# Weighted vs. Unweighted GPA: What's the Difference? — Shemmassian Academic Consulting (2023)

## What’s the difference between weighted and unweighted GPA?

Your child’s GPA is the average of how well they perform in their classes. But it’s not necessarily a simple mean (i.e., mathematical average). The GPA can also represent how difficult those classes were—in other words, how much your child challenged themselves by going as far as possible in a given field.

If you’re the parent of a younger high school student and you take nothing else away from this article, take this: encourage your child to select challenging courses in their areas of interest. For example, if your child loves science and aspires to become a doctor, AP Biology would be a good option if their school offers it.

But wait. Won’t encouraging your child to challenge themselves come at the risk of a lower GPA? What if your child likes AP biology but might earn a B on the harder track? Why not let them make an A in regular biology, even if that means they ultimately won’t be challenged as much?

Luckily, high schools across the nation have come up with a way to address this dilemma. Your child will probably have two numbers that matter on their college application:

• Their unweighted GPA, the simple mean of all their grades over four years

• Their weighted GPA, which takes into consideration the difficulty of each course

In a standard, unweighted GPA, an A receives a 4.0, a B receives a 3.0, and so on. In the unweighted system, coursework difficulty is not accounted for. This means that an A in AP Biology counts the same as an A in regular biology, and both of those count the same as an A in a physical education course.

By this system, in theory, a student who took all the easiest coursework and breezed through their classes could end up with a 4.0, possibly surpassing the students who took on the heavy lifting of enrolling in five AP classes in a single semester.

In a typical weighted GPA, AP or other advanced classes correspond to a higher number, so when they’re averaged in with the less difficult classes, they contribute more strongly to the average, thereby pulling the overall GPA higher. For example, an A in an AP biology class could equate to a 5 in your child’s GPA, whereas an A in a regular biology class only counts for 4.

Therefore, your child is rewarded for challenging themselves, both in the numerical GPA and also when (especially when) the admissions officer delves into your child’s course history.

## Do colleges look at weighted or unweighted GPA?

Remember that colleges aren’t looking at GPAs out of context. After checking the GPA on your child’s high school transcript, the very next thing an admissions officer does is dig into the listed courses. Within seconds, they’ll be able to assess the rigor of your child’s coursework and immediately contextualize your child’s GPA compared to those other piles of transcripts stacked on their desks.

The student who took all the easy courses and earned a 4.0 won’t get into an Ivy League school. However, the student who earned a 3.7 taking the most challenging courses offered while balancing extracurricular commitments is a competitive candidate.

That said, not every college takes such a holistic approach to admissions. Large public universities, because they often receive a far greater number of applicants than small liberal arts colleges do, often sort applicants based on whether they meet a minimum GPA requirement.

For example, the University of North Carolina requires a minimum GPA of 2.5 (weighted) to be considered for admission. These minimums don’t guarantee admissions; on the contrary, they limit the admissions committees’ holistic assessments to only those applicants whose GPAs are above their minimum standard.

Further, most scholarships at these types of schools require a GPA above the general admissions minimum. So, whereas a 2.0, whether it’s a weighted or unweighted GPA depending on the school, might qualify your child to apply, they may need a minimum of a 3.0 to qualify for financial scholarships. But remember: these are minimums, so the rigor of your child’s course load is still considered when the admissions teams evaluate transcripts.

With all this pressure placed on GPA, it should comfort you to know that most high schools that offer varying degrees of course difficulty to their students also calibrate their GPAs accordingly. This calibration, the weighted GPA, typically works on a 5.0 (rather than 4.0) scale.

Though not every high school calculates their weighted GPAs the same way, they do communicate their methods to colleges. If your child’s school has nontraditional approaches to grades or doesn’t have a standard practice for weighting, you can talk to your child’s guidance counselor and request that they provide as much information as possible in the counselor recommendation that they write for your child.

If your child took courses at a community college and wants to see that weighted accordingly on their transcript, this again should be brought to the guidance counselor’s attention, as it will likely need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis (unless your child’s school already has a defined system in place, which they would communicate to colleges).

Here’s the bottom line: regardless of whether your child’s GPA is weighted or unweighted, colleges will consider that number in the context of the coursework they took and that was available to them. In addition, it will be clear to admissions officers whether the GPA is weighted or unweighted. So, if your child’s high school only provides an unweighted GPA, don’t worry that this will look bad when compared with the weighted GPAs of other applicants.

## Calculating weighted and unweighted GPA

### How to calculate unweighted GPA

Let’s get into the nitty gritty and show you how to calculate each type of GPA, beginning with unweighted. Here are hypothetical course histories for two students who we’ll call Mario and Danielle. Remember that, with an unweighted GPA, an equal number of credits is associated with each class.

Mario
AP Biology: A
AP English: B
AP US History: A
AP Calculus: A

Danielle
Earth Sciences: A
American Literature: B
World History: A
Algebra: A

Now, let’s crunch the numbers:

• Mario gets a 4.0, 3.0, 4.0, and 4.0. Those numbers summed and divided by 4 (the number of courses) give Mario an unweighted GPA of 3.75.

• In an unweighted system, an A is an A and a B is a B (regardless of course difficulty,) so Danielle would end up with the same GPA of 3.75.

Both appear equal in this system, but they’re not. The college admissions officer will take note of Mario’s rigorous course load and weight it accordingly when making her decision.

### How to calculate weighted GPA

A typical weighted GPA works on a 5.0 scale, which allows for advanced courses (like those in AP and IB) to be scored a point higher than standard classes. So, using the same course list from above:

• Mario, who only had AP courses, gets a 5.0, 4.0, 5.0, and 5.0. Those scores summed and divided by 4 (the number of courses) gives him a weighted GPA of 4.75.

• Danielle, on the other hand, still gets a 4.0, 3.0, 4.0, and 4.0—and a 3.75 weighted GPA.

Mario wins, both numerically and in the eyes of the admissions officer.

However, let’s hypothesize that Mario did less well in his coursework than Danielle did because the courses he took were tougher. Let’s say Mario earned the following grades:

Mario
AP Biology: B
AP English: C
AP US History: B
AP Calculus: B

In a weighted GPA, Mario’s grades would result in a 3.75 GPA (4.0, 3.0, 4.0, and 4.0 summed and divided by 4), matching Danielle’s GPA despite having technically lower letter grades.

As you can see by this calculation, the weighted system plays in the favor of those students who challenged themselves with their coursework and rewards them with higher numerical contributions per letter to their overall GPA.

In some cases, schools might grade out of 100% rather than use a 4.0 or 5.0 scale. But no matter how your child’s grades are calculated, an admissions officer will consider course rigor.

### Which should your child report to colleges, a weighted or unweighted GPA?

Your child likely won’t get to choose which GPA colleges see. Your child’s high school has likely long established what kind of grading system they report to colleges. In the day of AP classes, most will use a weighted GPA. The ones that don’t, however, will communicate clearly with the college admissions offices that they’re using an unweighted system, so you don’t have much to worry about in either case.

If you do get to choose, it’s almost always in your favor to choose the weighted GPA because it reflects both the earned scores and course difficulty.

### What if your child’s high school doesn’t offer AP courses?

Let’s face it: not all high schools are created equally. Some high schools don’t offer AP or IB courses, and so their graduates—the best of whom boast a 4.0—will be forced to compete with other applicants with a 5.0.

Again, let’s take a step back and remind ourselves what it is that college admissions committees really care about: whether your child made the most of what was available to them.

If your child took the most challenging courses available, they’ve demonstrated drive and commitment to their education. A counselor or teacher letter of recommendation can help make that clear by placing your child’s accomplishments in the context of the school—for example, “Johnny is the first student to take every honors class our school has to offer.”

If your child is a freshman or sophomore planning for future coursework and you see that your high school doesn’t offer AP courses, look for offerings outside of the school setting. For example, can your child enroll in an online AP class or self-study for the AP exam? Can they take a class at the local community college?

Even if those alternatives won’t contribute to your child’s numerical GPA due to their high school’s unweighted system, admissions officers will appreciate that your child went above and beyond to further their education. It will go a long way in proving to the admissions committee that your child took the onus onto themselves to follow their passion beyond limitations. That’s the kind of grit and initiative an admissions officer wants to see.

### How are UC GPAs calculated?

If your child is applying to University of California schools, you may have encountered yet another type of GPA: the UC GPA. The UC GPA is considered a “weighted, capped GPA” because the formula adds extra points for honors-level courses yet limits the courses taken into account. Only “A-G” courses (i.e., academic or art classes) taken between the summer after 9th grade and the summer after 11th grade may be considered.

This can result in your child’s UC GPA differing from their weighted and unweighted GPAs. For example, if your child’s grades were poor freshman year but improved subsequently, their UC GPA might be higher than either their weighted or unweighted GPA.

On the other hand, if your child has loaded up on AP classes, their UC GPA might wind up being lower than their weighted GPA. That’s because the UC GPA limits the number of extra points that can be awarded for honors-level courses.

### What about colleges that recalculate GPAs?

Like UC schools, some colleges recalculate all applicants’ GPAs so they are on the same scale in order to make it easier to evaluate prospective students. Your child’s recalculated GPA might vary from school to school, since colleges with this practice may have differing formulas.

At Oberlin, admissions officers calculate an unweighted GPA based on core academic classes (i.e. no electives, vocational courses, or independent studies). University of Michigan does the same but uses the absolute value of grades (i.e., an A+, A, and A- are all a 4.0) earned between freshman and junior year. And some schools, like Stanford, recalculate GPAs without freshman year grades.

If a college recalculates GPAs, it’s likely that they also use the recalculated numbers when evaluating students for scholarships or when reporting their average incoming GPA. So, it’s worth researching the GPA policies of each school on your child’s college list.

## Final thoughts

GPA matters but it’s only a piece of the admissions puzzle. Encourage your child to take challenging courses that align with their strengths and interests. Complement those passions outside the classroom with a unique extracurricular profile, stellar personal statement, and thoughtful supplemental essays, and your child’s application will speak for itself, far beyond the limitations of that nagging little number posted at the top of your child’s transcript.

## FAQs

### What is the difference between weighted and unweighted GPA? ›

One is an unweighted GPA, which calculates your overall average grade out of 4.0, without regard to the difficulty of your coursework. The other is a weighted GPA, which reflects both grades and course levels.

Is it better to put my weighted or unweighted GPA? ›

Colleges don't have a preference on which you report and therefore, you should aim to choose the higher GPA and may give you a boost. For example, if your weighted GPA is 4.3, but your unweighted GPA is 3.75, you should report the 4.3. If you are unsure, you can always reach out and ask the college directly.

Which do colleges care about more weighted or unweighted GPA? ›

Colleges will look at either weighted or unweighted GPAs in your application. They do tend to prefer weighted, because it gives more information about the difficulty of your classes, but don't worry if your school uses an unweighted scale.

Do Ivy Leagues care more about weighted or unweighted GPA? ›

The academic expectations of Ivy League schools and other top universities are well above average; in fact, most Ivy League students graduate high school with a GPA above 4.0! This is because all the Ivy League universities take into account a weighted GPA over an unweighted one.

Do colleges care about weighted GPA? ›

Unweighted GPAs are reported on a 4.0 scale and consider all classes equal. Weighted GPAs are reported on a 5.0 scale and consider class difficulty when awarding grades. Colleges consider both when reading your application for admission.

Does Harvard look at weighted or unweighted GPA? ›

Last year, the reported average GPA of an admitted high school student at Harvard was a 4.04 out of 4.0, what we call a “weighted” GPA. However, unweighted GPAs are not very useful, because high schools weight GPAs differently. In truth, you need close to a 4.0 unweighted GPA to get into Harvard.

What are the benefits of a weighted GPA? ›

The addition of a weighted class can boost your 4.0 average to a 4.25. You will, in effect, be rewarded with a higher GPA for taking a harder class. Higher GPAs ultimately lead to higher class rankings and better college options.

What is a 3.5 weighted GPA unweighted? ›

A 3.5 unweighted GPA means that you've earned an A- average across all of your classes. You're well above the national average for GPA and should have a solid chance of acceptance at a wide variety of colleges. 76.4% of schools have an average GPA below a 3.5.

Is a 3.98 unweighted GPA good? ›

A 3.9 GPA stands for a Grade Point Average of 3.9 on a 4.0 scale. It indicates that you've earned a predominantly A average in your courses. A 3.9 GPA is considered a very good GPA and is an indicator of strong academic performance.

Why do colleges not care about weighted GPA? ›

No, universities do not take weighted GPAs because not all schools offer the same amount of AP courses, not all schools allow students to take them at the same years, and not all schools even offer AP/IB curriculum. That would make comparing an unweighted vs weighted GPA, unfair to some students.

### What is a 3.7 weighted GPA unweighted? ›

Let's take a look. A 3.7 GPA is equivalent to 92% or an A- letter grade. The national average GPA is 3.0 which means a 3.7 is well above average. A 3.7 GPA can be hard to raise as it's already so high, but if you're really determined you can make it happen.

Which grade GPA do colleges look at? ›

Your sophomore, junior, and senior years foretell your academic ability to succeed in college. Colleges will look at your sophomore grades, whether it's to see if you maintained an acceptable GPA or improved from the year before.

Does Harvard care about unweighted GPA? ›

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.

What weighted GPA do Ivy Leagues want? ›

What GPA do you need to get into an Ivy League school? Some Ivy Leagues choose not to release the average GPAs of their accepted students, but of those that do, the average weighted GPA for admitted students is around 4.0.

What is the lowest GPA to get into Ivy League? ›

For most of the Ivy League schools, they expect as close to a 4.0 unweighted GPA as possible. However, the actual unweighted GPAs of students admitted could vary, with many around the 3.5-4.0 range. GPA alone will not make or break a student's application — but it can play a pretty influential role.

What weighted GPA is required for most colleges? ›

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.

Do scholarships want weighted GPA? ›

For merit scholarships, they can use either the weighted or unweighted GPA. As with all things related to college, it depends on the school and it's important to research what each school does with GPA and/or test scores for merit scholarships.

What GPA does Harvard want weighted? ›

Average GPA: 4.18

(Most schools use a weighted GPA out of 4.0, though some report an unweighted GPA. With a GPA of 4.18, Harvard requires you to be at the top of your class. You'll need nearly straight A's in all your classes to compete with other applicants.

What was Mark Zuckerberg's GPA in high school? ›

Famous CEOs such as Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg did not attend college, and therefore did not have a GPA.

What is the easiest Ivy League school to get into? ›

Cornell is considered the "easiest" Ivy League to get into because it has the highest Ivy League acceptance rate.

### What is the average GPA for Harvard Phd? ›

Successful candidates typically have a grade point average of 3.6 or higher on a 4.0 scale, strong letters of recommendation from faculty or others with whom they have worked closely, and relevant prior research experience.

What does a weighted GPA counts more highly? ›

In a typical weighted GPA, AP or other advanced classes correspond to a higher number, so when they're averaged in with the less difficult classes, they contribute more strongly to the average, thereby pulling the overall GPA higher.

What is an impressive weighted GPA? ›

But in most cases, a weighted grade of 3.5 is considered good, and will at least allow you to apply to most major universities. A weighted grade of 4.0 or higher is very good and will be an impressive part of any application.

Why is my weighted GPA lower than my unweighted? ›

The main difference between the two is that weighted GPAs take into account the difficulty of your coursework and unweighted GPAs don't. Most unweighted GPAs are recorded on a scale of 0 to 4.0, and most weighted GPAs are recorded on a scale of 0 to 5.0.

How do you convert a weighted GPA to unweighted? ›

1. Multiply the numeric value of your grade by the number that course was worth.
2. Do this for all of your classes and add the numbers together.
3. Divide that number by how many classes you took.
4. The number you have at the end is your GPA.

What is the average GPA in America? ›

What is a good GPA? The average high school GPA in the US is 3.0, which also accounts for roughly 35% of students who don't end up applying for college. However, for college applicants, the average GPA is more likely between 3.5 and 4.0.

How do I know if my class rank is weighted or unweighted? ›

Unweighted class rank generally uses a standard 0 to 4.0 scale (though some schools opt for 0-100% grades), and every A contributes equally to rank no matter the difficulty of the course. Weighted class rank uses a 0 to 5.0 scale, in which your child's grades in honors, AP, or IB courses are weighted higher.

Can I get into Harvard with a 3.8 unweighted? ›

If you achieve a 3.8 GPA, your grades are likely above many of your peers. However, classing a 3.8 GPA as “good” depends on your chosen colleges and the difficulty of your courses. For example, Harvard's average GPA is 4.18, so you'll have to get straight As in nearly all of your classes to be a competitive applicant.

Can I get into Harvard with a 3.7 unweighted GPA? ›

Can I get into Harvard with a 3.7 GPA? Harvard does not have a minimum GPA requirement. However, Harvard is highly competitive, so it may be challenging to get in with a 3.7 GPA. The average GPA for entering Harvard students is 3.9.

Can I get into Yale with a 3.9 unweighted GPA? ›

Last year, the reported average high school GPA of an admitted student at Yale was a 4.19 out of 4.0, what we call a “weighted” GPA. However, unweighted GPAs are not very useful, because high schools weight GPAs differently. In truth, you need close to a 4.0 unweighted GPA to get into Yale.

### Do colleges care more about GPA or SAT? ›

Why is Your SAT Score More Important? There are several reasons that the SAT is a more valuable admissions tool than your GPA. Most obviously, it's because the SAT is a standardized test. While your GPA compares you to the rest of your school, the SAT compares you to the rest of the country.

Do colleges even care about GPA? ›

Most universities will consider your child's overall high school GPA, but will always consider their GPA and transcript together, meaning that an admissions officer will see if your child's grades have improved over time.

Do colleges look at your GPA for all four years? ›

Your cumulative GPA factors in the grades from all of high school. The cumulative GPA, along with your high school transcript of the classes you've taken and the grades you received in them, will be what colleges see. They are not as concerned with individual semesters.

What will an F do to a 3.7 GPA? ›

The failing grade will NOT calculate in your GPA, but it will still show on your transcript.

Can I get into MIT with a 3.7 unweighted GPA? ›

Aim high. Even though there are no official MIT GPA requirements, you should aim for a 4.17 weighted GPA. If you're already a junior or senior figuring out how to get into MIT and your GPA is lower than 4.17, know that scores close to the average MIT SAT scores or ACT scores can counterbalance a lower GPA.

Can I get into an Ivy League with a 3.7 unweighted GPA? ›

Yes, you can get into an Ivy League with a 3.7 GPA. Though, the lower your grade, the less your chances of getting into an Ivy League, but with a strong personal statement and a properly packaged application, you can get in with a grade even less than 3.7 GPA.

What grade does GPA start to matter? ›

Most colleges will ask for the fourth year, but they typically use the grades from the first three years to determine admission. Arguably, the most critical year for grades is the 3rd year, or junior year, because these grades are the most recent and will give colleges the best picture of a student's abilities.

Do colleges look at your senior year GPA? ›

The important thing to know is that colleges do look at your senior year grades. So, a weaker performance in senior year than in previous grades can impact your application and college admissions decisions.

What grades do most colleges look at? ›

Your first year and sophomore year affect your cumulative GPA, which is important to most colleges. However, a solid academic record in your junior year is likely to carry more importance with an admissions committee.

Does MIT care about unweighted GPA? ›

While MIT states that it does not have a minimum GPA threshold, it does state that most competitive applicants have unweighted GPAs of at least 3.5 with As important in math and science courses.

### What grades do Ivy Leagues look at? ›

Ivy League schools expect you to have outstanding grades, and it's practically a prerequisite to applying. Unless you've experienced an extreme illness or a life-changing experience, Ivy League schools expect you to have a good GPA of at least 4.0.

What is the lowest GPA accepted to Yale? ›

Visiting campus or attending an information session can be an excellent way to learn more about Yale, but it will not affect your chances of admission. What is the minimum GPA required for admission? We do not set a minimum GPA, nor do we attempt to re-weight GPA's to any standard other than what a school provides.

What is the average weighted GPA for MIT? ›

The average GPA at MIT is 4.17. (Most schools use a weighted GPA out of 4.0, though some report an unweighted GPA. This school did not officially report its average GPA, but we've estimated it here using data from over 1,000 schools.) With a GPA of 4.17, MIT requires you to be at the top of your class.

What weighted GPA does Yale look for? ›

If your school does weight GPAs, aim for a weighted GPA of 4.13 or higher to place yourself in a competitive spot for admission to Yale. It will also be important for you to get a great GPA in difficult courses.

Can I get into Harvard with 2 B's? ›

Does Harvard Accept B Students? Yes, just like I mentioned above, it's completely possible to get admitted into Harvard University with B grades.

Will one C ruin my chances of Ivy League? ›

While receiving a “C” will impact your GPA, it will certainly not ruin it. That “C” won't ruin your chances of getting into college either.

What's the hardest Ivy League to get into? ›

The “Big Three” Ivy League schools, plus Columbia, are likely the most selective. Harvard, Princeton, and Yale—known as the “Big Three”—are historically the three toughest Ivy League schools to get into.

What is the highest accepting Ivy League school? ›

Which Ivy League receives the most applications? Cornell University is the Ivy League school that receives the most applications each year, and it's not surprising since they also have the highest acceptance rate. They received 67,380 applications for their class of 2025.

Is a weighted GPA of 3.7 good? ›

A 3.7 GPA stands for a Grade Point Average of 3.7 on a 4.0 scale. It indicates that you've earned a predominantly A- average in your courses. A 3.7 GPA is considered to be a very good GPA and is often an indicator of strong academic performance.

Is a 4.2 weighted GPA good? ›

A 4.2 indicates that you are earning Bs and B+s in high level classes or As and A+s in mid level classes. This is a very good GPA, and it should give you a strong chance of admission at most colleges. 99.36% of schools have an average GPA below a 4.2. You can apply to colleges and have a good shot at getting admitted.

### Is a 3.5 weighted GPA good? ›

Is a 3.5 GPA Good? As a top-letter grade, a B+ or A- is considered "good." A 3.5 GPA means that a student consistently performs well on homework, tests, and projects in every subject, making it a desirable GPA across the board.

Is a 3.4 unweighted GPA good? ›

Is a 3.4 GPA Good? If you're wondering if a 3.4 GPA in high school is considered a good GPA, the answer is yes. A 3.4 is on the verge of an A- and demonstrates consistently good test-taking, studying, and research skills.

Is a 3.3 unweighted GPA bad? ›

Is a 3.3 GPA good? Assuming an unweighted GPA, this means that you've earned a solid B+ on average across all of your classes. A 3.3 GPA is above the national average for high school students, but it's not high enough to get you accepted to schools that are very selective.

Is a 3.9 GPA good enough for Ivy League? ›

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.

Can I raise my GPA from 3.3 to 3.5 in one semester? ›

If you have a 3.0 GPA and 15 credit hours, by earning straight A's during your next (15 credit) semester, you can bump your GPA to a 3.5. However, if you have already earned 60 credit hours and have a 3.0 GPA a straight-A semester will only bump your GPA to a 3.2.

Can I get into an Ivy League with a 3.5 GPA? ›

It may be difficult to get into an Ivy League school with a 3.5 GPA. Most Ivy League schools require that applicants have an average GPA of 4.0.

Can you go to Harvard with 3.4 GPA? ›

To get to Harvard your GPA has to be at least a 4.0 and even then if you get in your lucky but they require at least a 4.18 GPA only .

Can I get into UCLA with a 3.4 unweighted GPA? ›

UC has a specific way to calculate the grade point average (GPA) it requires for admission. California applicants must earn at least a 3.0 GPA and nonresidents must earn a minimum 3.4 GPA in all A-G or college-preparatory courses to meet this requirement.

Is 3.4 GPA enough for Harvard? ›

Is your high school GPA good enough for Harvard University? The average high school GPA for admitted students at Harvard University is 4.18 on a 4.0 scale.

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