Grade point average, or GPA, is a formula for determining the average of your academic grades in the United States. A cumulative GPA is a weighted average of the individual grades in all the eligible courses you have taken at a particular school. You can usually figure it out on your own, as well, by dividing your total credits by the number of classes you’ve taken (Kamenetz, 2011).
During the purposes of this article, we shall restrict our discussion to high school. Accordingly, in this situation, the term “cumulative GPA” refers to measuring a particular student’s grade point average for the entirety of high school until the relevant period.
What Is the Use of Cumulative GPA?
Instead of focusing simply on a student’s academic accomplishments during a single quarter, the cumulative GPA provides a picture of their overall academic success throughout their high school career.
Because of this, the cumulative GPA of your 12th-grade year is significant when applying to colleges and universities. Most of the time, if not always, schools and universities base their admissions decisions on the applicant’s senior year cumulative GPA.
This is so that colleges may observe how a particular student’s academic performance has evolved throughout their entire high school experience. For some students, it may have improved, dropped, or in some other way changed. While each class is significant, rarely will a single test or grade have the final say about admissions.
How Differs Cumulative GPA from Overall GPA?
The terms cumulative GPA and overall GPA are comparable. However, there are apparent exceptions to the norm. To be safe, you must speak with your school to determine what each term means in the context of your particular situation.
Is The Cumulative GPA Weighted or Not?
The response to this query could be different from one school to the next, but generally speaking, the cumulative GPA can be either weighted or unweighted.
Most people envision the standard 4.0 scale when they think of GPA measurements. The cumulative unweighted GPAs are calculated using the 4.0 GPA scale. Here’s how that works: A student’s grade point average (GPA) increases to 4.0 when they earn an A in a class. He receives a 3.0 grade for a B in a course. He obtains a 2.0 when he receives a C and a 1.0 when he receives a D. A cumulative GPA is calculated using these scores as their average.
You might wonder, How can cumulative GPA be weighted and unweighted simultaneously? Most colleges frequently show a weighted and an unweighted cumulative GPA separately on the same transcript (Day, 2020). This is similar to how they report quarter, semester, and annual GPAs. However, you should speak with your institution to confirm if that applies to your particular circumstance.
For all high school level courses, a cumulative GPA is determined using the number of credits earned, a 4.0 (unweighted), and a 5.0 (weighted).
What GPA Should I Have for College Admissions?
What constitutes an excellent cumulative GPA for college admissions is typically straightforward but occasionally unsatisfying— it depends on your circumstances and objectives. One “good” GPA or cumulative GPA does not exist; instead, there is a “good” cumulative GPA for a specific college or university.
Generally speaking, to have the best chance of admission, you should have a cumulative GPA that is at or above the median (or average, in some situations) for the colleges or institutions you wish to attend, ideally at or above their 75th percentile (together with SAT/ACT scores).
However, there are exceptions at elite schools. For the class of 2024 at Yale, nearly 95% of those accepted were among the top 10% of their high school graduating classes.
The majority had weighted cumulative GPAs of at least 4.0 and unweighted cumulative GPAs close to or at 4.0. Suppose your school uses a 4.0 unweighted scale. In that case, a “good” cumulative GPA is as close to 4.0 unweighted as possible and as high as possible in terms of weighted cumulative GPA to be admitted to Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, or any other country’s most selective institutions of higher learning. Keep in mind, these universities frequently also require outstanding essays, extracurricular activities, high SAT/ACT scores, and letters of recommendation.
While it may be easier to get into other highly selective universities around the nation than the schools mentioned above, many of them are tricky to accept without a comparably high cumulative GPA, among other things.
Let’s consider a different hypothetical situation where you wish to get accepted to a renowned, esteemed flagship state research university, like the University of Florida or the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, to name a couple (Brown, 2019).
According to Brown, the most recently admitted class at the University of Florida had a middle 50% cumulative GPA range of 4.4-4.6. In contrast, the most recently recognized course at the University of Michigan had a median cumulative GPA of 3.90 (Owen, 2022).
For another illustration, the middle 50% cumulative GPAs for the most recent first-year class at Florida Atlantic University, a reputable public university in Florida, were 3.23-3.81 for students starting in the summer term and 3.73-4.33 for students beginning in the fall term (Brown,2019). As you can see, each college has different statistics. Therefore, your ability to achieve an “excellent” cumulative GPA depends on your goals.
To find out what would be a “good” cumulative GPA range for you to aspire for and eventually attend the college of your dreams, you should examine college admission websites or consult with an admissions expert.
How Can I Find My Cumulative GPA?
Now that you know what it is, how it works, and why it is significant, you might be asking how to compute a cumulative GPA. While it’s likely that your school will do this for you on your transcript, you can also perform the multi-step process on your own time.
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1.Kamenetz, A. (2011). The transformation of higher education through prior learning assessment. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 43(5), 7-13.
2.Day, Ariane Sonia. ACT Scores and High School Cumulative Grade Point Average as Indicators of College Graduation at one High School in East Tennessee. Diss. East Tennessee State University, 2020.
3. Brown, C. (2019). Success Rate of Student Accessibility Services Determined by Students Cumulative Grade Point Average.
4. Owen, S. (2022). College field specialization and beliefs about relative performance: An experimental intervention to understand gender gaps in STEM. Available at SSRN 4161554.