Curious about GPA requirements at Ivy League schools? Read on to learn more about what makes a “good” GPA and how top colleges evaluate your transcripts.
Your GPA, or grade point average, is a statistic that measures how well you scored in your courses on average. Colleges and universities commonly use it to determine how academically successful a student is and whether or not the applicant is ready for college. Thus, your GPA plays a significant role in the chances of acceptance.
This is especially true for Ivy League schools, known for their academic excellence, great career opportunities, social prestige, and meticulous selection processes. If you’re an aspiring student ready to apply to an Ivy League school, read on to learn more!
Before answering this question, let’s look closer at the Ivy League schools. What are the Ivy League schools? There are eight Ivy League schools, as shown in the following table:
Sources: U.S. News World and Report
As you can see, Ivy League schools are some of the country’s top universities, such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. These schools are well known for their top-quality education, world-class faculty, and abundant resources and opportunities.
These schools have produced countless talented individuals, future leaders and presidents, well-rounded athletes, Nobel-prize winners, and many other graduates with impressive achievements.
Due to such a highly respectable reputation and excellent education, Ivy League schools are highly selective in their admission process. The admission rates of these schools have an average of merely 4.96%.
None of the Ivy League schools have a minimum GPA requirement for applications, which means anyone can apply with any GPA. For Ivy League schools, however, a competitive GPA and application are best. Admission rates at Ivy League schools may be low, but it’s possible with a well-rounded application.
One influential factor is your GPA, as it shows how well you’re doing in high school. Your GPA is calculated by taking the original grade for each course (either numeric or letter value) and then finding the corresponding GPA value (according to the table below).
Repeat this process with every course, calculate the average of all such values, and you’ve gotten your GPA. GPA is often measured on a scale of 0.0 to 4.0 and typically looks like this:
Source: U.S. News and World Report
However, this GPA scale isn’t universal for all schools. Schools may have different GPA values corresponding to each number or letter grade. In fact, according to U.S. News, universities often recalculate GPA. Nonetheless, your high school GPA helps you understand how well you’re doing academically.
So how much is good enough? Average GPAs at Ivy League schools start at 3.9. Therefore, it’s best to aspire for a 4.0 to play it safe. But as long as you have a GPA close to this, your GPA likely won’t hold you back in the admissions process.
The above GPA is the unweighted GPA, which calculates the average of your grade points without considering course difficulty. Weighted GPA, on the other hand, considers course difficulty by adding a multiplier to individual unweighted GPA for each course, while the rest of the calculation remains the same.
Regular courses will have a multiplier of 1, while harder or more advanced courses will have a multiplier greater than 1. Due to the multipliers, the scale of weighted GPA usually goes up to 5.0.
Ivy League schools will first look at your unweighted GPA to see how well you’re doing in your courses. Then they consider the difficulty of each course. Afterward, they may look at your weighted GPA as an additional reference.
But don’t get the wrong idea. While admission officers often look at unweighted GPA before weighted GPA, they care about whether you’ve been challenging yourself and striving to accomplish or improve.
Reviewing applications is a long and careful process, especially for Ivy League schools. Ivy League schools will inspect the full picture rather than simply taking a GPA at face value. The specific coursework you’ve taken is just as important as your grades.
Admissions committees want to know if you’ve been working hard, pushing yourself, and getting the most out of the academic opportunities your school offers. Remember, Ivy League schools want to see you living up to your full abilities.
Taking more advanced courses shows you have the spirit and ability to grow and face academic challenges. It also shows better academic performance and more preparedness for the harder university-level courses.
Unless you’ve already taken a respectable amount of advanced courses, taking a series of easier courses just to give your GPA a boost is typically a bad idea. Remember, taking challenging courses puts you at a competitive advantage compared to the applicants who don’t.
As most students take challenging courses to prepare themselves for an Ivy League education, here are each of the Ivy League schools’ average weighted GPAs.
*Please note that these values are unweighted GPAs.
Certainly not! Ivy League schools evaluate your entire transcript, not simply how high your GPA is. While evaluating average GPAs at Ivy League schools can help you compare yourself to admitted students, admissions committees look at specific details like the coursework you’ve taken and the grades you achieved.
Within your application evaluation, particular course grades may matter more than others, depending on what programs you’re applying to. For example, if you’re applying for a mathematics program, your grades for math courses will be deemed more important than, say, the grades for music class.
Your recent grades also matter more than grades for earlier years, so your courses and grades in grade 11 and grade 12 are of utmost importance. Ivy League schools will also ask for your mid-year grades report, so make sure you keep your performance consistently good amidst your application.
Standardized test scores also play a role if you plan to submit them – all Ivy League schools are currently test-optional. If you plan to submit scores, ensuring they’re on par or higher than the middle 50% range of admitted students can help you strengthen your application.
Any other academic achievements can raise your chances of getting an offer, especially if they’re related to the subject of the program you’ve applied to. For example, if you’re applying to a computer science program and you won an award in a programming contest, feel free to include that in your application!
Remember: Ivy League schools aren’t just looking to see how good you are at studying but also what kind of a person you are. For example, Harvard lists “interests and activities,” “personal character,” and “contribution to community” as what it seeks in candidates, alongside “growth and potential,” the only one related to academics.
The non-academic parts of an application include essays, recommendation letters, and extracurricular activities. Extracurricular activities are a particularly crucial point of interest for Ivy League schools for two reasons:
However, don’t participate in extracurricular activities just for the purpose of participating. What matters most is what you’ve learned, accomplished, contributed, and what intrigued you to participate.
Cynthia Crum, a director of college counseling at The Episcopal Academy, claims “both ‘pointy’ students with a narrow extracurricular focus and ‘well-rounded’ students with a variety of extracurricular activities” have an advantage.
The bottom line: your admissions decision isn’t reliant solely on GPA. Applicants still have a chance if their GPAs are lower than that of the average incoming student, especially if their application documents are especially compelling.
Still have questions about GPA requirements and classes? Then check out these FAQs!
If your school doesn’t offer any advanced courses, don’t worry about that. Admission officers ask you to submit school reports so they can understand the opportunities available to you. However, you can always look for outside enrichment opportunities, such as dual enrollment classes.
While there is no GPA requirement to apply to Harvard, the average unweighted GPA of incoming students is 4.18. Do your best to achieve a high GPA to boost your chances of acceptance!
If you’re comfortable with your GPA, then the answer is a firm yes! AP/IB is accepted and recognized by Ivy League schools, so doing well in these classes can show your college readiness.
A weighted GPA between 3.9 and 4.0 should put you in good standing at most Ivy League schools, as long as you’ve taken the most challenging curriculum available to you.
While 3.6-3.7 is a good unweighted GPA, it’s below the average reported at Ivy League schools. However, this doesn’t mean acceptance is impossible! A well-rounded profile, compelling essays, and special talents and interests can help you stand out.
A 3.5 GPA is below average at Ivy League schools. While we wouldn’t say acceptance is impossible, you’ll need to offset a lower GPA with an otherwise strong application. You may be able to offset a low GPA with high test scores, thoughtful application narratives, and strong extracurricular activities.
Your GPA measures your high school academic success, and you should certainly put in the time and effort to make it as high as you can. However, make sure you leave yourself enough energy for the other parts of your application.
Ivy League schools are looking for skillful individuals who are capable of performing well in multiple aspects and balancing many duties at once.
Getting accepted into Ivy League schools isn’t meant to be easy. However, focus on presenting the best version of yourself to boost your chances of acceptance. Good luck with your application!