Weighted GPA vs Unweighted GPA: Which Do Colleges Look At ?

Matt Larriva
Mar 17, 2021
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Many students have questions about weighted GPAs vs unweighted GPAs. Once they learn colleges only look at unweighted GPA’s, a common follow-up question it how big the difference between a 3.85 GPA and a 3.9 GPA actually is.

While there’s certainly a difference between an unweighted GPA of 3.85 compared to a 3.9 GPA the better question is, how significant is a 0.05 grade point to Ivy League admissions?

But let’s start with the easier part of that question first:

Weighted GPA vs Unweighted GPA – What’s The Difference?

What is GPA Weighting?

An “unweighted” GPA means an A is worth 4 points (a B is worth 3, a C is worth 2, a D is worth 1, and an F is worth 0). In a weighted GPA, certain classes considered college level are given an extra point, per grade—an A becomes worth 5 points, a B is worth 4, and so on.

AP and IB courses are usually weighted this way such that if a student took all AP courses and got all As, his weighted GPA would be 5.0. Conversely, that same student would have an unweighted GPA of a 4.0. 

How To Calculate Your Unweighted GPA

You can use the following formula to manually calculate your unweighted GPA:

  • A = 4 points
  • B = 3 points
  • C = 2 points
  • D= 1 point
  • F = 0 point

Simply add together the point value for each of your classes grades, then divide the sum by the number of classes you took. The answer is you GPA.

For example, let’s say Jayden took 6 classes and earned five “A’s” and one “B”, giving him a total of 23 points. He can then divide his point total by 6 (his total number of classes) to determine his GPA is 3.83.

Alternatively, you can use a simple online tool to calculate your GPA.

Do Colleges Look at Weighted GPAs vs Unweighted GPAs?

For the sake of equality in comparison, colleges look at unweighted GPAs.

They separately consider how rigorous the coursework was. If you took all AP/IB curriculum and achieved a 4.0, you would be seen as far stronger than a candidate who took less challenging or fewer courses and achieved the same 4.0, even though the GPAs were the same.

Universities do not look at weighted GPAs because not all schools offer the same amount of AP courses, not all schools allow students to take them at the same years, and not all schools even offer AP/IB curriculum.

Schools don’t want to unfairly penalize someone who graduated from a high school that only offered one AP course. And they don’t want to unfairly promote someone who went to a school who offered 20 AP courses.


The admissions officers consider the rigor of your coursework relative to what was available to you, and they look at how well you did in that coursework. 


How A Small Difference in an Unweighted GPA Looks To Colleges

Now, looking back to the example unweighted GPA at the beginning of this article, let’s look at how significant that 0.05 point gap between 3.85 and 3.90 actually is?

On one hand you might say, “3.85 rounds to 3.9—why would anyone care?”

And that’s valid.

But when you consider what goes into a 3.85 versus a 3.90, then the difference becomes more pronounced.

student celebrating high test scores

A 3.9 GPA can be composed of three years of two semesters, each semester containing 5 classes, and all grades equal to As except 3, which are Bs.

A 3.85 GPA is the same but 1 or 2 more Bs.

And while 3.85 does indeed round to 3.9, 1 B does not round to 1 A, so there is a difference in mastery of concept of whatever subject.

Your Unweighted GPA Isn’t All There Is To Consider

Yes, there is a noticeable difference between a 3.85 GPA and a 3.9 GPA, and the difference is likely to work against you to some extent.

But at the same time, this difference is small and can be overcome in many ways:

  • strong test scores
  • great recommendation letters from teachers
  • interesting and well-developed extracurricular activities.

And that’s just naming a few. Be sure to read How To Get Into The Ivy League next where we discuss all the options listed above plus offer up a wealth of additional advice that will help you get into your dream school.

So, if you find yourself lamenting your 3.85, don’t.

You’ve done well and can still achieve your goals.

The Best Results, Guaranteed

At Powerful Prep, we guarantee outstanding results for the students we work with. With the average point gains listed below, our elite instructors help students achieve real results that propel them to better schools and brighter futures.

SAT

Average
Performance Impacts

ACT

Average
Performance Impacts

230

Average
Point Gains

4

Average
Point Gains

100

Minimum
Point Gain*

2

Minimum
Point Gain**

*For students with starting scores below 1300 who complete 12 tutoring sessions and all homework.
**For students with starting scores below 30 who complete 12 tutoring sessions and all homework.

Pupils have gained up to 600 points on the SAT and 9 points on the ACT.

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Did you know that all Students’ progress is overseen by Powerful Prep founder, Matt Larriva, who the BBC referred to as an “elite master tutor?

Master Tutor and Powerful Prep founder, Matt Larriva, meets monthly with each of his teachers to review each student’s progress, provide guidance, tweak study plans, and supplement tutoring approaches as needed.

This second layer of insight and experience is one of the many ways that Powerful Prep ensures the most personalized service and the strongest results for its students.

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