Weighted vs Unweighted GPA and How Colleges View Them

Madeleine Karydes
Madeleine Karydes

Madeleine attended UC Berkeley and double-majored in English and Media Studies. She is now an integral part of the Empowerly team.

The discussion of weighted vs. unweighted GPA has risen to the top of many minds. COVID has brought grading schemes under the microscope, once again. You may well know that schools evaluate academic performance in two ways:

  • in the classroom through letter grades, and
  • through Grade Point Average, or GPA.

You’re likely familiar the grading from A-F, but colleges are interested in overall performance. They find this statistic with a quick glance of your unweighted GPA which will fall between [0.0 and 4.0]. Colleges could also be interested in a weighted GPA which applies more proportional weight to more difficult classes.

However, more and more classes are also offering P and NP. Wondering what that means? Read on for a breakdown of how this plays out today.

In regards to weighted GPA, that depends on the classes you take and how you score in them. Grading differs if you take what are known as weighted classes. For instance, if you took an AP or IB class and got an A, you could be given a  higher number, such as a 5.0. It really depends on the scale that your high school has chosen. To be sure, you should speak with your college counselor. 

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat.
What hasn’t changed with the shifting grade scales is that you need to pay attention to your GPA.

Through your high school career, the most important thing you can do is keep the highest GPA you can. Even if you don’t fare as well on the SAT or ACT, a high GPA will show your abilities to succeed on the college level. It’s also important to push yourself to take harder classes that will raise your weighted GPA. Challenging yourself with difficult classes and getting a slightly lower GPA is more impressive to college admissions than getting a 4.0 on lesser classes. Remember, it’s never too early to ask for college admissions help from experienced counselors. Finding the right one can give you unique insight into how the admissions process works, among other areas. They help you decide which classes you should take. A good counselor can even explain the ins and outs of GPAs and give you essay help.


The admissions board to any UC school will weigh all the students GPA the same, no matter which campus you are applying to. For in-state students, the first grades that they look at will be during the summer before the 10th grade begins, and the final grades they look at will be the summer following the 11th grade. They also allow 8 semesters of honors classes to count against your weighted GPA (no more than 4 can come from the 10th grade). These can include AP classes, UC-approved honors classes or transferable college courses. Students must receive a C or better in order for those credits to count. It’s essentially the same for out of state students, except they will only count honors weight from AP classes.

What has changed: Pass and No-Pass classes

With the changing circumstances of the Spring 2020 semester and the uncertainty surrounding Fall 2020, things changed. Many schools decided to grade these semesters as simply Pass and No-Pass. This means the A-F points won’t weigh into your overall GPA. This can be good, if you aren’t scoring well; or unhelpful, if you wanted the A to boost your overall GPA up. While the circumstances are making a relatively level playing field for all students at this time, it’s important still to try your best in classes even when they are Pass/No-Pass. The subject material will build foundations for later classes you will receive evaluations in. Additionally, colleges (and your teachers, who will write your letters of recommendation) will want to know that you care about more than just your points, but about learning itself. 

If you are looking to attend a top 50 college in the United States, maintaining a high GPA beginning in the 9th grade is imperative. The average GPA for the top 50 schools is right around 3.7 (unweighted) and all of them place a greater importance on the weighted GPA. Remember, the harder the classes, the more they believe you can succeed at the next level. As you move up the list of top 50 colleges in the US, you’ll see that the GPA requirements become higher and higher. If you’re focused on gaining admissions into one of these top tier schools, you may want to consider looking for a private college counselor who can get to know you early in your high school career.

Looking for more advice? Check out our free profile reviews with the enrollment team, where they can answer all your questions about the Empowerly program and how we can launch you into a stellar future.


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