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How Do Admissions Officers Compare GPAs?


My daughter’s school district uses a 6 point scale for GPA but I noticed many colleges are talking about GPA on a 4 point scale. What do we do and how do admissions offices compare GPAs (weighted to unweighted)?

The answer is: It depends, but many admissions offices are going to look more at the grades and the classes taken than the GPA itself.

Some high schools give additional points – maybe they call them honors points or a weighted point- to students who are taking advanced, honors or AP courses, but every school district tends to have its own policy on what points are awarded. It can be very difficult for universities to compare straight GPAs.

In other words, a 3.8 at one school may not mean the same thing as a 3.8 from another school. Some colleges and universities will recalculate a GPA according to their own method so that they are comparing apples to apples. Others focus more on what classes the student took and the grades earned.

We know that there are many variations.  I live in a suburb of Houston, Texas and from suburb to suburb and across the city I know of multiple schools and districts that have different methods for calculating grade point averages. There is no consistent method of calculation in Houston and I know other schools across the country may have even more variations.

At some high schools, 93 is the cutoff for an A; in others it’s 90. Some schools allow students to take classes pass / fail so the grade is not calculated into the average.  Other schools my limit the number of advanced classes a student can take, while others encourage students to take five or six AP classes a year. Some districts are using a 6 point scale and in other districts a 4 point scale is common. Some schools calculate GPA differently if you get a B+, but at other districts a B is a B no matter whether it’s a plus or a minus.

Variations in grading scales, calculation methods, and weighted classes make GPA’s difficult to compare.  Personally, I tend to use class rank.  If I can see that 76% of a college’s incoming freshman were in the top quarter of their class, that is more meaningful in advising a student than knowing that the average GPA was 3.8.

For the purpose of researching colleges, you may want to know your child’s GPA on a standard 4.0 scale.  “Unweighted”  this means

  • A= 4 points
  • B= 3 points
  • C= 2 points
  • D=1 points
  • F= 0 points

Many colleges publish GPA’s using this unweighted calculation in which all classes receive the same consideration and honors, IB, AP, and advances classes are not given additional points.

For the purpose of college applications and admission, students should use the official GPA calculated by their high schools. Colleges are familiar with the differences in calculation and may apply their own method of calculation.  Often admission officers are looking at grades earned and the classes taken not just GPA.

Have any Questions or Comments?

2 comments on “How Do Admissions Officers Compare GPAs?

Great article about an important aspect of college admission.
Would you be willing to read/comment on our blog at http://www.universitylanguage.com? Much appreciated!

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