What GPA Do Colleges Look At?

Your high school uses an unweighted GPA that can only go as high as 4.0. Other high schools use a weighted GPA, which allows their students to earn grades of up to 5.0 or even higher. And now you may be wondering if an unweighted GPA, since it can’t be higher than 4.0, will put you at a disadvantage in the college admissions process.

Whether the GPA used by a high school is weighted or unweighted, colleges and universities will look at it. However, they will recompute it using their own algorithms. Admissions officers, what’s more, will also consider academic rigor, which enables them to put an applicant’s GPA into context better.

Read on if you are worried that you might get a rejection letter since your GPA is based on an unweighted system.

In this post, not only will you learn the key differences between unweighted and weighted GPAs but also have an idea of which of the two GPA systems colleges and universities care about. We will also talk about why your academic rigor can also change the way your GPA looks in the eyes of admissions officers and how it can impact their decision.

a grade

What is an Unweighted GPA?

Unweighted GPAs are traditional GPAs in which they are measured on a scale from 0.0 to 4.0. Unweighted GPAs are called as such because the levels of courses do not have a weight on the outcome. So, for instance, an A in a higher-level course and an A in a lower-level course are both equivalent to 4.0.

Most high schools in the US use the unweighted GPA system. Similarly, many colleges and universities prefer unweighted GPAs as they are less complicated than weighted GPAs.

However, admissions officers who consider unweighted GPAs consider academic rigor, too.

It’s exactly for this reason why you should not feel disadvantaged in the admissions process if your GPA is only 4.0 while another applicant’s GPA is 5.0 simply because your high school uses the unweighted system and his or hers uses the weighted system — your honors or AP or IB courses and their difficulty levels will equal the playing field.

Here’s a table that shows the corresponding letter grade and percent grade for each weighted GPA:

4A+97% to 100%
4A93% to 96%
3.7A-90% to 92%
3.3B+87% to 89%
3B83% to 86%
2.7B-80% to 82%
2.3C+77% to 79%
2C73% to 76%
1.7C-70% to 72%
1.3D+67% to 69%
1D65% to 66%
0E or FBelow 65%
Letter grade percentages

What is a Weighted GPA?

Unlike unweighted GPAs, weighted GPAs consider not only how well high school students did in each course but also the course difficulty. So, in other words, academic rigor has a weight on the outcome. Unweighted GPAs typically use the 5.0 scale, although some high schools may use other scales, too.

Because the difficulty of courses taken in high school is taken into account as well, computing and interpreting a weighted GPA is not as easy as the unweighted GPA system.

This is especially true since it’s not all the time that the highest possible weighted GPA is 5.0.

If your high school uses the unweighted system, the highest possible GPA its students can earn is 4.0. While a 5.0 scale is common among US high schools using the weighted GPA system, other scales are in existence, too. For instance, some high schools may have a 4.5 scale while others may go for a 6.0, 9.0 or even a 10.0 scale.

Below is a table that shows the letter grade and percent grade for each unweighted GPA:

54.5A+97% to 100%
54.5A93% to 96%
4.74.2A-90% to 92%
4.33.8B+87% to 89%
43.5B83% to 86%
3.73.2B-80% to 82%
3.32.8C+77% to 79%
32.5C73% to 76%
2.72.2C-70% to 72%
2.32.3D+67% to 69%
21.5D65% to 66%
00E or FBelow 65%
Weighted GPAs

Which GPA Do Colleges Care About?

Colleges and universities consider GPAs in the admissions process whether they are based on the unweighted or weighted system. Instead of simply taking them at face value, admissions officers recompute submitted GPAs, with consideration of academic rigor, in order to obtain equivalence among applicants.

Refrain from assuming that one GPA system is better than the other as far as college admissions go.

While some applicants submit unweighted GPAs while others submit weighted GPAs, they are on an equal level when it’s time to use them in the admissions process.

Because colleges and universities know for a fact that different high schools use different GPA systems and grade their students differently, too, they simply recompute GPAs submitted to them. What’s more, they take into account the difficulty levels of the courses in order to be able to paint a much better picture of each applicant’s academic qualifications.

So, when submitting your GPA to the schools on your college list, there is no need to convert it from an unweighted GPA to a weighted GPA or vice versa — the admissions officers at each institution will do it for you.

Having high grades in low-level courses is good. But having high grades in higher-level courses is better.

As a general rule of thumb, the more challenging the honors or AP or IB classes you take, the more impressive your transcript will look in the eyes of admissions officers, especially those at the most selective colleges and universities in the land. As a matter of fact, low grades from difficult courses look better than high grades from easy courses.

But don’t bite off more than you can chew and allow your lower-level course grades to suffer!

report card

It’s due to the impact of academic rigor on the admissions decisions why you should mind which honors or AP or IB classes you will take, if available. Fret not if your high school or a nearby college doesn’t offer any. That’s because it will not put you at a disadvantage in the admissions process.

Just Before You Submit Your GPA

Your high school may use an unweighted or a weighted GPA. No matter the case, you can rest assured that college admissions officers will not simply look at your GPA and make a decision based solely on the number that they see on your transcript — they will also look at academic rigor in order to be able to put your GPA into context.

So, in other words, taking honors or AP or IB classes can make a world of difference in the admissions outcome.

Above, we talked about the key differences between unweighted and weighted high school GPAs as well as the things closely related to them that can impact your college application.

No matter the GPA system your high school uses, the colleges and universities you apply to will recalculate your GPA and consider the rigor of your course load separately. This only means that you should not feel disadvantaged in the admissions process just because your high school uses an unweighted instead of a weighted GPA or vice versa.

Related Questions

Do colleges look at middle school grades?

Colleges and universities do not look at or take into consideration the grades of applicants from middle school. What they focus on when making admissions decisions are high school grades, which are shown on the high school transcript. Besides high school grades, other admissions factors are considered, too.

Do colleges look at freshman and sophomore high school grades?

Most college admissions officers take a look at grades from high school freshman and sophomore years, although they might focus more on grades from high school junior and senior years. Doing this allows colleges to have a broader idea of an applicant’s academic performance.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

Similar Posts