What GPA Do Colleges Look At?

Instructor: A Ray Tatum

A. Ray has taught junior high, high school and college English and has a master's degree in curriculum.

Depending on the type of school (junior college, state university or private school) you're applying to, each one is probably looking for something different when it comes to your grade point average. This article will help you understand the different types of GPAs and show you some other factors schools take into consideration when making admissions decisions.

Types of GPA

If you're wondering what GPA your high school sends to the colleges you apply to, keep in mind that there are two types of GPAs. Many schools have an unweighted grade point scale in which they assign points to all your class grades since freshman year and use them to determine your grade point average (GPA) on a 4.0 scale. A cumulative 4.0 GPA on an unweighted scale, for example, represents four years of making all As.

However, many schools have weighted grade point scales if they offer honors or advanced placement courses. This means if a student records an A in one of these classes, he or she will be awarded 5.0 grade points instead of a 4.0. Similarly, a B grade gets a 4.0, a C is worth 3.0 points, and so forth. Many schools have reverted to this scale for the purpose of deciding class rankings and valedictorian, since these GPAs allow students who took more challenging classes to rise to the top of their class.

What Are Colleges Looking At?

As far as admissions are concerned, colleges use unweighed grades almost exclusively. In fact, most admissions offices will recalculate your scores using their own algorithms and re-compute the weighted grades your high school sent them.

When it comes to scholarship applications, however, a weighted GPA might work in your favor if you have taken on a more challenging course load over the years by enrolling in honors classes or advanced placement courses and done well. Some schools definitely take your weighted GPA into consideration, while others may take either one and count the higher of the two when making a final decision.

Other Admissions Criteria

According to an article from The Princeton Review, good colleges are looking for a rigorous class schedule all four years. Honors and advanced placement courses look particularly good on your transcript. When colleges see those classes they are automatically impressed, especially if you did well in them. Schools also look at what electives you may have chosen as well as any extra-curricular activities.

Senior Year Matters

One misconception about the college admissions process is that senior grades don't count, since most students submit their applications in the first semester of their senior year. They think that colleges will only see their grades through junior year and make their admissions decisions based on this transcript. However, many selective colleges require you to submit senior grades. They might also admit students on a preliminary basis and make their final decisions when senior grades are counted.

Senior year is not a time to take throw away courses just because you finished all of your required work for graduation in your junior year. Colleges are looking for that well-rounded student who kept his or her nose to the grind all four years.

Additional Resources

Below are some courses you might find helpful if you're trying to figure out which schools to apply to, raise your grades, or keep your GPA where it needs to be.

Choosing the right college can make all the difference. How to Choose a College can help you make an educated decision about where to go and why. GPA is important at every college, which one is best for you is just as important and needs equal thought.

High school courses from English and math to honors and advanced placement are available here. These classes feature video lessons supported by transcripts, quizzes, worksheets, and practice tests. Also included is access to real instructors, not FAQs with general answers.

Even before you are in college, this College Success course can help you balance external stressors, develop proper study habits, and stay motivated. GPA is more important than many people may say. Don't take a chance. Stay on top of your coursework beginning in freshman year and use the sources above to help you stick it out.

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

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Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

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