What Is a GPA and Why Does It Matter?

We’re here to help you understand why your GPA matters, how it’s calculated, and what you can do to improve it.

What exactly is a GPA? Why is it so important?

GPA stands for grade point average, and it’s typically how your academic performance and progress is measured. Your cumulative GPA is the average of all of your grades over a certain period of time, usually from 9th through 12th grade.

Your GPA is a key indicator of your effort in high school and your academic success and thus it is used in decisions about college admissions, scholarships, class ranking, and various academic honors you might qualify for.

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 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.


GPA Calculator

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Total # of Units Grade Point Average Total Grade Points