How Do Colleges Assess High School GPA Scores?

Cameron Devall
Cameron Devall

Cameron began his career as an English language teacher. After graduating from Heythrop College of Philosophy and Theology, University of London, he continued on to teach in Indonesia and Russia. Today, he fulfills his true passion by writing.

When applying for college, students need to know how their academics will measure up. Further, students need to know what colleges on their school list find important in assessing a potential student. For all schools, we can confidently say the student’s high school GPA plays a big part in their evaluation. How a university assesses this data can change from school to school however! It’s not all cut and dried. And that individual calculation can make the difference between strong and mediocre candidates.

The Problem With The GPA

While educators drill into high school students that they need to be concerned with their GPA, colleges have a hard time assessing a student using this score. This is because the classes and offerings at each high school are so incredibly different.

To combat this, colleges either look an unweighted GPA—which reflects the student’s ability to do well in their class, regardless of the level—or they use their own systems to remedy the issues. These colleges are finding fairer ways to assess their applicants.

Colleges Re-Weighing Scores With Their Own Formula

Due to both the weighted and unweighted GPA formulas having negative attributes, many colleges opt to use their own format. Colleges take student scores and class selection into consideration when they re-weigh the scores to better show the student’s abilities.

According to the Wall Street Journal, schools like Emory and the University of California have adopted the system of only using letter grades; that is to say, without pluses or minuses. The article details that other schools like Haverford College take a completely different method. These schools simply disregard the scores from the first year of high school.

A few colleges do not even consider the student’s GPA in their admission decision, looking at a combination of other factors like class rank instead.

Preparing Your GPA

Before students even begin choosing their high school classes, they should consider how their GPA will be effected and how colleges will assess them. In many cases this means simply choosing classes that will guarantee the best score. Many high schools will use a weighted GPA to encourage students to take the accelerated classes that are offered, but this does not generally work out well when it comes time to submit those potentially lower scores to universities.

Students should be wary of the pressure to have a good GPA. They should do their research into schools that interest them. If the school assesses their GPA in a particular way then they should be taking classes and getting the grades that would make for the most appealing combination for that particular university.

Questions? Let us know!