How do I calculate my high school GPA and how important is it for my college applications?

01/11/202113 minute read
How do I calculate my high school GPA and how important is it for my college applications?

While there are many factors that determine your eligibility for admission to a top college, your GPA (Grade Point Average) is one of the most important. It is also why a high school GPA calculator, which converts your grades to both an unweighted and weighted GPA, can be incredibly helpful in the college application preparation process.

Admissions officers, who assess thousands of applicants each year, often use a student’s GPA as an early determining factor as to whether or not a student remains in contention for admission or not. While elements such as your extracurriculars and common application essays are important, your GPA is a key academic determinant made even more so by recent changes in the admissions process which have made standardized tests like the SAT or ACT optional.

The important thing to remember is, GPAs are not determined overnight! They are an accumulation of your grades over time and across multiple classes of different levels of difficulty. If you are aiming at top college admission (think the Ivy League, Stanford, MIT, and more!), then it’s important to maximize your chances of a perfect, or close to perfect, GPA as early as possible.

But first thing’s first! Let’s start by learning more about a GPA and how it is calculated!

What is a GPA?

A high school Grade Point Average (GPA) is a score, generally, on a 4.0 scale, that reflects your academic knowledge and performance in high school. It is determined by a combination of factors which include your:

  • Course grades in either a letter or percentage format
  • The number of credits allocated to each course
  • The type of course which may determine its difficulty - for example, was it a Regular, Honors, or AP class.

Your GPA may be unweighted or weighted - the unweighted GPA working to a set 4.0 scale and the weighted, which takes into account the difficulty of certain classes, seeing the grade move above the 4.0 limit.

In short, your unweighted GPA is an average of all your grades without taking into account the rigor of your various courses, while your weighted GPA takes into account whether or not your class was Regular, Honors or AP, IB Standard Level, IB Higher Level or Dual Enrollment for example.

While on the surface, this weighted/unweighted system makes the calculation process more complicated, it enables students taking more difficult classes to showcase their higher level of skill. It also provides college admissions officers with a more accurate depiction of the standard achieved across a selection of students.

What is a good GPA?

The average high school GPA in the US is 3.0, but if you are aiming at a top college such as an Ivy League university or other institutions such as Stanford or MIT, the average unweighted GPA of an admitted student is closer to a 4.0.

Let’s start by looking at the average unweighted GPA scores of students admitted to some of the most sought-after schools in the US:

Average GPA (unweighted) of Accepted Student at Top Schools
University (Top 25 - U.S. News National College Rankings)Average GPA (unweighted) of Accepted Student
Princeton University3.97
Harvard University3.97
Columbia University3.9
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)3.95
Yale University3.95
Stanford University3.96
University of Chicago3.85
University of Pennsylvania3.9
California Institute of Technology (Caltech)3.97
Johns Hopkins University3.74
Northwestern University3.93
Duke University 3.94
Dartmouth College3.9
Brown University 3.94
Vanderbilt University 3.76
Rice University3.89
Washington University in St. Louis3.89
Cornell University3.9
University of Notre Dame3.9
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)3.89
Emory University3.78
University of California, Berkeley 3.86
Georgetown University3.89
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor3.82
University of Southern California 3.79
Carnegie Mellon University3.69
University of Virginia3.69
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill3.65
Wake Forest University3.65
New York University3.69

Above and beyond your unweighted GPA score, the Ivy League and many other top US schools, which have admissions rates between 3-9%, use a student’s weighted GPA to determine a student’s performance across an array of classes of higher difficulty.

Let’s take a look at the average weighted GPA of some of the US’s most competitive schools:

Average GPA (weighted) of Accepted Student at Top Schools
University (Top 25 - U.S. News National College Rankings)Average 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

Why knowing your weighted and unweighted GPA is important

Knowing your unweighted and weighted GPA gives you a sense of where you currently stand in high school and how you can maximize your chances of admission to the school of your dreams.

By improving in your academics, and choosing classes with a higher level of difficulty, you may be able to increase your chances of admission to schools that value a student’s determination to challenge themselves in high school.

Let’s take AP classes as an example. Typically AP courses can see a student receive a +1.0 point boost when calculating their GPA! Moreover, students who start early on their AP classes, taking courses from an earlier age (eg: an ‘easier’ AP class in grades 9 or 10), have the advantage of both maximizing their chances of a high GPA and impressing admissions officers with their academic rigor, curiosity, and performance throughout the entirety of high school.

(If you are a student in grades 9 or 10 who is keen to start taking AP classes early and are unable to do so at your school, contact our own Crimson Global Academy

which offers world-class AP instruction based on ability and not grade.)

How to calculate your unweighted/weighted GPA from your high school grades

Now that you have learned the importance of calculating both your unweighted and weighted GPA, you can fill in our calculator to find out where you currently stand!

Filling in our calculator is easy. All you will need to enter is:

  • The name of our course
  • The grade you received
  • The number of credits associated with that course
  • The type of course you took (eg: Regular, Honors, AP, IB Standard Level, IB Higher Level, College Standard, Dual Enrollment)

Once this data is entered you will receive your weighted and unweighted GPA instantaneously!

Next steps!

If your sights are set on the Ivy League, or other top US universities, you can 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. You may want to look at these other blogs for more insights on GPA requirements for all the top universities:

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 Crimson can help you achieve your university dreams, schedule a free consultation with an Academic Advisor today.

Chat with an advisor about your GPA, goals for college admissions, and more!