What You Need to Know about Weighted GPA

Natalie Thompson
Natalie Thompson

Our collaborative team of content writers and researchers stay up-to-date on the latest news to help you ace your applications. We hope you enjoy the blog.

What is the difference between weighted GPA and unweighted GPA? And how do you use a weighted GPA improve your college application?

Grades are not the only thing a college considers when they look at your application. But they are part of the equation. We’ll break it down for you. 


When you apply to college, each school will look at several elements as part of your high school grades:

  • Grades in your academic core classes: these include English, Math, Social Studies, Foreign Language, and Science
  • The difficulty of your classes: regular versus honors, Advanced Placement (AP), or International Baccalaureate (IB).
  • The grade you receive in each class: the letter grade you receive at the end of each term or semester.

Unweighted GPA

Most high schools do not alter your grades on your report card. An A in AP Biology would look the same as an A in Pottery. But the grade you receive in a core class is more important to your college application.

So colleges highlight or focus on the grades you got in those core classes when they compare you to other students applying to the same school.

As you can guess, your high school is different from other applicants’ high schools. And the classes you take are not all equal in difficulty. Colleges keep that in mind.


Weighted GPA

Many high schools, and  some colleges, especially selective ones, weigh grades differently to separate out the students who are more ready for college than others. More difficult core classes show you are a better student.

It’s important to know that your high school counselor may make a weighted transcript that reflects the difficulty of the classes you took through adding more value to those grades. A college admissions board may weight the grades as well.

A weighted GPA is often between 0-5.0, depending on the weight system used. It’s important to remember that if you take an honors or AP course, it doesn’t mean you can skip some of the work and expect the grade boost to help your weighted GPA.

Colleges examine the subjects you take to see if you like to take on challenges, have prepared to do college level work and can handle a faster pace or deeper study of the subject matter.  Admission boards also look at the grade you received in an advanced class to see how much effort you put into course work.

When planning your high school schedule, be sure to include classes that show you like challenge and can handle the difficulties of college. Take the most advanced core classes you can handle and do your best in them.


And of course, keep in mind that there are other elements colleges consider, such as your accomplishments, your extracurricular activities, and the quality of your essays. Empowerly can help you in preparing for and applying to college. Talk to us today! 

Questions? Let us know!