Let me say this first: when colleges consider your high school academic performance, it is never about that one number alone. Colleges look at your transcripts, which include all the classes you take and the scores you receive. They will see if you challenge yourself with higher-level (AP, IB, honors, etc.) courses to learn more about you as a student. Nevertheless, let’s talk about GPA, short for grade point average, weighted vs. unweighted GPA, and whether or not it matters.
The 4.0 Scale
Most high schools in America use the same unweighted 4.0 scale as College Board:
|Score (out of 100)||Letter Grade||Unweighted GPA|
This should be fairly easy to understand. Average the scores you receive from every class throughout high school (assuming same hours of instruction every week), then you can calculate your unweighted GPA by hand. With this number, colleges can have a general idea of your academic strengths.
You probably know someone (or yourself) with a GPA higher than 4.0, and that’s because we are talking about completely different scales. In many schools, once you decide to enroll in higher-level classes, your GPA can be higher if you manage to do well in those classes. The most common weighted scale can boost your GPA to as high as a 5.0 by adding two-thirds to 4.33 (A+). Keep in mind that every school may have its own system when it comes to calculating weighted GPA, so do not panic if yours is lower than your cousin Jimmy’s GPA from another school.
Which GPA Matters More?
Neither. As I mentioned in the introduction, admissions officers will look at everything on your transcripts and evaluate your academic ability using all the information they have. This is also where personal essays come into play: use other parts of your application to demonstrate your academic interests and strengths. If possible, write an essay about you passion and make it heard! A well-written essay means more than a number.
If you plan to apply to one of the UC’s, chances are there will be at least thousands of applicants with the same GPA as you. Yes, thousands, especially if your GPA is somewhere between 3.3 (B+) to 4.0 (A). That being said, colleges do not only look at this number because it just doesn’t help them much, weighted or unweighted. Try to do well in your classes and leave the calculation to your school because other parts of your application clearly outweigh that one number.
AP/Honors vs. Regular. Which One Should I Take?
Ask your school about how many extra weighted points would be added if you took an AP/honors class. With that in mind, you can now estimate what letter grade you’d get if you took an AP/honors class, as well as the the letter grade you’d get if you took a regular class. Now, compare them and see which one is better. It’s obviously a rough estimate, but say you an additional two-thirds of GPA is added, and you think you could get an A- in AP Chem vs. and A in Regular Chemistry, your best bet would be AP Chem!