How To Get A 4.0 GPA: A Complete Guide

Picture of a student sitting at a desk and workign on improving their grades
Updated:
October 6, 2023
7 min read
Contents

”Mary

Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 7/29/23

A 4.0 GPA is usually the best GPA you can earn in high school, and it gives you the best opportunities for scholarships and college admissions. You may be wondering how to get a 4.0 GPA because earning this is no walk in the park. 

Balancing a multitude of classes, along with various extracurricular activities, may make it seem like earning a 4.0 GPA is impossible. 

Luckily, it’s not impossible! You are capable of earning a 4.0 GPA, and here’s how you can do it.

What Is a 4.0 GPA?

GPA stands for “grade point average.” In high school, they are either weighted or unweighted. But, what does a “4.0 GPA” mean? Let’s discuss!

A GPA assigns numbers to letter grades to allow for a quantitative, comprehensive look at a student’s academic performance. A 4.0 GPA (unweighted) indicates that you have gotten straight A’s throughout high school. For an explanation of how numbers are assigned to grades, see the chart below.

Letter Grade Percentage GPA
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

While some schools will assign a 4.3 to an A+ instead of a 4.0, that is not common. There will also be some variation from school to school, but generally, a 4.0 GPA indicates straight A’s through all four years of high school.

How to Get a 4.0 GPA in High School

Earning a 4.0 GPA is no easy feat. To achieve this, it is important to have the right attitude and mindset. If you want to get a 4.0 GPA for the sake of the number, then you are probably going to have a difficult time achieving this goal, even if you take the easiest classes possible.

You want to get the most out of your courses, both in the actual course content and in developing your academic habits. Every class that you take in high school is an opportunity to build a foundation of knowledge for college, and also to determine what study tactics and habits work for you.

Tips for Getting a 4.0 GPA

Essentially, each class is an opportunity for growth. The best way to earn a 4.0 GPA is to focus on accumulated knowledge rather than focusing on numbers. 

Another important aspect of earning a 4.0 GPA is strategically planning your coursework and subjects. If you are able, taking AP or honors classes is a good idea because it will look good on your transcript and challenge you. However, taking AP classes just because they are AP may do more harm than good to your GPA.

Plan your course schedule thoughtfully. If math is a harder subject for you, take mainly easier courses alongside it. Most importantly - take classes that interest you. Top colleges are searching for unique, competent individuals with an exciting story, not just candidates who look “picture perfect” on paper. 

Once you have developed the right mindset and planned your courses, an important question arises: how do I actually ace my courses? Here are ten tips to help you succeed in your classes.

Student studying to improve GPA

1. Be Present

When it comes to acing your classes, it is vital to pay attention in class. Study habits and homework are important, but your class time is precious because it is limited. It is also your best chance to ask questions. 

2. Ask for Help When You Need It

You have a support system, whether you know it or not! Your family and friends want you to succeed. Your teachers also want to succeed (though it may seem like they want the opposite, at times).

If you are struggling with the material, do not hesitate to reach out to your teachers. You can also talk to your guidance counselor or any other teacher, and they will be willing to help you.

Student with tutor

3. Develop a Routine

Both your body and brain enjoy habits and stability. It is crucial to find a rhythm for yourself. If you can do your homework most effectively and efficiently right after school, try and do that every day. Try to wake up and go to sleep around the same time every day. 

According to Northwestern Medicine, having a routine keeps your stress levels low and your efficiency high!

4. Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

It is essential to know what you are good at and be confident in those skills, but it is equally (if not more) important to know your weaknesses. These are not a fault in your character because everyone has weaknesses. Being aware of these weaknesses and working hard to overcome them will give you the best chance to achieve a 4.0 GPA. 

If you know you struggle with writing essays, work with your writing teacher to strengthen that skill. If you struggle with recalling equations on math exams, talk to your math teacher about working on those equations outside of class. 

5. Plan Your Time

This tip goes hand-in-hand with having a routine. By using a calendar and planning out your assignments, you won’t waste time wondering what you should work on or stressing out about everything you need to finish. Planning ahead allows you to prepare for exams without unnecessary stress.

Calendar with glasses

6. Understand and Use Your Own Learning Style

Everyone learns differently. Many different models propose different learning styles, but even these vary from person to person. If you learn best by reading and writing, then make sure to do that while studying. 

If you are a visual learner, look up videos to study. The most important thing is to understand how your brain best processes information because that is your avenue for efficient studying and learning.

7. Take Care of Yourself

Your academic success should never come at the expense of your physical and mental health. According to a study done by UCLA, if you spend your time studying instead of getting a good night’s sleep, you are actually doing more harm than good. You cannot get a 4.0 GPA without your brain or body, so take good care of them!

Student sleeping at desk

8. Treat Everything as an Opportunity

Everything is a learning opportunity. Whether it’s a summer job, a volunteer experience, building a schedule, or flunking a class. Approaching every hurdle with an excitement to grow will positively affect every area of your life - including your GPA. 

9. Work With Your Peers

Your peers have goals and ambition, too! Most of them are also working hard, and they may be stronger in the areas where you are weaker and vice versa. Teamwork is a wonderful skill to have, primarily as you work towards college. By working with your peers, you will improve your grades and develop important soft skills.

Study group

Importance of Your GPA for College Admission

On practically every college application, you will need to include your high school GPA. 

Though your entire application will be essential, and colleges will consider every piece, your GPA is the most straightforward indicator of your academic success in high school and your preparedness for college. 

A high GPA shows that you have good study habits, which is a good sign of preparing for college. 

According to CollegeBoard, “Colleges look at a student’s GPA to get an idea of how that student has performed academically across all courses and how prepared they are for college-level coursework.”

Plus, because there are so many subjective pieces in a college application package (essays, recommendations, etc.), straightforward components such as your GPA will often be the first sign of your academic competence as colleges look at your application. 

Of course, colleges and universities will consider every part of your application, and many colleges have lower GPA requirements (and some have none at all). However, if you hope to get into a top school or an Ivy League school, your GPA will definitely matter. 

According to Yale, “The high school transcript is almost always the most important document in a student’s application.” 
Harvard says, “There is no single academic path we expect all students to follow, but the strongest applicants take the most rigorous secondary school curricula available to them. We do seek students who achieve at a high level, and most admitted students rank in the top 10-15% of their graduating classes.”

As you can see from these top colleges, your GPA is a critical part of your college applications.

Student studying

How Your GPA is Calculated

As we have covered before, GPA stands for “grade point average.” You earn a letter grade for each class you take in high school. A number is assigned to each letter grade when your GPA is calculated, as shown in the chart above. Each number is added together, and then the total is divided by the number of classes you have taken. 

For example, let’s say you took a total of twelve classes in your freshman year of high school and earned an A in each class. So, each A is assigned a 4.0 numerical value. Here’s how your GPA would be calculated:

12 classes * 4.0 = 48.0

48.0 is the total numeric value of all the classes you took freshman year. Next, you would average that number out by dividing it by the total number of classes you took:

48.0 / 12 = 4.0 GPA

And there you have it: a 4.0 GPA. 

However, this is not the only way to calculate GPA. In this example, the GPA is unweighted, which is the most common way of calculating GPA. 

Discussing a weighted GPA vs. unweighted GPA has nothing to do with pounds or kilograms. When your GPA is unweighted, all classes are worth the same amount. If your GPA is weighted, then certain classes will have a greater impact on your GPA—usually more rigorous ones.

Typically, weighted GPAs go up to 5.0 instead of 4.0. Honors and AP classes will usually assign a 5.0 instead of a 4.0 to an A or A+ letter grade. This means that you could earn an A- and still achieve a 4.0 GPA on a weighted scale if you earn an A or A+ in a class that is weighted more heavily. 

However, colleges usually will not look at weighted and unweighted GPAs in the same way. A 4.0 on a weighted scale means something very different than a 4.0 on an unweighted scale. If you earn a 4.0 on a weighted scale, it could mean that you are earning straight A’s in the lowest-level classes, or it could mean you’re earning B’s in AP or honors-level courses.

For more details on how numeric values are assigned to grades when calculating a weighted GPA, see the chart below:

Letter Grade Percentage Unweighted GPA Weighted GPA
A+ 97-100 4.0 5.0
A 93-96 4.0 4.7
A- 90-92 3.7 4.3
B+ 87-89 3.3 4.0
B 83-86 3.0 3.7
B- 80-82 2.7 3.3
C+ 77-79 2.3 3.0
C 73-76 2.0 2.7
C- 70-72 1.7 1.7
D+ 67-69 1.3 1.3
D 65-66 1.0 1.0
F Below 65 0.0 1.0


FAQs

Here are our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on how you can get a 4.0 GPA.

1. Does High School GPA Matter?

Yes, your high school GPA will have an affect on your chances of getting into college. That said, a 4.0 or close isn’t necessarily the standard. Take a look at the average GPA of admitted students to your target schools to help you set academic goals for yourself.

2. Will getting one A- or B ruin my chances of getting into my dream school?

No! If you do not have a perfect GPA, that does not automatically mean you will get rejected from your dream school, especially if you earned a lower grade in a particularly challenging course. Colleges want to see your work ethic and ability to challenge yourself. One A- or B will not ruin your chances of acceptance.

3. Does my GPA matter more or less than standardized test scores?

It depends on the school. Every piece of your application is considered, but each school and each admissions officer places different weights on different criteria. 

4. Should I take easy classes to ensure I earn a 4.0 GPA?

No, you should not. Challenging yourself will do you many more favors than playing it safe. 

5. How Many A's Do You Need for a 4.0 GPA?

You need all A’s or equivalent (93% or higher) to achieve an unweighted 4.0 GPA in high school.

6. Will my GPA still matter in college?

Yes. Working hard for a good GPA does not end once you graduate high school. Many things depend on GPA once you reach college: financial aid, job offers, and eligibility for graduate school.

7. What schools can I get into with a 4.0 GPA?

Unfortunately, this question does not have a clear-cut answer. Getting a 4.0 GPA does not guarantee admission into any college while getting a lower GPA does not necessarily disqualify you from any college. Colleges want to see that you are a well-rounded student. 

A 4.0 GPA is a solid component of your academic success and your preparedness for college, and all schools that you apply to will consider that. Though it does not guarantee admission into any school, it bolsters your application and gives you a much greater chance. 

8. Is It Hard to Get a 4.0 GPA?

Getting a 4.0 GPA is challenging for everyone in different ways. The best ways to achieve a perfect GPA include communicating with your teachers, taking advantage of study groups, and focusing on absorbing knowledge and learning from mistakes rather than stressing about numbers.

9. Can You Get a 5.0 GPA?

Yes, a 5.0 GPA is the highest possible GPA on a weighted scale. On an unweighted scale, 4.0 is the highest possible GPA.

10. Is a 4.0 GPA Rare?

It is quite challenging to achieve a 4.0 GPA so it is typically considered “rare” depending on the school average.

Final Thoughts

Now that we’ve gone over what is the highest GPA and how to achieve it, you should understand that earning it takes a lot more work than simply showing up to class and doing your homework on time. It takes ambition, planning, and a lot of hard work. 

However, if you follow these tips, you will be setting yourself up to earn a 4.0 GPA, which will open a variety of doors for you in your future—maybe even the door to your dream school.

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