Weighted vs. Unweighted GPA: Know The Difference

September 26, 2021

If you plan to apply to College, you probably must know about Grade Point Average (GPA). GPA is one of the essential factors colleges consider when making admissions decisions.

Let's talk about a question that is often people ask. What is the difference between "Weighted vs. Unweighted GPA? And, which one matters for the colleges? 

Sustaining a high GPA is one of the most challenging tasks for a high school student. It requires many efforts, consistency, long hours of study, and a good strategy. A strong GPA is a crucial part of any college application, and it is also one of the first things that your admissions officer will check while reviewing your file. 

Calculating GPA varies from school to school. Some high schools use unweighted GPAs while others use weighted GPAs. We will look at the differences between the two GPAs and what each one type of GPA means in the context of your personal experiences.

What's Difference Between Weighted and Unweighted GPAs?

Weighted GPA

High schools mostly use weighted GPAs to represent students' academic achievements. Weighted GPA considers course difficulty rather than giving the same letter grade to GPA conversion.

Often, a weighted GPA gets calculated on a scale of 0 to 5.0. 

However, some scales go higher. An AP class could consider a 5.0 weighted GPA, while an A in a regular level class is equal to a 4.0 weighted GPA. Several schools have a mid-level class like honors classes where the highest weighted GPA is 4.5.

Unweighted GPA

Generally, GPA gets calculated on an unweighted scale. Unweighted GPAs get measured on a scale of 0 to 4.0. It doesn't take the difficulty of a student's coursework into account. An unweighted GPA represents an A as a 4.0 whether earned in an honors class, AP class, or lower-level class.

Unweighted GPA vs Weighted GPA

How Weighted And Unweighted Get Calculated

Unweighted and weighted GPAs get calculated differently. Let us look into the details of how to calculate both GPA types.

Weighted GPA Calculation

The calculations for weighted GPAs get complicated because students take a variety of courses at different academic levels. 

For example, let's say that you are taking five classes and getting As in two of them and Bs in three of them. So here, let's say that you get one A in a regular-level class, one A in an honors class, two Bs in AP classes, and one B in an honors class.

In what way does your weighted GPA calculate? Well, each grade has to consider in concurrence with class level. Meaning, using the unweighted GPA conversion scale for grades in regular-level classes, adding 0.5 to the plate for mid-level/honors classes, and adding 1.0 for high level/AP classes. It comes down to:

  • The A in a regular-level class is equal to a 4.0
  • The A in an honors class is similar to a 4.5
  • The two Bs in AP classes where each would be equal to a 4.0s
  • The B in the honors class is equivalent to a 3.5

If you sum up 4.0 + 4.5 + 4.0 + 4.0 + 3.5 and divide by 5, you get a 4.0 weighted GPA. Keep in mind, and not every school will use this exact weighted GPA scale.

Even if two students have ditto grades, one can have a weighted GPA, which is a whole point higher than the other. Let's assume you have a 3.2 unweighted GPA and are taking five classes. 

Even if two out of the five classes are honors or AP and the rest are regular-level, your GPA will elevate to a 3.6 on a weighted scale. A minor difference in the levels of your classes can make a massive variance in your weighted GPA.

Unweighted GPA Calculation

An unweighted GPA is more comfortable calculating than a weighted GPA because you do not have to examine your classes' levels in the calculations.

Let's take the same example we used for calculating weighted GPAs; say you are taking five classes, and you have As in two of them and Bs in three of them. The two Are equal to 4.0s, and the three Bs where each is equal to 3.0s. If you sum up 4.0 + 4.0 + 3.0 + 3.0 + 3.0 and then divide by five, you will derive an unweighted GPA of 3.4.

As you can see, there is a massive difference between the numbers you get for weighted GPA and unweighted GPA, which depends on the types of classes you are taking.

If things are complicated for your grades, let's look at a letter grade and percentile to GPA conversion chart to make things simple.

Letter Grade per Percentile per GPA

Many of the schools roughly follow this scale for unweighted GPAs

How College's Use of Different GPAs Impacts You?

It does not matter whether your College uses a weighted or unweighted GPA. It impacts your class rank and experiences in the college admissions process.

Your School using Unweighted GPAs

Admissions authorities examine your coursework in concurrence with your GPA to take the final decision about your future. The admissions committee knows that some schools do not consider it when they have a problematic GPA.

If you put effort, do what is necessary, and work hard in your studies but do not have a perfect GPA, you will perform better in the college admissions process than someone in regular-level classes with a 4.0.

Sometimes, it gets difficult to stand out from your classmates with your GPA because many students have GPAs at the same level when class difficulty doesn't get considered.

If class rank is only gets evaluated on an unweighted GPA, your class grade will not reflect the extra effort you disburse. It gets complicated when students with many AP classes can have lower unweighted GPAs than students who opted for less challenging courses despite being more academically driven.

However, you do not have to overthink the process. Admissions authorities are aware of the unweighted system's limitations, and they will carefully examine your course history to decide whether your GPA reflects your academic potential.

Your School Using Weighted GPA

One important thing students must know is that; having a 4.0 weighted GPA does not mean you can get into any college. Generally, getting a 4.0 is considered extraordinary, but with weighted GPAs, everything shifts upward. 

A GPA close to 5.0 under the weighted system is considered truly above everyone(first-class), so you work and strategize accordingly to get a high GPA that fits his model.

Your class rank reflects your academic drive and competence with a weighted GPA because your GPA determines your class grades and the classes' levels in which you earned them. You will have a higher rank than someone who gets the same grades as you in lower-level classes.

Students need to be careful about weighted GPAs because they can be deceptive. You have to consider everything so that you can contemplate accounting for the size of the GPA scale at your school.

In the end, the colleges know what they are doing, and you do not have to worry. Colleges will investigate properly evaluating your high school academic history regardless of whether your GPA is weighted or unweighted instead of just looking at the numbers.

The admissions committee knows which classes you take and how much effort you put. Remember, your GPA is just a fish in the ocean.

Do College Considers Weighted or Unweighted GPA the most?

The short answer is that many colleges consider weighted GPAs because they show the difficulty of taking colleges care more about your entire coursework record than just your GPA out of context. They will carefully examine which classes you took, how strenuous those classes were, and your class rank.

All the factors mentioned above are going to give them a better understanding of your GPA. When you are thinking about which GPA is crucial, understand that College is the big boss and look at all the data they provide to get the best idea of your academic proficiency. 

Admission authorities consider your transcript; If your transcript mentions the rising difficulty in your coursework, it will look impressive to colleges, even if your GPA isn't perfect. 

If you have a 4.0 GPA but took all the less demanding classes in high school, colleges will not consider you an elite student since you didn't put effort into raising yourself academically. 

To Conclude

Remember this vital thing: GPA does matter, but it is a small part of the larger picture of the admission process. 

Motivate yourself to take thought-provoking classes that align with your strengths and interests. Take your passions outside the classroom with an extracurricular profile and a personal statement, and your child's application will quickly be noticeable compared to other mediocre applications, which is much better than the little number posted at the top of your child's transcript. 

Besides,

Have a look at this guide by AP Guru to know more about GPA, Class Rank, and Academic Rigor 

AP Guru's guide on How to write College Personal Statements  

College Admissions are the first steps you take towards your future after high- school, and it should be well planned; 

Check out 8 Important things you should know about college admission

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