Anna Ravenelle 6 min read Academics, Grades and GPA

Best Schools To Get Into With a 3.9 GPA

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There are many factors that play a role in your college applications. You will have your standardized test scores like the SAT and/or ACT, your grades, your extracurricular activities, your essays, and so on.

 

One of the most important parts of your college application is going to be your high school grade point average, or GPA. This is the number that cumulatively describes your overall grades at a glance, allowing universities to get an initial sense of your accomplishment level before looking at your profile in more detail. Different high schools have different ways of calculating GPA, so be sure to check with your guidance office to understand what your GPA means.

 

Is 3.9 a Good GPA in High School?

 

Rather than thinking about your GPA as “good” or “bad,” you should think of it in the context of the schools you are applying to. Because your GPA encompasses much of your academic achievements, it is one of the first things that a university will look at when considering your profile.

 

Typically, they’ll be looking for a certain minimum GPA before they will begin considering you as a candidate. If your GPA doesn’t meet this threshold number, your application may not be read in depth. While you might not know that minimum threshold, taking a look at the school’s average GPA for admitted freshmen can help you get a sense of what a typical admitted student looks like.

 

If you have a 3.9 GPA, that means you earned As in most of your high school courses. A GPA in this range will make you a contender for many top schools. However, one thing to keep in mind when applying with a 3.9 GPA to top schools is that many other students will be demonstrating the same level of academic excellence; be sure to work on other parts of your application as well as your GPA when preparing to apply to college. 

 

We’ve put together a list of top colleges with a freshman class average high school GPA of 3.9 for you:

 

School Type State Region
Princeton University Private New Jersey Mid East
Stanford University Private California Far West
University of Pennsylvania Private Pennsylvania Mid East
University of California-Berkeley Public California Far West
Brandeis University Private Massachusetts New England
Davidson College Private North Carolina Southeast
University of San Diego Private California Far West
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Private New York Mid East
University of Massachusetts-Amherst Public Massachusetts New England
Barnard College Private New York Mid East
Kenyon College Private Ohio Great Lakes
Auburn University Public Alabama Southeast
Rhodes College Private Tennessee Southeast
The University of Tennessee-Knoxville Public Tennessee Southeast
University of South Florida-Main Campus Public Florida Southeast

Steps to Increase Your GPA

With a 3.9 GPA, you’ll be considered as a serious candidate at many top schools. If you are still early in your high school career, however, you still have time to improve it if you would like! Keep in mind that if your school is on a 4.0 scale, that there might not be much room to improve, so you can work on your academic profile in other ways. 

 

 

1. Explore New Study Strategies

 

With a 3.9 GPA, you probably already have some solid study habits and tools in place. To bring your scores to that next level, reflect on what’s working and what’s not. If you know you’re a procrastinator, enlist a family member or a time mangement app to help you set aside time each night to work on an essay or review for an exam instead of doing it all the night before .Are you having trouble reviewing your class notes before tests? Try out a couple different note-taking methods to see if looking at the information differently will help you retain more. There are so many study strategies out there–find what works for you.

 

 

2. Evaluate Your Courseload

 

There might not be much room to improve your GPA numerically, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve it in other ways. One way you can demonstrate your academic capacity is to take a more rigorous courseload. If you are getting all As in your school’s standard level classes, try adding some honors and/or AP courses to your schedule. Maintaining those same high grades while taking on more difficult subjects can be a great asset to your application.

 

 

3. Evaluate Your Commitments

 

If you are taking courses at the right level of difficulty, or you decide to increase your difficulty slightly but you’re not able to maintain the same level as grades as before, you should take a look at your extracurricular and other commitments. If you are able to delegate or decrease a couple of responsibilities across many extracurriculars, or put one or two bigger commitments on hold, you will have more time to focus on studying and your grades. Before doing this, remember that your grades aren’t the only important part of your application; try not to drop too many responsibilities unless you are sure you will be able to make that last jump in your GPA with this extra time.

 

 

4. Seek help

 

The best people to ask for help in a subject you are struggling in is usually your teacher. Ask about getting additional one-on-one help for topics you don’t understand or before tests to help focus your studies. If asking your teacher for help isn’t an option, see if you can find a peer tutor who took the class recently. You can also see if there are online resources on the topic that present the information in a different way that makes more sense to you. 

 

What If You Don’t Have Time to Increase Your GPA?

 

Luckily, your GPA isn’t the only thing that matters in your academic profile. While it is important, there are other ways you can demonstrate your academic ability. Standardized test scores can help provide context and demonstrate your potential, even if your GPA is lower than expected. And the level of difficulty of your courseload matters too. A slightly lower GPA with all honors and AP courses (or your school’s equivalent) will read better than a higher GPA where you didn’t challenge yourself with the subject matter. If your grades improved over your high school career, you can also highlight that on your application; schools love to see performance growth over time.

 

Another thing schools may consider with a GPA outside of a school’s desired range is if you faced extenuating circumstances that caused the drop in grades. This could be family or personal tragedy, natural disasters, long-term illness, etc. If you think your circumstances warrant additional consideration, you can include this information elsewhere in your application, like in the additional information section or in response to an essay prompt.

 

Why Does GPA Matter?

 

GPA matters in the sense that it’s a tool that many colleges give a strong weight to in the admissions process because it gives them that high-level look at your grades (and therefore your academic potential) with a single number. While they may look at your transcript and each individual grade it contains, your GPA gives them an easy reference point when considering your academic fit for their institution.

 

That said, your GPA is not the be-all, end-all of your academic ability, and colleges know this. Depending on how your school calculates it–like if you have a weighted GPA or a different grading scale–it could be wildly different from another student who has otherwise similar grades and courses. Your GPA also doesn’t indicate how difficult the courses you took were. A 3.9 earned in all honors and AP courses looks the same as a 3.9 earned in all standard courses on paper, but taking the honors and AP courses would likely better prepare you for college studies.

 

In addition to your GPA, schools will use other factors–like class rank, weighted GPAs, grade trends, and standardized test scores–to understand your capacity for learning. Your GPA is an important piece of that, but by no means the only piece.

 

For More Information

 

If you found this post helpful, take a look at our other posts:

 

Best Schools To Get Into With a 3.8 GPA

Best Schools To Get Into With a 3.7 GPA

What is Actually a Good GPA for College?

Improve Your High School GPA With These 5 Strategies

 

There’s no question that GPA factors heavily in the overall college application process. At CollegeVine, we’re passionate about helping high school students and their families navigate the path to the best colleges for them. To get more information about how we can help you craft the right academic profile, sign up for our newsletter for more posts like this one.

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Anna Ravenelle
Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Anna Ravenelle is a graduate of Cornell University, where she studied English with a concentration in Creative Writing. After spending two application cycles in the CollegeVine applications division, she now uses her admissions experience to help a greater number of students. She resides in New York but her heart has never left New Hampshire, where she grew up.