What is a weighted GPA?

Categories: Admissions Advice
What is the difference between a weighted and unweighted GPA?

If you're in your senior year and are considering filling out college applications, you may be wondering what a weighted GPA is. Some colleges ask for this information as part of their admissions process, but what does it mean?

The difference between weighted and unweighted GPAs is how schools calculate student achievement based on the difficulty of the classes. For example, you may be taking some Advanced Placement (AP) classes as part of your final year. These classes are intended to prepare you for college-level material, and are more challenging than regular courses you might take during your senior year.

To reflect the difference in the difficulty of AP and regular classes, schools assign different values to each grade. A student who earns three B grades in regular algebra class may not have the same GPA as a student who achieves three B grades in AP algebra, since it is naturally harder to get a B in a more challenging class. The difference may not be much, but a weighted GPA will reflect the increased difficulty of the course material.

For example, an A grade at AP level is worth five points, whereas an A grade at regular level is worth four points. The difference in value applies for other grades, with AP classes offering an additional point per grade. So, a B grade at AP level is worth four points, and a regular B is worth 3 and so on. This means that, on the traditional 4.0 GPA scale, it's possible for a student who gets all A's in advanced classes to achieve a GPA of 5.0.

Unweighted GPAs are calculated simply by the number of points earned by a student, regardless of the difficulty of the class. Things can get a little confusing when schools offer A+ grades that are worth 4.3 points, but students who receive these grades will still achieve a standard GPA of 4.0 on an unweighted scale, no matter how hard their classes are.

Although some colleges may ask for your weighted GPA as part of their admissions factors, many will not take this into account when assessing your application. Weighted GPAs can sometimes be used to determine class rank, but again, many schools will not use this information to determine whether your application has been successful.

Above all, regardless of whether your prospective colleges require it, you should study as hard as you can in all your classes. When you're filling out college applications, make sure to check whether they require you to submit a weighted GPA. 

Original Post Date: December 20th, 2011

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