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The Grade Point Average (GPA)

Learn about why your GPA matters, how it’s calculated, and what you can do to improve it.

People Are Looking at Your GPA

The GPA is the standard metric of gauging academic performance and progress in the United States.

The grade point average (GPA) scale sets “4.0” as the 100% baseline. The assignments or exams that students turn in over the course of a semester, year, and (cumulatively) across their academic career will either maintain that baseline or detract from it (cause it to decrease).

The term “cumulative GPA” most often refers to a student’s average GPA from grades 9 through 12. And it is this cumulative GPA that colleges, employers, and high schools will examine when considering admittance, offering positions, and assigning honors. On the flip-side, a too-low GPA may be a barrier to high school graduation, scholarship eligibility, and/or securing certain types of work.

Your GPA is a key indicator of effort, not intelligence.

If you know your GPA is not an accurate representation of your academic potential, make friends with a trusted teacher or college and career advisor. Regular conversations with informed school staff can help you articulate your future goals, and any challenges you may be dealing with in addition to course work.

How is my GPA calculated?

The GPA generally operates on a scale of 0 to 4, with four being the highest. A 4 value is given for an “A” grade, a 3 is given for a “B” grade, a 2 is given for a “C” grade, etc. Sometimes students have a GPA that ranks higher than 4, as their grades are weighted more heavily for AP and other advanced classes.

When do my grades start to count toward GPA?

Your high school GPA is calculated starting in 9th grade, although occasionally students take high-school level classes prior to entering 9th grade, which will likely count toward your GPA. For this reason, students in junior high or middle school who are considering taking high school level classes should keep in mind that the grades they receive in these classes will go on their high school transcript and will factor into their GPA.

Knowing that your GPA is calculated beginning in your freshman year, it is important that you try to earn the highest possible grades in each of your classes starting that year. In addition, the coursework level of difficulty often gets progressively harder by the time you’re a junior, so you want to do as well as you can during your freshman and sophomore years so that you head into the always demanding junior year with a strong GPA.

When you start applying to college, you’ll only have your grades from 9th through 11th grade. While many colleges will still want to see that your grades have not fallen off senior year, at the same time your senior year is too late to start thinking about how you’re going to boost your GPA. The GPA that colleges will receive largely takes into account your grades during your freshman through junior years.

How can I improve my GPA?

The best way to boost your GPA is to work as hard as you can, put in a bit more study time, and stay on top of your grades throughout the semester so that you always know where you stand and what you need to do to get your desired grades. You may want to check in with your teachers periodically to see if there’s anything you can do to pull up your grades.

If you do poorly in a class, there may be opportunities to retake the class in order to repair your GPA. Talk with your counselor about opportunities for summer school or retaking a class the following year. If you’re taking advanced level or college prep courses, you should make sure that those grades are being properly weighted, for example, a “B” in an AP course would be worth more than a 3.0. Also, if you took any high school level classes prior to 9th grade and received a high grade, you should confirm with your counselor that those grades are included on your transcript and thus are factored into your GPA.