High school is a busy and stressful time, and the college admissions process only adds to that craziness! From homework and studying to extracurriculars and clubs, balancing these responsibilities can be a challenge.

A woman responds to stress by rubbing her temples.

Understanding ways to calculate your grade point average or GPA and applying this knowledge to college applications will ease stress when planning course schedules and post-high school plans!

Course Points

In high school, you'll have the opportunity to take different levels of courses. These courses carry different weights when calculating GPA. Some schools offer standard, honors, AP (Advanced Placement), Dual Enrollment, and IB courses. Depending on your school's GPA policy, these courses may carry extra points towards your weighted GPA.

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Honors courses tend to be more rigorous and fast-paced than standard courses.

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AP classes, or Advanced Placement classes, and IB, or International Baccalaureate, are classes where you can earn college credit. Dual Enrollment classes can also earn you college credit and are typically taken through your local university while you take your high school courses.

Weighted vs Unweighted GPA

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There are two types of GPA calculations: weighted GPA and unweighted GPA.

  • Unweighted GPA is calculated on a 4.0 scale and doesn't consider extra points earned for honors or advanced courses taken.

  • Weighted GPA is calculated on a 5.0 scale and does consider extra points earned for honors or advanced courses taken

Check out this Byte on weighted vs. unweighted GPA for more details!

Letter grades are assigned a point value:

  • A - 4.0

  • B - 3.0

  • C - 2.0

  • D - 1.0

  • F - 0

Let's look at an example:

At Bob's school, honors courses are worth an extra .5 points and advanced courses are worth an extra 1 point towards GPA. These are the courses and grades Bob earned in 9th grade:

  • Standard 9th Grade English - A

  • Honors 9th Grade Math - A

  • Honors Biology - B

  • AP Human Geography - B

Bob's unweighted GPA would be 3.5 (2 x 4.0 for each A + 2 x 3.0 for each B = 14.0, divided by the number of classes = 3.5).

Bob's weighted GPA would be 4.0 (1 x 4.0 + 1 x 4.5 + 1 x 3.5 + 1 x 4.0, divided by 4 classes).

Try it yourself!

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At Kate and Brad's school, honors courses are worth an extra .5 points and advanced courses are worth an extra 1 point towards GPA.


  • Honors English - A

  • Honors Physics - B

  • AP Spanish Literature - A

  • AP Statistics - B


  • AP Chemistry - B

  • AP European History - A

  • Standard English - A

  • AP Calculus - C


Which of the following students has the highest weighted GPA?

Implications of GPA

Colleges and universities use GPA as a factor in admissions decisions. Most colleges require at least an unweighted GPA of 2.0 ("C" average) for admission, but many like to see a 3.0 or above. The higher your GPA, the easier it will be to get into the college of your choice.

Remember, universities may have a different way of calculating GPA, so be sure to check their policies to ensure your calculations are correct.

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GPA is also important in other factors, such as applying for scholarships and other special programs at universities, such as the Honors College.

It's important to remember that while GPA is important, it's not the sole factor in the college admissions process. Extracurriculars and leadership roles, essays, letters of recommendation, and the rigor of courses you take are all critical factors in the admissions process.

Take Action

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Now that you've learned the different types of GPAs and how to calculate them, you can start planning for your future!

Use these tasks to help guide yourself through the college application process. You got this!


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