How to Calculate Your GPA in College

How to Calculate Your GPA in College
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By Tyler Epps

Published on October 27, 2020

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In high school, a strong grade point average (GPA) can demonstrate your academic abilities and increase your chances of acceptance to your dream school. Even though colleges consider many factors when making their admission decisions, a high GPA can certainly help you stand out from other applicants.

Maintaining a good GPA is just as important in college, but for different reasons. While your GPA is still a useful metric to assess your academic performance, it also factors into your eligibility for certain scholarships and undergraduate programs. In addition, falling below a certain GPA threshold can have serious academic consequences.

For these reasons, it's important to learn how to calculate your GPA in college.

What Is a GPA?

Your GPA is a metric that measures your academic performance. In college, your GPA is often a major consideration for scholarships, financial aid eligibility, and program admission. When it comes to defining a good college GPA, the answer depends on your program and academic goals.

Generally, you must earn a cumulative 2.0 GPA to maintain good academic standing and stay on track to graduate. In addition, many undergraduate programs require you to hold a minimum GPA to gain admission. This is more so the case for competitive graduate school programs, such as nursing.

For most colleges, you must earn a cumulative 2.0 GPA to maintain good academic standing and stay on track to graduate.

If you fall below the minimum GPA, you could be placed on academic probation, which can result in a loss of financial aid and dismissal from your academic program. Failure to raise your GPA within a certain time frame may even result in dismissal from your school entirely.

Most colleges use a 4.0 GPA scale, on which letter grades correspond to certain numeric equivalents, but how schools use this scale may differ from institution to institution. Some schools may not give an A+ letter grade, and others may utilize the full GPA scale instead of skipping, for example, between a 3.7 and 4.0.

While you should always check with your university registrar to learn about your own school's GPA system, you can refer to the table below to help determine your GPA in college.

Letter Grade Percentage Grade GPA (4.0 Scale)
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

Weighted vs. Unweighted GPA

In the U.S., high schools typically use a mix of weighted and unweighted GPAs. Unweighted GPAs follow a traditional 4.0 scale and do not account for class difficulty. For example, on an unweighted scale, an A in an honors English class would correspond to a 4.0 GPA. In other words, unweighted GPAs do not give any extra weight for advanced classes.

Weighted GPAs use a scale that usually ranges from 0.0-5.0.

Weighted GPAs, by contrast, use a scale that usually ranges from 0.0-5.0 — sometimes up to 6.0 — to account for higher-level classes, such as honors, Advanced Placement (AP), and International Baccalaureate (IB). On a weighted scale, an A in an honors English class would correspond to a 5.0 GPA.

Most colleges do not use weighted grading systems, but many look at weighted GPAs during the admissions process. In regard to which scale colleges tend to favor, the answer is a bit tricky. While weighted GPAs provide more contextual information than unweighted GPAs do, colleges generally don't take your GPA at face value. Instead, admissions officers rely on your full transcript to identify your academic drive and abilities.

How to Calculate Your College GPA

Calculating your college GPA allows you to track your academic progress toward meeting requirements for scholarships, undergraduate programs, and even graduate school. Oftentimes, competitive programs, such as engineering, maintain minimum standards for admission.

For example, if you're planning on applying to an engineering program that requires a minimum 3.5 GPA, you may need to calculate your GPA in advance to make sure you're eligible for admission. If you only have a 3.4 GPA, you'll know you must earn an A- or higher in your current class(es) to meet the minimum 3.5 GPA requirement.

Here are the steps to take to calculate your GPA in college:

  1. Determine your letter grade for each course.
  2. Using the 4.0 grading scale in the table above, convert your letter grades into point values.
  3. Determine the number of credits assigned to each course.
  4. Multiply the number of credits assigned to each course by its corresponding point value to determine how many quality points it's worth.
  5. Divide the total number of quality points by the total number of credits.
GPA Formula: Total Quality Points / Total Credits
Course Grade Credits GPA Point Value Quality Points
Chemistry B 3 3 (3 x 3) = 9
Lab A 1 4 (1 x 4) = 4
Psychology B+ 3 3.3 (3 x 3.3) = 9.99
Total 7 22.99
22.99 / 7 = 3.28 GPA

As indicated in the example above, all college courses are assigned credits. Every college measures credits slightly differently, but in general core courses are worth three credits, while electives are usually worth one credit. The total amount of credits attempted and the total amount of quality points earned are the two components used to calculate GPA.

Every college measures credits slightly differently.

Each letter grade you receive in a course corresponds to a point value, normally on a scale that ranges from 0.0-4.0. If a student fails a class, they receive a 0.0 point value; however, the credits assigned to that course will still count toward their total credits attempted.

This is why your GPA falls when you fail a course. If you retake a failed course, most colleges will only calculate the new grade into your GPA, but the first grade usually remains on your official transcript.

The same applies to classes that use a pass/fail grading system. If you receive a failing grade, a 0.0 point value will be factored into your GPA. Alternatively, a passing grade typically results in a full 4.0 point value.

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