As you apply for colleges and scholarships, you might be seeing the terms “weighted GPA” and “unweighted GPA” thrown around. You already have your GPA written at the top of your high school transcript, but is it weighted or unweighted? We’ll cover exactly what they mean, the difference between the two, and – most importantly – what do colleges consider when looking at your GPA.
What is the Difference Between Weighted and Unweighted GPAs?
First, let’s cover what GPA means: GPA stands for “Grade Point Average.” This is the average of all of your grades in your classes. How your grades are counted towards the GPA depends on whether or not your school uses weighted or unweighted scales.
An unweighted GPA is the average of your grades on a 4.0 scale without considering the difficulty of your coursework. This GPA cannot be above 4.0, and classes that are considered “advanced placement” are weighed the same as classes that are lower level. So an “A” in your AP American History class and an “A” in your Cooking course will count the same towards your overall unweighted GPA.
This helpful table will help you determine exactly where your grades lie on an unweighted GPA scale:
|Letter Grade||Percent Grade||Grade Point|
|D-/E/F||Below a 65||0.0|
A weighted GPA on the other hand takes the difficulty of your class into account as well as your grades. Instead of a 4.0 scale, this type of GPA goes up to 5.0 generally. There are schools, though, that will use other grading scales, such as up to 10.0. High schools can use very different weighted scales, too, which can make this much more confusing for students!
But your “A” in AP American History will count much higher towards your final GPA than your “A” in Cooking class will.
Here is a table though that gives an example of one popular weighted GPA scale:
|Letter Grade||Percent Grade||Honors/AP Level Grade Point||Standard Grade Point|
|D-/E/F||Below a 65||0.0||0.0|
What Does Your Weighted or Unweighted GPA Mean for You?
The higher your unweighted or weighted GPA, the better! However, it’s important to reiterate that a 4.0 weighted GPA is not the same as a 4.0 unweighted GPA. Since the difficulty of courses plays a role in weighted GPAs, a 5.0 would be impressive.
As mentioned previously, too, some schools use different weighted GPA scales. If you have any questions about what scale your high school is using, talk to your guidance counselor about what the numbers mean for you and what you should be aiming for in your classes.
Do Colleges Look at Weighted or Unweighted GPAs?
Colleges will look at either weighted or unweighted GPAs in your application. They do tend to prefer weighted, because it gives more information about the difficulty of your classes, but don’t worry if your school uses an unweighted scale.
Even if your GPA is unweighted, colleges can still see you took advanced courses by simply looking at your transcripts. So, in the end, your college admission chances won’t be affected by whether or not your school uses a weighted GPA or an unweighted GPA!
You can’t change the scale your school uses, so it’s instead more important to focus on doing the best you can in every single one of your classes, regardless of difficulty. This means high grades, but it also means taking classes that challenge you. Class schedules with more academic rigor can affect your acceptance chances to your dream school! And taking more difficult courses and scoring well can be much more impressive than a solid 4.0 for lower-level classes.
Students shouldn’t get hung up on the idea of weighted vs unweighted GPAs after they understand the scale their high school uses. A college will understand that you are restricted to the scale your school uses, and will look at your application as a whole – not just your GPA. Other factors including academic rigor, extracurriculars, community service, volunteer work, and recommendations will also play into your admission chances.
Want to know more about what colleges are looking for from potential students, including GPAs, ACT/SAT scores, and more? Our free College Match tool takes your goals, wants, needs, and achievements into account so you can identify the best colleges for you!