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What is a Good High School GPA For Top Universities

23 MAR 2021

Your Grade Point Average, or GPA, is one of the first criteria US college admissions officers will use to determine the strength of your candidacy. At the most competitive universities, like those in the Ivy League, the average admit has a perfect GPA! It takes years to build your GPA, so it’s vital to understand its importance early in your high school career.

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What is GPA?

A high school Grade Point Average (GPA) is a score, generally on a 4-point scale, that reflects your academic performance in high school and is mostly used in the United States. While US universities don’t release official GPA criteria, they do have score expectations and may eliminate candidates with low GPAs before even looking at the rest of their application!

Since academics can account for up to 40% of your application, depending on which universities you apply to, good grades are critical — especially at the most competitive schools. And no academic component is more important than your high school GPA.

A good GPA is indicative of a dedicated, well rounded student who is able to perform in a classroom environment. 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 and continuously work to strengthen them. The main attribute universities look for is steady improvement over the years and evidence that you've consistently worked hard to get top marks!


Need help reaching GPA requirements for top US Universities? Crimson Education is the world’s leading college admissions company in the world! We engage the world’s best teachers and tutors in specific curricula to help students reach their high school and university admissions goals. Book a free consultation to learn more about our Online Tutoring program.

What is a good GPA?

The average high school GPA in the US is 3.0, which also accounts for the roughly 35% of students who don’t end up applying for college.

Of college applicants, however, the average GPA is more likely to be between 3.5 and 4.0. If you’re aiming for a top university such as one in the Ivy League, Stanford, MIT, or others of the same caliber, a 4.0 GPA — or close to it — is expected.

However, to make things a bit more complicated, GPAs on the traditional 4.0 scale are considered ‘unweighted’ — which can be a disadvantage as it doesn’t take the difficulty of different classes into account.

For this reason, the most selective US universities prefer the ‘weighted’ GPA system, which provides a more accurate depiction of the standard achieved across a selection of students, and is measured on a 5-point scale.

Given admission rates at the most selective universities tend to fall in the single-digit range and GPAs for admitted students hover around 4.0, taking more difficult classes is essential to bolster your own GPA and get into universities like Harvard, Yale or similarly competitive institutions.

What is a good GPA for Ivy League Schools and other top universities?

The academic expectations of Ivy League schools and other top universities is 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.

Average GPA (weighted) of Accepted Student at Top Schools
UniversityAverage GPA (weighted) of Accepted Student
Princeton University4.14
Harvard University4.15
Columbia University4.14
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)4.15
Yale University4.10
Stanford University4.13
Cornell University4.05
University of Pennsylvania4.10
Brown University4.05
Dartmouth College4.07

How to Calculate Your GPA as a New Zealand Student

Calculating your GPA as an international student can be challenging as most countries operate on a different scaling system, so it can be difficult to know where you stand in comparison.

Nonetheless, when applying to a US university, it's important to know how your grades line up with the university's expectations. You can use our free NCEA to GPA Calculator to find out how your NCEA grades lines up!

For a more in-depth understanding of how your grades stack up, you may also want to speak with a Crimson Academic Advisor to learn what your grades and test scores mean to top universities. They can even help you identify the best schools to apply to based on your academic candidacy and other important factors!

GPA Conversion Chart
LetterPercentageGPA
A+97-1004.0
A93-964.0
A-90-923.7
B+87-893.7
B83-863.0
B-80-822.7
C+77-792.3
C73-762.0
C-70-721.7
D+67-691.3
D65-661.0
FBelow 650.0

How can I Improve my GPA?

Top universities don’t expect you to have good grades from the get go. They want to see growth ambition and drive. The simple answer is to do well in school and ace all your exams but this is often difficult for some students. To help you improve your GPA we’ve created a free guide to help you ace your academics for top US Universities!

Acing Academics Ebook Blog

For students who need a little extra help, Crimson offers online tutoring to our students. We engage the world’s best teachers and tutors to help students get good grades and reach their university admission goals. We offer three tutoring programs in an easy-to-order offering. They include tutoring in:

  • AP (Advanced Placement) & IB (International Baccalaureate)
  • SAT, ACT, and SAT II
  • Bespoke Curriculum/Subject Tutoring

Next Steps

If your sights are set on the Ivy League, or any top university for that matter... challenge yourself with your course choices! Universities aren't looking for perfection — they're looking for students who demonstrate that they’ve challenged themselves academically and will continue to do so after high school.

Looking to gain admission to a world-leading university, but not sure where to start? Crimson Education has successfully helped hundreds of students gain admission to top US and UK universities, providing expert guidance on academics, testing, extracurriculars, essay writing and more. To learn more about how our Admissions Support Program can help you achieve your university dreams, schedule a free consultation with an Academic Advisor today.

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