/26/24

Do colleges look at a weighted GPA? We’ll cover the difference between a weighted and unweighted GPA, what colleges look for in terms of GPA, and how to calculate each type.

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: 

  • Grades in all courses 
  • Grades in college prep courses 
  • SAT and ACT scores 
  • Strength of your high school curriculum 
  • Application essay or writing sample

Although your grades, known as grade point average (GPA), are important, there's 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. 

What Is a Weighted GPA? 

Let’s talk about what a weighted GPA means. A GPA illustrates the average value of your final grades. A weighted GPA represents the average value of your final grades earned in classes, considering their difficulty. 

Several more difficult classes include: 

Weighted GPAs are measured on a 0 to 5.0 scale to account for the increased difficulty of some classes (though some schools use a 12.0 scale). This means that usually, the highest possible weighted GPA you can achieve is a 5.0. 

Pay attention to the specific guidelines that your school uses, as some schools may differ in what counts as a 5.0 course. 

Here is a standard scale for weighted GPA: 

Grade Traditional
courses
Honors, AP & IB courses
A 4.0 5.0
B 3.0 4.0
C 2.0 3.0
D 1.0 2.0
F 0 1.0

Source: Indeed

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, top colleges often admit students with a weighted GPA above 4.0. 

What Is an Unweighted GPA? 

Unlike a weighted GPA, an unweighted GPA doesn’t consider course difficulty and is measured on a 0 to 4.0 scale. This can be problematic for some students, as an unweighted GPA doesn’t reflect the extra time, effort, and skills advanced-level courses take to complete. 

Here is a table outlining a typical unweighted GPA scale: 

Numeric Grade Letter
Grade
Grade Point Average
90-100 A 4.0
80-89 B 3.0
70-79 C 2.0
60-69 D 1.0
Below 60 F 0

Source: US News & World Report

Weighted GPA vs. Unweighted GPA

So, what is the difference between a weighted versus unweighted GPA? 

Well, with an unweighted GPA, an A grade earned in a regular English course is 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. 

The answer to whether weighted or unweighted GPA is superior depends on the school. Some schools prefer to look at your weighted GPA since it provides more information about class difficulty. But you don’t need to worry - colleges pay attention to unweighted GPA as well.   

You may need to figure out how to convert your weighted GPA to an unweighted one or vice versa for school applications. But don’t worry, you can learn how to calculate both kinds of GPA below! 

Do Colleges Look at Weighted or Unweighted GPA?

So, do universities look at weighted GPA? Which kind of GPA is important for colleges to see? 

Colleges consider your unweighted or weighted high school GPA alongside other grades, including your semester GPA and cumulative GPA. Admissions officers look at your official transcripts to contextualize your GPA and understand which classes you thrived in. 

Your high school transcript will usually display your:

  • High school classes, arranged in chronological order 
  • Grades achieved in each class 
  • Overall weighted or unweighted GPA (depending on what your high school uses)
  • Class rank (if applicable) 
  • SAT or ACT scores and any other standardized or proficiency test scores  
  • Graduation date

Although most high schools provide colleges with your unweighted or weighted GPA, universities often recalculate it. Colleges do this to create an even playing field for all applicants since there’s no universal high school grading scale. 

Ivy League schools, in particular, will go through a long and tedious process of examining your GPA. Usually, they will look first at your unweighted GPA and then weighted. If you’re applying to an Ivy, then a good Ivy League weighted GPA score would need to be at least 4.0. 

Here’s an example of how this recalculation might work: 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 more potential to cope with the difficulty of college-level education.

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: 

How to Calculate Your Unweighted GPA

Now that we understand the difference between an unweighted and weighted GPA, 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: 

  • A = 4.0
  • B = 3.0
  • C = 2.0
  • D = 1.0
  • F = 0

Some colleges will consider 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 an unweighted GPA scale like the one below: 

To calculate your unweighted GPA, use these lists 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. 

Letter Grade Percentage Unweighted
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
F Below 65 0.0

Source: Quad Education

To calculate your unweighted GPA, use these lists 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 since certain classes are worth more than others; AP, IB, and honors classes are worth more than their standard-level equivalents. Whether or not your cumulative GPA is weighted depends on the regulations of your specific school.

Take a look at these tables to see how numeric and letter grades in AP, Honors, and standard-level classes are converted into overall grades on a 5.0 GPA scale. Here is a standard weighted GPA scale: 

Letter Grade Numeric Grade GPA
A+ 97-100 4.5
A 93-96 4.5
A- 90-92 4.2
B+ 87-89 3.8
B 83-86 3.5
B- 80-82 3.2
C+ 77-79 2.8
C 73-76 2.5
C- 70-72 2.2
D+ 67-69 1.8
D 65-66 1.5
F Below 65 0.5

Source: The University Network: Weighted vs. Unweighted GPAs

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

Let’s look at an example of how to calculate a weighted GPA. Evan received the following grades in his high school classes: 

  • AP Math (A)
  • AP Language Arts (B)
  • Standard-level German (B) 
  • Science Honors (A) 
  • History Honors (B)

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

  • AP Math (C) = 3.0 
  • AP Language Arts (B) = 4.0
  • Standard-level German (B) = 3.7
  • Science Honors (A) = 4.5
  • History Honors (B) = 3.5

Adding these numbers 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: 

  • Math Honors (A-)
  • Standard-level Language Arts (B+)
  • AP German (B) 
  • AP Science (A-) 
  • Standard-level History Honors (B-)
  • Art History Honors (C+)

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

  • Math Honors (A-) = 4.2
  • Standard-level Language Arts (B+) = 4.0
  • AP German (B) = 4.0
  • AP Science (A-) = 4.7
  • Standard-level History (B-) = 3.3
  • Art History Honors (C+) = 2.8

Adding these numbers 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

FAQs: Weighted GPA

If you still have questions about weighted GPAs, check out these FAQs!

1. What Is a Good Weighted GPA?

It depends, but evaluating the class profile data of the schools you want to apply to is a good start. You can use this data to compare your stats to admitted students and determine what is a good weighted GPA. 

2. Do Colleges Recalculate My Weighted GPA? 

Most colleges recalculate your GPA using their methods to standardize the admissions process. However, the methods used by programs vary considerably. 

3. 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. They also don’t want to see you achieve a 4.00 GPA in standard-level courses. 

4. Do Colleges Look at Weighted GPA?

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

5. 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. For example, the University of New Orleans has the same GPA requirements for in-state and out-of-state applicants. 

The University of California, on the other hand, has different GPA requirements for in-state and out-of-state applicants. 

6. What Is the Average Weighted GPA for Ivy League Schools?

Since Ivy League schools are highly competitive, the average weighted GPA of incoming classes tends to be approximately 4.0 or 4.1. 

7. 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 courses you took, and you will 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’s 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 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 to account for the difficulty of your classes. Good luck with your application! 

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