You’re probably wondering what the difference between a weighted and unweighted GPA is, or perhaps more broadly, what a GPA is in general. GPA stands for Grade Point Average and is a tool used by schools to reflect how well students are performing in their classes. Cumulative GPAs are calculated by averaging a student’s grades throughout all four years of high school and assigning it a numerical value.

In this article, we will outline the differences between weighted vs unweighted GPAs. We will also discuss the question, do colleges look for weighted or unweighted GPAs? So, if you’re wondering what does weighted and unweighted GPAs mean? Continue reading for a full explanation!

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Weighted and unweighted GPA meanings

The primary difference between weighted and unweighted GPAs is that a weighted GPA takes course difficulty into account, whereas an unweighted GPA does not.

College admissions officers work with both weighted and unweighted GPAs. That said, in addition to having a high GPA, college admissions officers want to admit students who are willing to challenge themselves. This is why it’s important to design your course load strategically and enroll in as many advanced classes as you can reasonably manage.

If you are trying to decide how many AP classes to take, you may want to look at a list of AP classes with their passing rates.

What Is an unweighted GPA?

An unweighted GPA is calculated on a 0-4 scale. This means that the highest GPA you can have is a 4.0 (this is not the case with a weighted GPA). Unweighted GPAs do not differentiate between regular, Honors, and AP classes. This means that an A is A, and a B is a B, regardless of the difficulty of the class.

What Is a weighted GPA?

Weighted GPAs take course difficulty into account, awarding extra points to students enrolled in advanced courses. If your high school calculates class rank, weighted GPAs are often a better indication of which students are the most academically gifted. After all, earning an A in an AP class is a lot more challenging than earning an A in a regular class! Overall, high schools use weighted GPAs as a way to recognize students taking Honors and AP courses.

Although weighted GPA systems vary from school to school, the most common system is calculated on a scale of 0-5. So what does this look like in practice?

Schools that use this method award an extra point to students enrolled in an AP course and an extra 0.5 for students enrolled in an Honors course. Let’s take a look at two of these examples.

Example 1:

  • If a student earns an A in a regular class, their GPA is 4.0.
  • If a student earns an A in an Honors class, their GPA is 4.5.
  • If a student earns an A in an AP class, their GPA is 5.0.

Example 2:

  • If a student earns a B- in a regular class, their GPA is 2.7.
  • If a student earns a B- in an Honors class, their GPA is 3.2.
  • If a student earns a B- in an AP class, their GPA is a 3.7.

What Is a good weighted GPA for the Ivy League?

The highest weighted GPA a student can earn is a 5.0. If you are interested in attending a highly-selective school, such as an Ivy League institution, and have a weighted GPA, you should strive to get as close to a 5.0 as you can. Although having a 4.0 is a great accomplishment, be sure to adjust your standards if your school calculates weighted GPAs.

How to calculate your GPA

Calculating your GPA can feel overwhelming at first. Thankfully, though, it’s pretty easy to do! In this section, we’ll discuss how to calculate weighted and unweighted GPAs. Let’s start with unweighted GPAs:

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Below 65


Now, let’s take a look at how to calculate your cumulative GPA. Once you calculate your GPA for each class, add all of your individual GPAs together and divide by the number of classes you’ve taken.

For example, say you took six classes and earned two A’s (4.0, 4.0), an A- (3.7), two B’s (3.0, 3.0), and a C (2.0). To figure out your cumulative GPA, add 4.0+4.0+3.7+3.0+3.0+2.0 and divide by 6 (the number of classes you took). According to our calculations, your cumulative GPA is 3.28.

If you want to calculate your cumulative GPA for all four years of high school, repeat this process with all of your grades!

Do colleges look at weighted or unweighted GPAs?

Some high schools calculate weighted GPAs, while others calculate unweighted GPAs. Although each school varies, it’s important to realize that colleges are not “tricked” by which type of GPA you submit. Some colleges will even recalculate each applicant’s GPA to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

While your high school GPA is an important college admissions factor, colleges do not look at your GPA out of context. They are equally concerned with the level of course rigor you are capable of handling. At the end of the day, college admissions officers want to admit students who are willing and able to challenge themselves by taking advanced courses.

Therefore, a student with a 4.0 enrolled in all regular classes will not be as competitive of an applicant as a student with a 3.7 (or perhaps even a 3.3) who enrolled in several AP and Honors courses. This means that even if your high school does not calculate weighted GPAs, you should still take plenty of AP classes!

Should I report a weighted or unweighted GPA?

You’re likely wondering, is a weighted or unweighted GPA better? And do colleges care more about weighted or unweighted GPAs?

Colleges look at both weighted and unweighted GPAs and adjust their standards accordingly when reviewing college applications. Therefore, if you’re trying to decide whether to submit a weighted or unweighted GPA, don’t spend too much time worrying! Colleges are well-versed in the differences between a weighted GPA and an unweighted GPA and can evaluate each one effectively.

Key takeaways and moving forward

In conclusion, is a weighted or unweighted GPA better? While neither one has a clear advantage over the other, weighted GPAs are often viewed as being a more accurate depiction of a student’s potential. Don’t worry too much about whether you should submit a weighted or unweighted GPA. Colleges are used to navigating these two different systems! So again, in response to the question, what GPA do colleges look at, weighted or unweighted?, the answer is both.