More than likely, you’ve heard the term “GPA” tossed around at school, especially if you’re college-bound sooner than later. You probably even know that it stands for “grade point average,” and that it plays a huge role in your college application. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about GPAs: **what a GPA is, how to calculate your GPA, and most importantly, understanding your GPA and academic performance compared to other students**. We’ve also created a free, downloadable GPA calculator worksheet so you can easily find your own GPA.

The better you understand your GPA—including how individual grades impact it—the better off you’ll be as you consider which colleges are right for you and start your application process.

## Table of Contents

- What is a GPA?
- How Do I Calculate My GPA?
- How Do I Calculate My Cumulative GPA?
- How Do I Calculate My GPA That Gets Submitted to Colleges?
- What is the Difference Between an Unweighted and Weighted GPA?
- What is a Good GPA?
- What GPA Do I Need to Get Into College?
- If I’m Overseas, Are My Grades Calculated the Same Way?
- Final Thoughts on How to Calculate Your GPA

## What is a GPA?

Again, your GPA is your “grade point average,” and it is the calculated average of the grades you earn in school expressed on a numeric decimal scale of 0-4.0 or 0-5.0.

Each one of your final letter grades for a course is recorded as a letter grade (e.g. B+ in Algebra) or as a specific percent (e.g. 92% in English Literature). These grades are each converted into a number and then averaged together to come up with your GPA.

You receive a GPA at the culmination of every semester (not every quarter) that you attend high school based on the grades you earned in each of the classes you took.

Over the course of high school, starting with first semester freshman year, you’ll earn a **cumulative GPA**, which is an ongoing average of all of your semester grades earned so far.

Your high school creates a transcript for you which will be sent to any colleges you apply to. Your transcript is a record of all of the classes you’ve taken and the grades you’ve received in them—and presents a cumulative GPA.

In short, the sum of your performance in all of your classes across the board is reflected in your GPA.

## How Do I Calculate My GPA?

You can use a handy dandy GPA calculator to crunch the numbers quickly. But remember, it’s also important that you understand how to calculate GPA if you want to understand the impact of a particular course grade on your overall GPA.

Before we move on, please note that the following explanation reflects how to calculate an unweighted GPA. This means that the GPA only reflects the average of grades earned in each class, without factoring in the difficulty of the class. Unweighted GPAs are calculated on a scale of 0-4.0. (We’ll discuss weighted GPAs in a bit more detail later.)

### Step 1: Convert Each Final Grade to a Decimal

First thing’s first: Determine the decimal expression of each of your course grades. You can use this chart to determine which final letter grades correspond to which decimal values:

Letter Grade | Percentile | GPA |
---|---|---|

A+ | 97-100 | 4.0 |

A | 93-96 | 4.0 |

A- | 90-92 | 3.7 |

B+ | 87-89 | 3.3 |

B | 83-86 | 3.0 |

B- | 80-82 | 2.7 |

C+ | 77-79 | 2.3 |

C | 73-76 | 2.0 |

C- | 70-72 | 1.7 |

D+ | 67-69 | 1.3 |

D | 65-66 | 1.0 |

F | Below 65 | 0.0 |

### Step 2: Use the GPA Calculator Formula

The GPA formula is as follows:

**Sum of all decimal grades for all classes / Total number of classes you’ve taken**

For example, perhaps at the end of your freshman year you took 10 classes total. The sum of all 10 final grades (as decimal values, per the chart above) is 35. Using the GPA calculator, divide 35 by 10 classes to find your GPA.

**35 / 10 = 3.5 GPA**

## How Do I Calculate My Cumulative GPA?

If you understand the simple GPA calculator approach above, then calculating your cumulative GPA is a breeze! It just involves a few more steps. The best way to demonstrate how to calculate a cumulative GPA is to take a look at an example student’s transcript information.

### Step 1: Gather Transcript Information

Let’s say the following are Maria’s grades for all four years of high school:

9th Grade | 10th Grade | 11th Grade | 12th Grade |
---|---|---|---|

Semester 1, Freshman English: B | Semester 1, American Literature: A | Semester 1, British Literature: B- | Semester 1, World Literature: A- |

Semester 1, Spanish 1: B+ | Semester 1, Spanish 2: B | Semester 1, Spanish 3: A- | Semester 1, Spanish 4: A |

Semester 1, Science Investigations: B | Semester 1, Biology: A | Semester 1, Chemistry: B+ | Semester 1, Physics: B |

Semester 1, World History: B- | Semester 1 U.S. History: A | Semester 1, Psychology: B- | Semester 1, Art History: A |

Semester 1, Algebra 1: A | Semester 1, Algebra 2: A- | Semester 1, Geometry: A | Semester 1, Statistics: B |

Semester 2, Freshman English: B | Semester 2, American Literature: B | Semester 2, British Literature: B+ | Semester 2, World Literature: A |

Semester 2, Spanish 1: A | Semester 2, Spanish 2: A | Semester 2, Spanish 3: A | Semester 2, Spanish 4: A |

Semester 2, Science Investigations: B | Semester 2, Biology: B- | Semester 2, Chemistry: C+ | Semester 2, Physics: C+ |

Semester 2, World History: A | Semester 2, American Literature: B | Semester 2, Psychology: B | Semester 2, Art History: A |

Semester 2, Algebra 1: A | Semester 2, Algebra 2: A | Semester 2, Geometry: A | Semester 2, Statistics: B |

### Step 2: Convert All Grades Into Numbers

Just like we did before, we’re going to convert the grades into decimals, except this time we’re going to do it with *all* of Maria’s grades, for all four years. Using the chart from earlier, this is how Maria’s grades would shake out:

9th Grade | 10th Grade | 11th Grade | 12th Grade |
---|---|---|---|

3.0 | 4.0 | 2.7 | 3.7 |

3.3 | 3.0 | 3.7 | 4.0 |

3.0 | 4.0 | 3.3 | 2.7 |

2.7 | 4.0 | 2.7 | 4.0 |

4.0 | 3.7 | 4.0 | 3.0 |

3.0 | 3.0 | 3.3 | 4.0 |

3.7 | 4.0 | 4.0 | 4.0 |

3.0 | 2.7 | 2.3 | 2.3 |

4.0 | 3.0 | 3.0 | 4.0 |

3.7 | 4.0 | 4.0 | 3.0 |

Sum: 33.4 | Sum: 35.4 | Sum: 33 | Sum: 34.7 |

The sum of all grades for all four years is 33.4 + 35.4 + 33 + 34.7 = 136.5.

### Step 3: Calculate Your GPA for Each Year

For each year, divide the sum of the decimal grades by the number of classes you took that year. In this case, Maria took 10 classes each year. However, the number of classes could definitely vary by year, which is why we don’t take the average of the sum of all classes, but actually do so year-by-year.

9th Grade:

33.4 / 10 = 3.34 GPA as a freshman

10th Grade:

35.4 / 10 = 3.54 GPA as a sophomore

11th Grade:

33 / 10 = 3.3 GPA as a junior

12th Grade:

34.7 /10 = 3.47 GPA as a senior

### Step 4: Use the GPA Formula to Calculate Your Cumulative GPA

If you recall from earlier, the GPA formula is:

**Sum of all added decimal grades for all classes / Total number of classes you’ve taken**

So in Maria’s case, the total of all her decimal grades for four years is 136.5, and Maria took 40 classes total.

So, 136.5 / 40 = 3.41. **Maria’s cumulative GPA for all four years of high school is 3.41.**

## How Do I Calculate My GPA That Gets Submitted to Colleges?

Now, here’s a detail that throws a slight loop in the grade calculator process: college applications with transcripts typically go out at the beginning of your senior year, which means that colleges won’t see your senior year grades…yet.

In fact, this brings up two important side notes worth mentioning:

**The importance of your junior year grades**

The most recent grades a college will see when you submit an application are from your 11th grade classes, so this is when you really want to push yourself to do well. This is also the last chance to significantly boost your GPA before transcripts go out if you’re not entirely thrilled with your grades in 9th and 10th grade.

**The importance of your senior year grades**

If you’re following the standard college application schedule and sending out your transcripts before your final senior grades are entered, you may think this means that your senior grades don’t inform your acceptance into college. But keep in mind that nearly all colleges issue a contingency statement in their acceptance letters, requiring you to maintain the same level of academic performance that got you accepted. So even if the senioritis is strong, make sure not to slack off during your last two semesters! They can absolutely impact your college acceptance.

Okay, so back to the grade calculator. You may have already guessed that how to calculate GPA numbers that are submitted to colleges is identical to how you calculate your cumulative GPA—you just leave off senior year.

So if we return to our last example, using Maria’s transcript, it would look something like this:

**101.8 (decimal totals for 9th, 10th, and 11th grade) / 30 classes = 3.39 GPA**

So Maria’s GPA submitted to colleges would be 3.39.

## What is the Difference Between an Unweighted and Weighted GPA?

As mentioned earlier, an unweighted GPA converts all final grades on a scale from 0-4.0. A weighted GPA, on the other hand, converts all final grades on a scale from 0-5.0, taking into consideration the difficulty of the courses.

The key difference is that grades earned in more challenging courses—including honors, IB, and AP—receive a higher numerical value, which can potentially raise a student’s overall GPA. A weighted scale is essentially put in place to reward students who do well in markedly challenging courses.

Weighted GPAs are calculated the same way unweighted ones are, and on a weighted scale, all letter grades are still turned into numerical values expressed as decimals. The difference is that grades earned in honors and AP or IB courses are assigned different values, which are as follows:

Letter Grade | Percentile | Honors GPA | AP/IB GPA |
---|---|---|---|

A+ | 97-100 | 4.5 | 5.0 |

A | 93-96 | 4.5 | 5.0 |

A- | 90-92 | 4.2 | 4.7 |

B+ | 87-89 | 3.8 | 4.3 |

B | 83-86 | 3.5 | 4.0 |

B- | 80-82 | 3.2 | 3.7 |

C+ | 77-79 | 2.8 | 3.3 |

C | 73-76 | 2.5 | 3.0 |

C- | 70-72 | 2.2 | 2.7 |

D+ | 67-69 | 1.8 | 2.3 |

D | 65-66 | 1.5 | 2.0 |

F | Below 65 | 0.0 | 0.0 |

Here’s an example to illustrate how grade values vary on weighted versus unweighted scales:

Let’s say Caitlin takes a regular-level biology course and earns an “A,” which is worth 4.0 on an unweighted scale. Now let’s say that her friend Ted takes an honors biology course and earns an “A” in it as well. On an unweighted scale, Ted would also receive a 4.0 for the course, since both courses convert the same, even though the course is harder.

But on a weighted scale, Caitlin would still earn the 4.0 and Ted would earn a 4.5 for earning an “A” on a weighted scale.

Now suppose that another peer, Dana, takes an AP biology course and also earns an “A” in the course. On an unweighted scale she’d earn a 4.0, but on a weighted scale she’d earn a 5.0.

### How to Calculate GPA: Unweighted to Weighted

If you’re looking to convert an unweighted GPA to a weighted GPA to account for any honors, AP, or IB classes taken, follow these three easy grade calculator steps:

- Find your unweighted GPA per the instructions provided earlier, and multiply it by the number of classes taken.
- Then add .5 to the total for each honors course taken, and 1.0 for each AP or IB course taken.
- Finally, divide the results by the number of courses taken and this is your weighted GPA!

## What is a Good GPA?

Now that you understand what a GPA is and how to use a grade calculator to find your GPA, let’s talk about how your GPA impacts your chances of getting into college.

Time after time, students ask, “What is a good GPA?” and the problem with that question is that “good” is a somewhat subjective term. “Good” varies based on a variety of factors: the number and difficulty of classes you’ve taken, which colleges you’re considering, etc.

Also, keep in mind that your GPA is only one of many elements in your college application, and that the colleges admissions process is complex, so you can’t hang your hat on your GPA alone. To this point, many students also ask whether GPA or standardized test scores are more important, and again, it really just all depends.

The very short answer is that no one factor is likely to make or break your chances of getting into college, generally speaking.

That said, some GPAs are obviously higher and stronger than others, and your GPA will inform where you go to college, and perhaps even your eligibility for scholarships and grants.

A good way to assess your own GPA is in relation to the national average. The national average GPA is 3.0 (on an unweighted scale), which is a “B” average. If you’re at or above this average, then you in pretty good shape!

Now, here are a couple of things to consider. First, not all graduating high school students go on to college, and those students’ GPAs are factored into that national average as well. So realistically, most college applicants have GPAs slightly higher than the national average.

If you’re aiming for a highly selective college, a “good” GPA means one that reflects at least an A- average, or a GPA of 3.5 or above; many highly selective colleges with low acceptance rates will want even higher GPAs.

On the other hand, you can definitely still get into a less selective college with a “C” average, or a 2.0 GPA, especially if the other areas of your college application are strong.

You may still be wondering one of the following questions in regards to the quality of your GPA:

### “Is a GPA of _____ good?”

**Is a GPA of 3.8 good?** The short answer is yes, absolutely! This is near perfect on an unweighted scale, and reflects an “A” average.

**Is a GPA of 3.2 good?** Yes, it’s above the national average. It’s not an “A” average, and it may not be high enough for a very selective school, but it’s still a good, solid GPA.

**Is a GPA of 2.2 good?** Let’s say it’s satisfactory. As noted above, you can definitely still get into college with this GPA, but it reflects a “C” average, which is below the national average.

The gist is: your GPA is one part of a total package, and while some GPAs are better than others, how “good” your GPA is depends on multiple factors.

### “If I get a 3.0 as a freshman, can I still get accepted into college?”

The short answer is… of course! A common—and often untrue—belief amongst teachers, parents, and students alike is that the academic standard set freshman year predicts a student’s level of achievement over the next four years.

While this may be true in some cases, we all know that freshman year is a whirlwind, and that plenty of students continue to improve their grades over the course of high school.

And, let’s say you did maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 by the time you’re applying to college—you’d still be right at the national average. You may not get into a moderately or highly selective college, but you can still absolutely get accepted into a college that’s a great fit for you!

## What GPA Do I Need to Get Into College?

**As a general rule of thumb, the lowest eligible GPA you can have when applying to colleges is a 2.0, or a “C” average. **

As touched upon above, however, the GPA you need to get into college depends upon the colleges you’re applying to.

And in fact, not all colleges even have a minimum GPA requirement, although this tends to be more common among small, private, liberal arts colleges. Large public schools that receive a huge number of applications a year tend to have GPA minimums since this helps them sort applications more quickly and efficiently.

**If you’re looking at highly selective colleges, you’ll want an “A” average (3.7 minimum), and the higher the GPA the better.** Keep in mind too that if your school uses a weighted scale, admissions boards will definitely look closely at which classes you took and what you earned in them, paying special attention to honors, AP, and IB classes. An “A” in a regular-level course and a “B” in an AP course are numerically the same, but the fact that you took a more challenging class may be more impressive to a college.

There are some great guides out there on colleges with the highest acceptance rates and colleges with the lowest acceptance rates, as well as tools for finding the best colleges to apply to with your GPA if you’d like to gather a list of potential colleges this way.

You can also visit your guidance counselor at school for help selecting the best colleges for you based on your GPA as well as other factors such as location, programs of study, etc.

## If I’m Overseas, Are My Grades Calculated the Same Way?

If you’re an international student applying for college in the United States, you may be wondering how your GPA from your home country will be interpreted by colleges that you apply to.

In short, every college or university has its own protocol and processes, and most colleges won’t ask you to try to convert your grades yourself, but will request your transcripts and analyze them in the admissions process.

Your best bet is to contact the admissions departments of any colleges you’re applying to directly to note that you are an international student, and to ask if there are any additional resources they need to help them interpret your transcripts.

For your own reference, this is an awesome international grade equivalency chart that can give you a sense of how your grades stack up on an American scale, which may be helpful as you seek out colleges.

Likewise, if you’re attending high school in the United States but are looking to attend college abroad, you can use an international grade conversion tool to get a sense of how your grades would stack up on various countries’ scales.

## Final Thoughts on How to Calculate GPA

Think of your GPA as one snapshot of your entire academic experience in high school. It’s just one snapshot, but it’s an important one that captures and reflects the essence of your academic performance.

Your GPA isn’t in itself a make-or-break element of your college application. Knowing its importance early on, especially if you’re aiming for highly competitive colleges, can help you stay focused and driven to do well (even during your fullest, busiest semesters).

And remember, there are plenty of things you can do to improve your admissions odds when you have a low GPA, including doing well on your ACT or SAT and writing a great application essay. If you haven’t downloaded it already, don’t forget to get our free GPA calculator worksheet so you have a sense of how you’re doing.

Now we’d love to hear from you! Are there any pressing questions or concerns you have about GPAs in general or about calculating your GPA? Let us know in the comments below!

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##### About Nadyja Von Ebers

Nadyja von Ebers holds an MA in English from DePaul University and has been an English instructor at the high school and college levels for the last eleven years. She has extensive experience teaching preparation for various AP exams as well as the ACT, SAT, and GED. Nadyja loves helping students reach their maximum potential and thrives in both literal and virtual classrooms. When she's not teaching, she enjoys reading and writing for pleasure and loves spending time in or near the ocean.

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