GPA: How to Keep Your Score High

GPA (Grade Point Average) is a number that indicates a student’s performance. It is measured over a certain period and is used to rank students and see if they meet their academic requirements. There are several types of GPAs that people usually refer to in the US: high school core GPA, college (or career) GPA, major GPA.

If you transfer from school to school or from one college (or university) to another, be prepared that every institution has its own policy regarding the GPA. There may be different grading systems, various approaches to scaling the same subjects, or attributing weight to classes. If you need to assess your GPA with other countries’ scales, check out to convert it accordingly, since grading varies considerably across countries and even institutions within the US. 

How It Works

From the first year of your high school (9th grade), every semester will have its own GPA. Such a GPA is calculated as the average grade of all the taken classes in that semester. As you move to the next semester, you will have two GPAs: current and cumulative. At the end of your 12th grade, you will use your cumulative GPA for entering colleges. 

Some colleges will ask you to calculate (or provide) your total high school GPA, and others may require this number for the last three years or even the GPA for a specific subject. The document where all your high school GPAs are traced is called an academic transcript.

Calculations: Unweighted GPA vs. Weighted GPA

GPA is a number, and it is often calculated to one or two decimals. So each grade you get for a class has to be converted into the GPA quality point that ranges between 0 and 4. The best mark in the US letter-system is A, which is equal to 4.0 GPA points; the worst is F with an 0.0 equivalent on the GPA scale. The Grade Point Average coefficient is simply the average grade of all marks you got in the semester. 

Let’s assume you had marks A, B, and C in three disciplines. We convert them into the GPA scale like 4.0, 3.0, and 2.0 accordingly and divide by three. The result is equal to 3.0, and this is your unweighted GPA:

(4.0 + 3.0 + 2.0)/3 = 3.0

It is called unweighted because the ‘weight’ or complexity of each discipline is not considered or assumed to be equal (to 1):

(4.0 *1 + 3.0*1 + 2.0*1)/3 = 3.0

When your school accounts for the courses’ program contribution, it introduces credit values. The more academic demands are involved, the higher the course will be credited. Like in the example above, let’s assume your school appoints one credit for the first two courses and two credits for the third. You multiply each mark on its credit value and divide the result by the number of credits (not courses). Here is how your GPA will change:

(4.0 *1 + 3.0*1 + 2.0*2)/4 = 2.75 

Another way for schools to weigh classes is to give you more points for the best result, allowing the maximal GPA grade to be 5.0. If we assume that the first course is such an exception (with A = 5.0), then here is what we will get:

(5.0 + 3.0 + 2.0)/3 = 3.33

Cumulative and Overall GPA

For each semester of your high school, you will get a GPA number. Depending on which year of study you are in, your cumulative GPA will change: at the end of your 9th grade, it will be the average of the two semesters; at the end of the 10th grade, it will include your marks for the four semesters. And, at the end of your senior year, your cumulative GPA will become the overall GPA or high school GPA. However, colleges and universities may be interested in the cumulative coefficients for 9-11 grades and the 1st semester of your 12th grade.

If you change school, the GPA will start over. The good news is that all your poor marks will no longer exist. On the other hand, the good results will also be lost. Consider this as a new beginning, especially if you changed your academic tactics and now ready to study hard. If you have always been a good student, a new school will just become another place to prove it.

Transfer Credit and GPA

When you decide to change college or program, the new institution will require your academic transcripts to see your course credits. If your mark for the class is acceptable, most institutions will only accept them as passed, giving you the transfer credit. Thus, the transferred classes’ marks will not be considered when calculating your GPA in the new university. 

Why GPA Is Important

In some colleges and universities, rules that involve semester GPA may differ. For example, students may be required not to fall below 2.5 of their cumulative GPA, as this will imply their academic probation. At the same time, they may be removed from the institution once getting a 2.0 or lower semester GPA for two semesters sequentially. 

Also, here are some cases when GPA grades are considered:

  • to assess your study progress;
  • to show your readiness for advanced studies;
  • to become eligible for scholarships and financial aids;
  • to get your degree classification;
  • to prove your academic level;
  • to convince your potential manager. When employers consider you as a candidate, they may pay attention to your GPA. Most probably, this score will not influence the hiring decision directly. Still, if you are among several candidates, your future boss may prefer the one with a higher GPA.  

Good DPA and Financial Aid Programs

Many high schools, colleges, and universities consider the GPA between 3.0 and 3.5 to be good. However, this number depends a lot on the program you choose. For example, top institutions often require you to perform a 3.5 or even higher GPA, while others accept students with a GPA of 2.75. Typically, a 2.0 GPA is the minimum acceptable across the country.

A lot of institutions consider GPA scores when determining eligibility for possible financial aid programs, various scholarships, or other support for their students. A high GPA will also let you join associations, clubs or take part in different extra-curricular activities. So, your studying efforts bring their fruits in other aspects of the student’s life. 

Are Low DPA Students Still Acceptable by Colleges?

The lower limit of DPA when colleges can accept you is usually 2.0. Once you keep it at least at this level, you still have chances to succeed in college. However, such a case will require a strategic approach to your academic activities to flourish. Though your DPA is important for college admission officers, they will also consider your SAT and ACT scores. If the standardized test results are good, you can be admitted despite the low GPA score. Getting prepared for the tests seems more manageable than getting good and excellent marks throughout the four years of high school. 

We would not recommend using all SAT or ACT attempts to get the desired score. Also, it’s better to avoid a one-time approach as there might be too much stress around it. You may take one of the tests two or three times instead and send the best result for universities to consider.

Another circumstance that may work for you is the type of classes you take. Universities and colleges will consider challenging courses and accept you even when your GPA is relatively low. But in this case, you need to mention this in the personal statement. Convincing argumentation supported by official documents and letters of recommendation could be the only option if your low GPA resulted from hardship or challenging circumstances.  

High School Core GPA and Core Math Classes

This number is the average score of the core classes you take in a high school. High School Core GPA includes these five categories: math, history or social studies, science, English, and foreign languages. 

Colleges may also be interested in your core math classes. Most undergraduate programs will require three or four years of math courses. If you choose a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) college major, then four years of math are obligatory. Sometimes advanced Math classes as precalculus and calculus are also demanded. 

Keeping the GPA Level High

As you can see, your input into the school GPA starts from high school, and every mark you get matters. And the more marks are in the ‘mix,’ the less value each of them brings. Like, if you had Bs and Cs during two previous years, As this year would raise your GPA only to B approximately. And this would require an enormous change in your attitude towards your study motivation and habits. 

Some students decide to take honors, AP (Advanced Placement), or IB (International Baccalaureate) classes that have a 5.0 (or even higher) maximum score to ‘fix’ the issue of low GPA. But do not overwhelm yourself with challenging courses, as an A in a regular class is better than a B in a hard class.

Improve Your School GPA 

  • Once you enter high school, you need to work really hard. This will give you more chances to become eligible for honors, AP, and IB courses. In their turn, these classes do not only weigh more but bring more value to your application. Admission officers pay attention to the hard courses taken and the marks received.
  • Once you actively start, don’t slack off. Though colleges accept students with the lowest 2.0 GPA grade, you will also come across colleges that demand the minimum of a 3.0 GPA to admit you.
  • Even after you get the relieving acceptance letter, colleges will still require the final GPA and a transcript document. So, your senior year matters as much as the freshman and sophomore.

College GPA: Ways to Raise

Students admit that keeping the same GPA level at the university or college is more demanding than at school. If you happen to face this problem too, these tips will help you to earn a high college GPA:

  • Though there is no one to monitor your everyday academic routine, don’t neglect good study habits. Don’t wait too long to cover a lot of material during the last hours. Instead, devote shorter periods for your homework, but do it every day. First, this may seem too trivial and boring, but you will see the results. It is half the battle if you plan to achieve good grades.
  • Do your best to visit every single class. Some professors treat attendance as a grade percentage, and you will always be up-to-date with your lectures.
  • Mind the deadlines of projects and tests. Know the timetables and be organized.
  • Don’t find easy ways. Choose the classes you know you will get an A for, but do not ignore the full load your course suggests. Apart from gaining additional useful knowledge, demanding courses usually weigh more, and your GPA will undoubtedly benefit from it.

GPA Is Not Everything

When you are applying to a college, your GPA is important but is far from being the only coefficient that matters. Your recommendation letters, CVs and resumes, essay, and SAT or ACT results will describe you as a future student. Though GPA may show how smart, ambitious, disciplined, and hard-working you are, this is just one of the factors the admission officers will consider. So, there is no reason for despair if your GPA is low when entering college, provided that other factors outline your achievements. 

GPA remains an important indicator for your academic career and success, so keeping it at a high level is worth your efforts. The proactive approach, consistency, discipline, and exemplary performance in school and college are beneficial for your intelligence, career, and life. 

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