What is the most important piece of your college application?

We know from the schools that submit admission data to us every year that the most important factors to college admission are:

calculate my GPA
  1. high school GPA
  2. rigor of high school curriculum

(Standardized test scores are a close third.)

GPA Scale

Your grade point average (GPA) is the sum of all your course grades throughout your high school career divided by the total number of credits. Most high schools (and colleges) report grades on a 4.0 scale. The top grade, an A, equals a 4.0. Here’s a simple chart that shows how to convert your letter grades to the 4.0 scale.

Letter GradeGrade PointsNumerical Grade
A+ 4.0 97–100
A 4.0 94–96
A- 3.7 90–93
B+ 3.3 87–89
B 3.0 84–86
B- 2.7 80–83
C+ 2.3 77–79
C 2.0 74–76
C- 1.7 70–73
D+ 1.3 67–69
D 1.0 64–66
D- 0.7 60–63
F 0.0 0–59

Weighted vs. Unweighted GPA

An unweighted GPA is the average of all your grades on the 4.0 scale above.

Some high schools use a weighted GPA scale, which gives greater “weight" (more points) to grades in accelerated courses like Honors Biology or AP French. So, on a weighted grade scale, a “B” in an AP class might be more like a 3.3 instead of a 3.0.

What is a Good GPA?

It depends on where you want to go to college. Check out the GPA ranges for accepted students to the schools on your wishlist, and see how your grades compare. Use our college search to research schools that interest you or grab a copy of our book Best 381 Colleges.

Colleges will also consider the rigor of your high school schedule. Did you take Honors and AP courses when they were available? Enroll in your high school’s IB program? Besides doing well in your courses, colleges want to see that you are challenging yourself academically.

Great Grades and Financial Aid

Your GPA will help you get in, but in these budget-tight times, great grades can also translate directly into dollars and cents. As Kal Chaney, author of our book Paying for College Without Going Broke  attests, “Every tenth of a point a student raises her high school GPA can save her thousands of dollars in student loans she won’t have to pay back later.”

Even at schools where students are awarded aid based only on their financial need, applicants with high academic achievement get preferential packaging: Their award packages have a higher percentage of grants and a lower percentage of loans. Some colleges offer full scholarships for great GPAs. There are other schools (more and more in recent years) that give out large merit-based grants, irrespective of need. These grants are not necessarily just for 4.0 students. We know of several colleges that award merit-based grants for students with B averages.

Get 'Em Up and Keep 'Em Up

Senioritis is real, but colleges keep an eye on your grades even after you’ve been accepted. Plus, if you keep your grades up you could boost your chances of  getting off the waitlist

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