Why You’re Wrong about Your GPA, and what to Do about it
Many High School juniors who are trying to figure out their chances at competitive schools are confused about what their GPA actually is. Between "unweighted" and "weighted" GPAs -- and also with many high schools now calculating the grades of AP courses, honors courses, and standard courses differently -- students are often presented with two or three different numbers to represent their GPA. Even more confusing, many colleges use their own formulae to calculate GPA, meaning that the numbers your high school reports may all be different from what the university actually considers.
So what is a confused student to do? First of all, you should understand the process:
Many colleges will see and consider both your weighted and unweighted GPAs -- the former of which uses a 5.0 scale for honors and AP classes as opposed to the standard 4.0 scale. Most high schools will report both on your transcript. However, while a university may use your weighted GPA in considering your relative course rigor, they are typically more interested in your unweighted GPA when comparing you to other candidates. In other words, despite the common belief that an honors B equals a non-honors A, many colleges understand that an honors B is still a B even though it was earned in a harder class.
Complicating matters even further, many universities will recalculate your GPA using their own methods. Some will strip away all but the core classes, meaning the "easy A" you earned in art and gym no longer boost you as much as you thought. Instead, it is "Fundamental Five" which determine your GPA for many colleges: math, science, social science, English, and your foreign language.
So if you're looking at the 25th and 75th percentile numbers that many colleges publish, you will want to calculate your GPA using the most accurate metric possible. The best method is to consult the college itself and see if they'll reveal their system for calculating GPA. If not, or if you do not want to go through the hassle, the most conservative way to estimate your own GPA is to calculate your unweighted (i.e. don't differentiate between honors and non-honors courses) GPA from only the 'Fundamental Five' classes you have taken. While other methods of GPA calculation will be used to compare you against other applicants, this number will likely be the most accurate and universal one that you could use to estimate your chances of admission.Have any insight on this topic? Want to ask a question or make a suggestion? Click here to leave a comment.
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