High schools sometimes provide you with both a weighted and unweighted GPA. Knowing the difference between the two, and knowing which one is more important to colleges and universities can help you with the admission process. You can also calculate your own weighted GPA to give yourself an idea of what data colleges have about you.
Weighted GPA vs. Unweighted GPA
An unweighted GPA is calculated by taking into account your grades for each of your courses and can range from a 0 to a 4.0. A weighted GPA uses your grades, as well as the difficulty of each of your classes, to come up with a number between 0 and 5.0.
The reason why the range for a weighted GPA goes up to 5.0 is to accommodate students who take Advanced Placement and Honors courses. Students who earn an A in these more difficult classes can get a 5.0 on the weighted GPA score. At the same time, students who take regular level classes earn only a 4.0 for an A. This means that students who take more difficult classes have a higher weighted GPA than those in lower level classes. On an unweighted GPA scale, an A equals a 4.0 and there would be no difference between the GPA of students in AP classes, honors classes and lower level classes.
Calculating Your Weighted GPA
Figuring out your weighted GPA score may seem difficult, but simply involves averaging out the GPA in each of your classes. In order to calculate your weighted GPA, you first need to know the weight scale that your school uses for each class level. You can often find this information in your school’s handbook or website. It may also be helpful to look into the scale used by the admissions offices at the colleges you are applying to, as these may differ from your high school’s scale.
To start calculating your weighted GPA, make a list of all of your GPA semester scores for each class, taking into account the scale used by your school. Regular level classes earn you a 4.0 for an A, a 3.0 for a B, a 2.0 for a C, a 1.0 for a D, and a 0.0 for an F. Honors and advanced classes either earn you a half point or full point more for each grade that you earn. For example, if you receive a B in an advanced level course and your school uses a half point scale, your GPA for that class is a 3.5. If your school uses a full point scale, your GPA for an advanced course in which you earned a B, is 4.0. Some schools do not give you the extra points if you score below a C, so this is worth checking before you calculate your weighted GPA.
Once you have the GPA scores for each of your courses, add all of the numbers together and take the average by dividing by your total number of classes. The number you calculate should be between a 0.0 and 5.0, which is your weighted GPA score. To figure out your weighted GPA for your entire high school career, simply find the weighted GPA for each semester. Then, take the average of all your semesters to find your cumulative weighted GPA.
Which GPA Scale Do Colleges Care About?
Because the weighted GPA provides more information about your high school course load than the unweighted GPA, college admissions offices often care more about the weighted GPA score. However, colleges do not simply look at your GPA score when making admission decisions. Instead, admissions officials look at your transcript in order to get information about the context of your GPA scores. Therefore, universities and colleges often look more deeply at your high school career rather than simply relying on one score.
Another issue with the weighted GPA for colleges and universities is that different high schools have different rating systems for Honors and AP classes. This can cause problems for admissions personnel who are trying to compare two candidates. Also, AP classes taken in two different schools may not be comparable, as some are easier than others. Even AP classes in the same school can be easier or harder depending on the subject matter, but the weighted GPA does not take this into account.
One of the most important factors that colleges look at when it comes to your high school course load is how much you challenged yourself over four years. If you consistently took more advanced classes, colleges may see this favorably even if your GPA in these courses was not the highest. At the same time, if a college admissions officer sees that you only took the lowest level classes all throughout high school, they may conclude that you were not willing to challenge yourself or push yourself especially if you earned a 4.0 GPA in these classes.
Therefore, instead of focusing completely on your weighted or unweighted GPA scale, think about whether or not you are challenging yourself during the four years in high school. Push yourself to take more difficult classes, if you are consistently earning As in your lower level classes. Even if these classes may mean a lower GPA, admissions officers notice when you take on a more challenging set of courses. Colleges do not simply rely on your GPA score to get a picture of your high school career, but consider the whole picture by reviewing your transcript and other application information.
Colleges and universities want to ensure that the students they choose for admittance are living up to their potential and challenging themselves to work harder. For this reason, schools often do not set a certain GPA standard that you must reach for admission purposes. Instead, the admissions office reviews the larger picture of your coursework over the four years of your high school career. Therefore, for a better chance of getting admitted to your favorite college or university, think about whether or not you are taking advantage of all of the opportunities offered by your high school, rather than stressing out about your weighted or unweighted GPA.