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Do Colleges Use Weighted or Unweighted GPAs?

Most high school students will have both a weighted and an unweighted GPA. But what do colleges and scholarships care more about? This is an important question and valuable for students to understand as they navigate high school curriculum choices as well as the admissions and scholarship application process.

Related: What are my admissions chances? Start with a scattergram!

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Keep on reading to learn about the differences between weighted and unweighted GPA, how to calculate your GPA, and why this matters for you as a student!

See also: What GPA do you need to get a full scholarship?

What’s the difference between weighted and unweighted GPA?

Grade Point Average (GPA) is the normal metric that students use to assess their academic performance. However, one of the limitations of GPA is that it doesn’t consider the rigor of the classes that you have taken.

For instance, if your high school offers honors and AP courses, shouldn’t that be considered?

That’s why schools generally have two different GPAs for students: weighted and unweighted GPAs.

Weighted GPA

Weighted GPAs take the rigor of the classes that you have taken into account and then award additional points for students who have taken advanced classes. These advanced classes can include Advanced Placement (AP), honors, International Baccalaureate (IB), and accelerated classes (these specific designations will vary from school to school).

Unweighted GPA

Unweighted GPA is less complicated as it is just your ordinary GPA. An unweighted GPA will not give extra weight for any advanced classes that you might take.

See also: What is a good class rank?

How do you calculate your weighted GPA?

Now you might be wondering: “How do I calculate my weighted GPA?”

This process will vary from school to school, but we can give some examples of how certain schools calculate weighted GPAs. At high schools that calculate GPA on a 100 point scale, an advanced class may add 7 points to your grade (so a 90 in AP Chemistry would be weighted to a 97). 

At schools that calculate GPA on a 4.0 scale, an advanced class may add .3 points so the highest possible GPA is a 4.3 and not a 4.0.

The GPA formula used really depends on your high school, therefore, we suggest that you reach out to your guidance counselor or academic adviser for details.

How do you calculate your unweighted GPA?

Unweighted GPAs are much easier to calculate, because that is the regular GPA that you probably see on your transcript.  An unweighted GPA will simply be all of your classes and grades without the weighting.

Do colleges look at weighted or unweighted GPA?

On college and scholarship applications, you will likely find questions about your GPA. Ideally, these questions will specify whether they want you to include your weighted GPA or your unweighted GPA.

If the application does not specify which GPA, your default should be to list your weighted GPA as it is higher.

However, don’t forget that a GPA is not all that colleges and scholarships will care about. Selection committees will also be interested in the difficulty of your classes. After all, a 4.0 unweighted GPA is very different if one student earned this in all AP and honors classes and another student only took the minimum college prep curriculum.

See also: Ultimate Guide to Self-Studying for AP Exams

Some colleges may also recalculate your GPA themselves. When I worked in college admissions, part of our review process included the manual recalculation of every single student’s GPA. When doing this manual recalculation, we did not consider “non-academic” classes (the only exceptions were art and music classes at the AP or IB level). This meant that the only classes that were calculated into the GPA were English, history, social science, math, foreign language, and science.

However, every review process is going to be different, and it is not possible to assess how every college or scholarship will be processing your transcript.

Learn more: What are extracurricular activities and why do they matter?

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • Your weighted GPA gives you extra points for any advanced classes you have taken (including AP, honors, and IB classes)
  • Your unweighted GPA is simply the average of your grades
  • GPA scales vary from school to school and can range from a 4.0 scale to a 100 point scale
  • When you are choosing classes, try to push yourself to take the most challenging classes that you can handle. Obviously, you shouldn’t worry about this if your high school does not offer advanced classes
  • Ultimately, your GPA and class choice is evaluated in the context of the opportunities that your high school offers you
Key Takeaways

Frequently asked questions about weighted and unweighted GPAs

Which type of GPA is more common?

In general, unweighted GPAs are more often used for a straightforward snapshot of a student’s overall academic progress. On the other hand, weighted GPAs are more commonly used to calculate class rankings. Weighted GPAs are often used during the college admissions process as course difficulty is also factored in.

How do colleges and universities consider weighted and unweighted GPAs in admissions?

It really depends on the individual school. Some colleges and universities recalculate GPAs based on their own specific criteria, while others look at both the weighted and unweighted GPAs of student transcripts.

Is weighted or unweighted GPA better?

Again, it depends! Weighted GPAs are most beneficial for students who have taken challenging courses as long as they did well in those classes. On the other hand, an unweighted GPA means every class is treated the same, regardless of its difficulty level. So, say you get an  “A” in a regular class and an “A” in an Advanced Placement (AP) class, both would be valued the same.