In the college and university enrolment process, grades are very important. In fact, they are often regarded as the single most important factor. But how can colleges fairly evaluate applicants when they come from such a variety of high schools?
The debate over using a weighted or unweighted grade point average is as old as time. High school grade point averages can either be weighted or unweighted.
What if your school calculates grade point averages using both of these measures? Determining which one is more relevant for college admissions can be a very challenging and complex task.
So, do colleges look at weighted or unweighted GPA?
Below, we will take a look at which GPA colleges use more. That will help inform your ultimate decision.
Do Colleges Look At Weighted Or Unweighted GPA?
Every college is unique, so it is hard to make a blanket statement. But, in general, universities care about your course record more than your GPA in isolation. In other words, colleges lack a preferred GPA reporting scale. Both have benefits and drawbacks.
Your GPA is a summary of your high school performance. Every admissions office will delve deeper (unless your GPA is extraordinarily low—below 2.0). They do this before making a decision based only on that number. First, you must understand what makes a weighted and unweighted high school GPA.
What are Unweighted GPAs?
Traditional GPAs are not weighted. Hence they are on a scale of 0 to 4.0. They are as follows:
- 4.0 represents an A average
- 3.0 represents a B average
- 2.0 represents a C average
- 1.0 represents a D average
and anything below that indicates a failing grade.
Unweighted GPAs do not account for the difficulty of your classes. An A in an AP or honors class will result in a 4.0 GPA, as will an A in a low-level course. Essentially, an unweighted GPA does not change depending on the types of classes taken. Again it shows your grades in isolation.
What are Weighted GPAs?
Weighted GPAs are more complex. Many high schools now report weighted GPAs rather than the traditional unweighted GPAs.
To account for more demanding classes, weighted GPAs are measured on a scale that extends beyond 4.0. For many schools, this means a scale ranging from 0 to 5, while some scales go higher (like to 6.0).
In the lowest-level classes, grades will continue to be worth the same numbers as they would on a GPA scale without weight (i.e., an A is a 4.0, a B is a 3.0, etc.).
In honors or AP classes, an A corresponds to a 5.0 GPA, a B to a 4.0, and so on. If your institution offers classes of average difficulty, an A may correspond to a 4.5 GPA.
As stated earlier, colleges look not only at GPA but also at other factors.
Your GPA is not the only thing they look at. Your transcript is also reviewed. Your high school transcript is a list of all the classes you took and how well you did in each one.
What Else do Admissions Look at?
Admissions officers also look at how different high schools are and what their standards are. For example, you can’t compare a student’s performance from a large school in Connecticut to that of a student from a small school in rural Kentucky.
If you have a weighted or unweighted GPA of 2.5 or higher, most admissions committees look at your academic records course by course. They do this to make sure you are a good fit for their school.
If you take a lot of AP® classes and have a good weighted GPA, keep in mind that some AP and honors classes are easier than others.
Admissions officers will know if you got your 5.0 in a class that is known to be easy. This may include AP® Environmental Science, or if you got it in a more challenging class, like AP® Calculus BC. Although both classes are for upper-level students, the second one was more challenging. In effect, the A is more impressive.
In conclusion, GPAs, regardless if they are weighted or unweighted, are not the only thing colleges look at during admission.