GPA: Weighted vs. Unweighted

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Understanding Your Grades
What is the difference between a weighted GPA and an unweighted GPA?

First, let’s dive into what makes up a GPA. 

GPA = Grade Point Average 

Your GPA is the average of the grades you receive from all your classes. A semester GPA is the average of the grades you receive in a given semester, while your cumulative GPA is the total average of your grades throughout all of high school (or college). 

GPAs convert letter grades into a number using a conversion scale. Unweighted GPAs have a scale from 0 to 4.0 and weighted GPAs have a scale from 0 to 5.0. This scale makes it easier to calculate the average for a student’s grades.

Unweighted vs. Weighted

An Unweighted GPA assigns the same value for all classes, regardless of difficulty or level. A Weighted GPA, however, takes the difficulty of the class into context and adds more value to a mid-level (Honors) or upper-level (AP) class. This is why the weighted scale goes up to 5.0 (or higher in some cases). 

High schools vary over which type of GPA they use. If you’re unsure which type your school uses, you can ask one of your teachers or a guidance counselor. It may also say on your transcript.

GPA Conversion Charts

Conversion charts can differ from school to school, but below you can see a basic scale for how to convert letter grades into grade points. 

To calculate your semester GPA, you need to first convert each letter grade from your classes and add them together, then divide that number by the total number of classes you’re taking that semester.

This is only a basic conversion scale. For more detail, use an online GPA calculator or ask a guidance counselor for more information on how your school calculates GPAs.

Breaking Down the Grades
Unweighted GPA
Weighted GPA
College Admissions
Do colleges care more about weighted or unweighted GPAs?

Remember that your GPA is only one part of your college application. Colleges will look over your entire transcript to see the types of courses you took and how you did in them. If there is a significant dip in your GPA for any reason (ex: health issues, family issues, etc.), make a note of it on your application and explain the reason behind it. Colleges can oftentimes see the classes available at your high school, so if your school doesn’t offer Honors or AP classes, don’t worry- the college will know that was not an option for you. Lastly, a lower GPA with more difficult classes looks better than a 4.0 in regular-level classes. So if you are able to, sign up for challenging courses! Colleges will make note of the effort.

Colleges care more about the types of classes you’re taking than whether your school uses weighted or unweighted GPAs. Weighted GPAs are, of course, a better representation of a student’s accomplishments because it takes the difficulty of the class into context. However, if your school uses unweighted GPAs, colleges will still look at your course load to see what types of classes you took throughout high school. Colleges want to see a GPA that has increased over the years, as well as increased difficulty in courses. Furthermore, many colleges use their own conversion charts of recalculating (or “re-weighting”) GPAs in order to more easily compare GPAs across all applicants.

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