What is Your True Grade Point Average?

High schools across the country calculate GPA (grade point average) in any manner they choose. Some weigh more challenging classes, others don't. Some use a 4.0 scale and some use a 5.0 scale. When a college admissions counselor receives a student's grades, they often re-calculate the grade point average in order to create a level playing field- to compare apples to apples, so to speak. If you're brave enough, grab a calculator and read on. That 4.2 GPA you think you have, may really only be a 3.8 in the eyes of a college admissions office.

While colleges vary when it comes to re-calculating GPA's, the steps below will offer a good estimate of "true" GPA in the eyes of college admissions:

  1. Isolate your grades for each high school year in these five classes- Math, English/Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, Foreign Language.
  2. Assign a number to each grade received for each class. (A+or A= 4.0, A- =3.7, B+= 3.3, B= 3.0, B- = 2.7, C+ = 2.3, C = 2.0, C- = 1.7, D+ = 1.3, D = 1.0, F= 0)
  3. Add the numbers and divide by 5 for the "true" GPA.
Wait, what about all those Honors and AP courses! Don't they count for more?
They do count, just not as part of the "true" GPA.  Colleges do look at rigor and compare it to the types of classes offered by the high school. Many colleges will then assign a score based on courses taken compared to courses available.
Wait, what about gym, band, health, driver's ed? Don't those grades count?
Sorry, not really. However, if a student receives all "F's" in these "non-academic" classes, that could affect a student's admission chances...in a bad way. So bring those gym clothes and pay attention in health class.
Fortunately most college applications are read by living, breathing human beings. That means they may take into consideration a rough 9th grade year grade-wise that is followed by improvement, or a serious illness or life event that may have affected high school grades. While GPA is important, the admissions office does consider test scores, teacher recommendations, essays and extra-curricular activities. That said, GPA is still considered the best predictor of success in college. High school students who want more higher education options should strive to achieve and maintain good grades in challenging classes throughout 9th-12th grade.