What Does a Weighted GPA Mean?

August 26, 2023
By AdmissionSight
View of a female student studying on a table.

What Does a Weighted GPA Mean?

When preparing for college, both students and their parents might be curious about the grade point average (GPA), specifically what a weighted GPA is and how it differs from a standard GPA. Understanding what a weighted grade point average entails and how it’s calculated can help you choose the most suitable high school courses and enhance your chances of admission to your desired institution. This article will explain everything you need to know about what a weighted GPA means, including how to calculate it and an example of its application.

What is a GPA?

When discussing Weighted vs. Unweighted GPA, it’s essential first to understand what GPA is. GPA stands for Grade Point Average, which is an average of your overall academic performance across all classes. It measures your academic success. Typically, on the prevalent A-F grading scale in the United States, GPAs range from 1.0 to 4.0, with a higher Grade Point Average indicating better achievement. However, exceptions exist.

It’s important to note that the scale for Grade Point Average, especially in the context of weighted vs. unweighted GPA, can vary. Moreover, grading scales differ, especially outside of the United States. These variations from one institution or region to another should be taken into consideration.

Stacked books placed on a teachers table.

Your school, universities, admissions committees, scholarship committees, and many other similar organizations and institutions commonly utilize your grade point average (GPA) as the primary measure of your academic accomplishment in courses. Because of this, it plays a significant role in the process of applying to colleges, and you should do everything in your power (within reasonable and acceptable boundaries, of course) to ensure that it is as high as possible to maximize your chances of being accepted to college and receiving a scholarship.

What is a Weighted GPA?

Since we already have a clear understanding of the significance of your GPA, let’s delve into the concept of a weighted GPA. A weighted grade point average (GPA) aims to reflect both your performance in each class and the overall rigor of the courses you took. However, a challenge with weighted GPAs is that their calculation methods vary from one high school to another.

The most common method for calculating a student’s GPA assigns an additional grade point for each grade earned in an advanced-level course, as shown in the table below. Still, even though the 5.0 scale is prevalent, it’s not uncommon for high schools to employ alternative grading systems, such as those based on 4.5, 6.0, 9.0, or 10.0 points for the grade point average.

Letter Grade Percent Grade Honors/AP Level GP Standard Level GP
A+ 97-100 5.3 4.0
A 93-96 5.0 4.0
A- 90-92 4.7 3.7
B+ 87-89 4.3 3.3
B 83-86 4.0 3.0
B- 80-82 3.7 2.7
C+ 77-79 3.3 2.3
C 73-76 3.0 2.0
C- 70-72 2.7 1.7
D+ 67-69 2.3 1.3
D 65-66 2.0 1.0
E/F Below 65 0.0 0.0

If the GPA is calculated using a weighted scale, then a student who earns an A will always have a GPA that is higher than 4.0, regardless of the maximum possible score. Colleges will know that a high school employs a weighted grade point average scale if the student’s cumulative grade point average is greater than 4.0. This is because a figure of this magnitude is not feasible under an unweighted system.

What is a Good Weighted GPA?

It is quite challenging to provide an accurate response to that question due to the fact that different high schools utilize different grading scales for their grade point averages (GPA) and also because different high schools offer varying levels of classes.

In general, a student who wants to attend one of the most prestigious schools should strive to have a grade point average that is as close to perfect as they can make it. In other words, if the grade point average scale is out of 4.5, they should have a 4.4 or higher; if the scale is out of 5.0, they should have a 4.9 or higher; and so on. As is the case with GPAs that are not weighted, admissions officers seek strong performance in more advanced levels of study.

Side view of students talking in front of a laptop.

Because different high schools may assign varying weights to honors courses or may place limits on the number of Advanced Placement courses that a student can take, weighted grade point averages (GPAs) might be difficult to comprehend at times. You can always go to your guidance counselor or another school official if you have any queries regarding the methodology behind the computation of your high school’s weighted grade point average (GPA).

Why Does Your Weighted GPA Matter?

Your weighted grade point average is essential to colleges since it conveys a lot of information about your readiness and aptitude to take on more challenging coursework. Your weighted GPA matters because it will be evaluated differently by colleges depending on whether it is a weighted or unweighted GPA. While applying to colleges, having a high-weighted grade point average can make you a more competitive candidate.

A student would have a 4.0 grade point average, for instance, if they had taken all standard-level courses and achieved an A in each subject. However, if they had taken all of the honors or advanced-level courses and earned a B in each course, they would also have a 4.0 grade point average.

View of two students talking in a library.

Even though the grades of the student who took more challenging courses were slightly lower, the college is likely to view the student willing to take more challenging courses more favorably than the student who took all normal-level courses in this scenario. This is the case even though the student took all normal-level courses.

Which Do Colleges Look at? Weighted or Unweighted

First and foremost, you should be aware that weighted grade point averages do not easily deceive admissions committees. Admissions officers know whether they are looking at an unweighted or a weighted GPA, because of school reports, conversations with guidance counselors, and prior knowledge of the applicant’s high school.

They will only compare GPAs that are the same regardless of whether they are weighted or unweighted. If your institution’s only grade point average is an unweighted one, then you don’t need to be concerned that your 3.9 will make you look worse than someone with a 4.3-weighted GPA.

View of a female student studying in her room.

In point of fact, to get around this, many educational institutions recalculate the GPAs of all applicants to ensure that everyone begins from the same point: an unweighted GPA based on simply the applicant’s major courses (i.e., science, math, English, history, and foreign language).

This means that non-academic classes such as physical education will not be included in their overall academic rating. When admissions committees do this, it makes it much simpler to compare the applicants’ GPAs before moving on to a more in-depth analysis of the number of tough courses the student took.

Another item that colleges may inquire about is your class rank, which is determined by your grade point average (GPA). There was a time when college admissions heavily considered a student’s class rank, but that practice has since mostly been phased away. Educators widely believe that rankings encourage cutthroat rivalry among students, even though accurate enumeration does not carry the same weight with universities as overall academic success.

As a result of this, many secondary schools now report students’ deciles rather than their ranks, while others do not provide any comparative measures between their pupils at all. Rankings that do not take into account students’ efforts in more challenging classes are not as accurate as rankings that do take into account students’ efforts in more difficult classes.

Additionally, you should be aware that most colleges do not have official grade point average standards for admission. This is due to the fact that students’ grades and high schools’ grades can differ significantly from one another. The grade point average is used by college admissions officers as a basis for beginning their evaluation of a student’s overall academic achievement; however, it is not the only criterion that is taken into consideration. They will always try to put those grades in the context of your whole profile.

How Colleges Use Of Different GPAs Could Impact You?

As was said earlier, a high unweighted grade point average, as well as a high weighted grade point average, are highly valued by colleges, particularly extremely prestigious colleges such as those in the Ivy League. How colleges use different GPAs could impact you a lot. As a consequence of this, you should make it a point to push yourself as much as you possibly can (within the bounds of reasonableness, of course), in order to guarantee that you have a high weighted and high unweighted GPA (for the colleges and universities that you hope to attend), which demonstrates that you are capable of succeeding in a demanding schedule.

Female student using a laptop while studying on her desk.

However, since you are the one who is most familiar with your capabilities, you should not push yourself to the point where it interferes with your academic achievement or even the letter grade that is ultimately determined. Participate in the maximum number of difficult classes that you believe you can handle while still achieving a high level of accomplishment.

Don’t be afraid to push yourself, but don’t take on such a high course load with extremely challenging classes that you won’t be able to pass them even if you put in a lot of effort. That is normally an excellent blueprint to follow in order to have a successful academic performance as well as a high unweighted and high-weighted GPA; nevertheless, the bottom line is that every student and every circumstance is different, and what works for one student may not work for another student.

Six Tips to Improve Your GPA

As was discussed earlier, a high GPA is extremely important to colleges, and this applies to both the unweighted and weighted versions. Even while the majority of schools won’t have a minimum GPA requirement, raising both of those GPAs will almost certainly improve your chances of acceptance at many different colleges and universities. In the following part of our essay, we will examine six tips to improve your GPA in a way colleges care about and, as a result, your chances of being accepted into the college of your choice.

Never Skip Classes

When striving to enhance your grade point average, one of the most important things to keep in mind is that you should never skip classes (of course, with the exception of times when there are genuine emergencies).

In many of the classes you take in high school, your teachers will go over a significant percentage of the material that will be on tests and in assignments with you in the classroom. You will be able to receive all of this knowledge by attending the class, which will also save you time when it comes to studying, revising, and looking up class notes for sessions that you may miss later on.

Participate In Class

Simply showing up to class can be beneficial, but actively participating in lessons while also maintaining regular attendance can be even more beneficial. Not only does participating help you build a good rapport with your teacher and classmates, and it may come with the potential to come with participation or extra credit points (depending on your teacher and class, of course), but it also engages you more with the material.

Participation may come with the potential to come with participation or extra credit points (depending on your teacher and class). You will usually learn more effectively and remember more information if you interact and engage directly with the material being presented to you.

Put Extra Effort Into Assignments

Each and every assignment is essential. Not only will going the extra mile, writing the additional page (where it is appropriate), and doing the extra research help you improve your grade on the assignment at hand, but it will also help you prepare for assignments and examinations in the future.

Participate in Group Studies

Studying on one’s own can be beneficial to some students (everyone is different, and you should do what works best for you). Still, many other students find that participating in study groups is more beneficial. If it is allowed, the sharing of information and ideas can be a useful tool for gaining exposure to new points of view on the topic at hand, re-visiting material that you might have skipped over, and developing essential connections with other students.

Make Use of Past Tests

Some lecturers will give students access to previously administered tests to better prepare for the exams that will be given during the course. Because these are frequently very close to the tests that you will actually encounter in the course, both in terms of the information that they cover and the structure that they follow, it is highly recommended that you make the most of these if they are made available to you.

Talk It Over With A Tutor

Working with an expert can be the most effective way to study information that you are having difficulty with (or even the most effective way to master material that you already know reasonably well – there is always room for improvement). Finding a knowledgeable and competent tutor in your desired subject areas can make a significant impact on both the unweighted and weighted grade point averages of a student.

Want to learn more about how a weighted GPA contributes to your success in admissions? You’ve come to the right place. At AdmissionSight, we have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process.

AdmissionSight can help you put your best foot forward when applying to college this fall. Contact us today for more information on our services.


College Admissions

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up now to receive insights on
how to navigate the college admissions process.