Do colleges use weighted or unweighted GPAs?
Most high schools 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.
In this post we will be talking about:
- What is the difference between a weighted and an unweighted GPA?
- How do you calculate your weighted GPA?
- How do you calculate your unweighted GPA?
- Which GPA do colleges care more about?
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 take into account the rigor of the classes that you have taken.
For instance, if your high school offers honors and AP courses, shouldn’t that be taken into account?
That’s why schools generally have two different GPAs for students: weighted and unweighted GPAs.
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 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.
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.
Which GPA do colleges care about?
On many college and scholarship applications, you will come across questions about your GPA. Generally, they will be specific about which GPA they are asking for, but some may ask for both your weighted GPA and your unweighted GPA. All of this really depends on the specific scholarship or college.
Generally speaking, colleges and scholarships will care about both your academic achievement and 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.
Some colleges may also recalculate your GPA themselves. When I worked in college admissions, part of our review process included the recalculation of every single student’s GPA. One of the big things that we did was only consider “academic” classes in this new GPA so no electives were included (the only exceptions were art and music classes at the AP or IB level). These academic classes included anything that fell under English, history/social science, math, foreign languages, and science.
You should always be paying attention to whether a scholarship or college application is asking for your weighted or unweighted GPA.
Remember, many colleges and competitive academic scholarships are interested in the rigor of the classes that you take. The unweighted GPA can be a bit misleading since it does not take into account how much you have challenged yourself.
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.