MAR 10, 2020 • 9 min read
For those of you that aren't familiar with the A high school GPA is a score, generally on a 4-point scale, that reflects your academic performance during your high school years and is only used in the US. While US universities don’t release official cut-off scores, they do have score expectations.
Universities may track your GPA back as far as the age of 14, so it's important to start your first year of high school strong when it comes to your grades. The main attribute universities look for is a steady improvement in your grades over the years. And, obviously, that you've consistently worked hard to get your scores.
Academics can account for up to 40% of your application, depending on which university you apply to. Of that 40%, no academic aspect is more important than your high school grade point average (GPA).
A GPA converts those letters or percentages into numbers, then averages those numbers together. Let’s say you’re taking five classes, and you have As in two of them and Bs in three of them. The two As will each translate to 4.0s, and the three Bs will each translate to 3.0s. If you add 4.0 + 4.0 + 3.0 + 3.0 + 3.0 and then divide by five, you’ll get a GPA of 3.4.
If your grades aren’t quite as simple as that, here’s a quick letter grade and percentile to GPA conversion chart to make things easier:
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
The average high school GPA in the USA is 3.0, which also accounts for the 35% or so of students who don’t end up applying for college. So anything above 3.0 is above average in the US.
Of college applicants, however, the average GPA is more likely to be closer to 3.5 to 4.0. If you’re aiming for a top university such as the Ivy Leagues, a 4.0 average – or close to – is expected.
To make things a little more complicated, GPAs on the traditional 4.0 scale are considered "unweighted", which can be problematic because it doesn’t take the difficulty levels of classes into account. For this reason, the most selective US universities prefer the “weighted” GPA system.
A weighted GPA provides a more accurate depiction of the standard achieved across a selection of students, and are measured on a 5-point scale.
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Calculating your GPA as an international student can be challenging. Because most countries operate on a different scaling system, it's often hard to know where you stand when it comes to your marks in school.
When applying to a US university, it's important to know how your grades line up to the university's standard of GPA.
By using the chart below, you can calculate what your GPA would be based on your country's grading scale.
Ivy League School Average GPA of Admitted Students
Brown University 4.05
Columbia University 4.13
Dartmouth College 4.01
Harvard University 4.10
University of Pennsylvania 4.04
Princeton University 3.90
Yale University 3.90
Cornell University 4.19
As you can see, the academic expectation of the Ivy League universities is well above average; only two universities fall below a GPA of 4.0.
This is because all the Ivy League universities take into account a weighted GPA over an unweighted one. If your interested in attending an Ivy, or any top university for that matter... challenge yourself with your course choice! Universities aren't looking for perfection. They're looking for students who are ready to push themselves and strive for success.
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