What Is a High School GPA and How Important Is It?

You’ve probably heard about the importance of your GPA in high school — be it for extracurricular requirements, class rankings, and especially college admissions. But what is a GPA and why is it so important?

Your GPA, or Grade Point Average, is a calculation of your academic performance across all of your high school classes. 

Each grade you earn in your classes is converted into a numbered scale, meaning you earn a specific number of points for each class and its credits. Those points are then added and divided by the number of credits taken, which results in your performance “average,” or GPA.


Why is your GPA important?

While college admissions is a holistic review process, your grades still play a large role in determining your candidacy for admissions. Extracurriculars and essays may demonstrate your leadership skills and unique interests, but your GPA is important because it demonstrates how you’ll fit into the college classroom. 

Colleges want to see that you can keep up with the rigor of their classes. How you perform academically is the biggest indicator of your success in college. This is especially true of colleges that are known for their academic rigor, like STEM schools and Ivy League universities.

However, because college admissions offices are inundated with a pool of student applicants from across the country— and even the globe— comparing students’ report cards from different high schools can prove challenging. That’s where your GPA comes in. 

Since a GPA scale is universal, this makes it easier to compare students’ performances across different types of high schools that might have varying grade scales.. No matter where you go to school, GPA point values per letter grade remain the same: 

A = 4 points

B = 3 points

C = 2 points

D = 1 point

F = 0 points


Calculating Your GPA - Weighted vs. Unweighted

GPAs can be calculated on a weighted or unweighted scale. This determines whether your GPA calculation is factoring in the difficulty of your classes— i.e., its “weight.” On a weighted scale, an ‘A’ in an Honors, AP, or IB class would be worth six points towards your GPA, whereas an ‘A’ in a regular class would be worth four points. 

Let’s break that down with a sample report card: 

Course
Letter Grade
GPA Points (Unweighted)
GPA Points (Weighted)
Algebra I
A
4.0
4.0
World History Honors
B
3.0
4.0
English I
A
4.0
4.0
AP Psychology
B
2.0
5.0
Total GPA
3.25