Your grade point average, often abbreviated as GPA is a numerical representation of your academic performance. Along with the rigor of your coursework, your class rank, and standardized test scores (although many schools are test-optional), GPA is one of the most important factors in the college admissions process. This leads many future college applicants to want to convert their GPA to a 4.0 scale in order to see how they measure up against the competition.

What GPA does my high school use?

Many high schools in the United States work on a 4.0 scale, meaning that an A in a regular (non-honors or AP) courses is worth a 4.0. However, there are schools that use a 5.0 scale, a 100 point scale, or anything in between. When comparing your GPA to other prospective applicants at a particular college, it can be most useful to convert your GPA to a 4.0 scale.

Where can I find my GPA?

Your cumulative GPA can usually be found on your high school transcript. This refers to your GPA for all completed semesters, to date. When applying to college, each institution to which you are applying will have a different system of recalculating your GPA. Some colleges will recalculate to only consider core academic courses. Other colleges will take out all of the “weighting” done by your high school. This brings us to our next topic – weighted vs. unweighted grades.

Weighted vs. Unweighted GPA

Many high schools “weight” grades for students taking honors and AP classes. For example with weighted grades it is common for:

  • An “A” in an AP class is worth 5.0 instead a 4.0 (unweighted).
  • An A in an Honors class is worth 4.5 instead of a 4.0 (unweighted).
  • You will also receive additional points for any B’s and C’s earned in honors or AP classes.
  • Those who take more honors and AP courses than their peers have a higher GPA ceiling than their peers.

On the Common App, you are asked to provide either your weighted or your unweighted GPA. Of course, the college will also see your transcript and, if necessary, recalculate the GPA using their own institutional system.

How does a 4.0 GPA scale work?

The system used most commonly by American high schools is the 4.0 GPA scale. This is one frequently utilized chart:

Letter Grade GPA Value Percent Grade Earned
A+ 4.0 97-100
A 4 93-96
A- 3.7 90-93
B+ 3.3 87-89
B 3.0 83-86
B- 2.7 80-82
C+ 2.3 77-79
C 2.0 73-76
C- 1.7 70-72
D+ 1.3 67-69
D 1.0 65-66
E/F 0.0 0-65

 

While this scale is common, many schools do not utilize pluses or minuses. Other high schools only use pluses, but not use minus grades. Scales at these schools vary. For example, a 90-100 may all equate to the letter grade of “A”. If you are unsure, check your high school’s website or ask your guidance counselor for more information. You will also likely find a breakdown of letter grades, GPA, and percent grade earned on your own report card or transcript.

How to convert your GPA to a 4.0 scale

Not all courses in high school count for the same number of credits. Therefore, you cannot calculate your GPA simply by adding up the number of grade points earned and dividing by the total number of courses taken.

For example, let’s look at following snippet of a sample transcript:

Course Credits Grade Weighted GPA Unweighted GPA
AP English 3 B+ 4.3 3.3
AP Computer Science 4 A- 4.7 3.7
Spanish 3 B 3.0 3.0
Health 1 A 4.0 4.0
Honors Calculus 4 A 4.5 4.0

 

As you can see, some classes are worth 4 credits, others 3, and health a mere 1 credit. This is why you can’t calculate your GPA simply by adding up the five unweighted GPA numbers (in the far right hand column) and dividing by 5 (the number of courses). Instead you must take the following steps:

Steps for calculating your GPA on a 4.0 scale

  1. To put your GPA on a 4.0 scale, you will not be using the “Weighted GPA” column.
  2. For each individual course, multiply the number of credits by the unweighted GPA earned.
  3. For example, for AP English you would multiple 3 (credits) x 3.3 (unweighted GPA points earned). With Health, you would multiply 1 (credits) x 4.0 (unweighted GPA).
  4. After doing this for all 5 classes, you’ll arrive at the following totals:
Course Equation Total Grade Points
AP English 3 x 3.3 = 9.9
AP Computer Science 4 x 3.7 = 14.8
Spanish 3 x 3.0 = 9.0
Health 1 x 4.0 = 4.0
Honors Calculus 4 x 4.0 = 16.0

 

  1. Next, you will add all of the total grade points together. In this case, that will be: 9.9 + 14.8 + 9.0 + 4.0 + 16.0.
  2. After doing this for all 5 classes you’ll arrive at the following total: 53.7.
  3. The last step is to divide 53.7 (grade points earned) by the total number of credits attempted.
  4. The total number of credits is 15.
  5. 53.7 divided by 15 = 3.58.
  6. This student’s unweighted GPA on a 4.0 scale is 3.58.

What GPA do I need to get into college?

According to researchers, the average GPA in American high schools has steadily risen in recent decades. The most recent studies place the average unweighted GPA somewhere between 3.0-3.4. Any GPA in this range (a B average) is likely good enough to be accepted by some 4-year colleges, but is it high enough for the particular schools on your list?

Comparing your GPA to the average GPA for an enrolled student at prospective college

When comparing your GPA to the average GPA at a given university, it is important to remember that schools are not consistent in identifying whether they are reporting a weighted or unweighted figure. If a school reports a 3.8 unweighted and you have a 4.1 weighted GPA (3.6 unweighted), you may mistakenly believe you are in the above-average range at this school.

Sometimes looking at how many students at a given college placed in the top 10%, 25%, and 50% of their high school class can be a more useful figure than GPA. You can find these stats for 400 schools in our Dataverse list of Entering Class Statistics.

The Best GPA Calculators and Conversion Charts

As we mentioned, different colleges and universities have varying ways to recalculate your GPA. Here are some links that you may find useful and you aim to convert your GPA to a 4.0 scale.