How UC’s Calculate GPA

Andy Wang
Andy Wang

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All colleges look at an applicant’s high school GPA differently. For the most part, schools tend to take into account all four years of high school; generally, with a slight emphasis on sophomore and junior year. However, the University of California (or UC) system as a whole has a very unique approach. When it comes to calculating its “UC GPA” for its applicants, how do they do it? Let’s investigate how the UC’s calculate GPA.

Notably, the UC system looks almost exclusively at sophomore and junior year. There are calculators that allow applicants to input classes to get their UC GPA from their high school GPA. Nonetheless, we know a few key characteristics of note:

  • As stated above, the UC’s ignore freshman year grades when it comes to calculating GPA. This does not mean that they won’t look at which courses an applicant took during freshman year; but, the grade points it won’t factor into the all-important number.  
  • When UC’s factor honor points, they will only factor in four years of it, with only two years in the tenth grade. This means, for most traditional high schools, only eight semesters of honors points from your sophomore year will count. Honor points are awarded from success in AP or honor courses.

Pros and Cons?

There are a couple of things that can be both advantageous and disadvantageous to this calculation of an applicant’s high school GPA. One huge advantage of this method is that it more or less gives an applicant a grace period for transitioning from middle school to high school. This means that if an applicant doesn’t have the greatest freshman year, he or she can still recover his or her high school GPA by performing the next two years. In addition, this allows applicants to avoid cramming harder classes than they aren’t prepared for into their freshman year and instead take those courses along the  recommended route.

In addition, only taking up to 8 semesters of honors points from AP’s and honor classes makes it so that people at schools without many AP classes won’t be put at a severe disadvantage to applicants with a lot more opportunities. This means that even if someone at a very affluent high school were to take fifteen or more AP’s, their advantage would not give them a significant edge over applicants at lower privileged schools. In a way, this method ensures a more standardized system for all students by using a standardized high school GPA.

Thinking it through…

Although it seems rather unorthodox, there is a certain rationale to what UC’s are trying to accomplish. The UC’s calculate GPA with this adjusted high school weighting system. It allows for a certain amount of wiggle room when it comes to applicants taking classes during their freshman year which relieves pressure for rising sophomores who didn’t perform well in the year before. In addition, it limits the amount of honor points earned in order to make it an equal playing field between individual high schools that have high AP class discrepancy. These two factors are key in both understanding how UC’s observe GPA and encouraging those who didn’t do well freshman year.

Questions? Let us know!