How to Get a 4.0 GPA in High School: 7 Tips

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What’s Covered:

 

With the immense competition for gaining acceptance at selective universities, having a high GPA becomes a critical part of a student’s application. But how do you achieve that coveted 4.0? And is it absolutely necessary for admission to top-tier colleges?

What Does it Take to Get a 4.0 GPA?

 

A 4.0 GPA indicates an A average. Yet, to achieve a weighted 4.0 GPA, which means that extra credit is received for advanced courses such as honors or AP classes, you can afford to get a few A- ‘s or lower grades; assuming you have enough extra points racked up to make up the difference. But to achieve an unweighted 4.0 GPA, which doesn’t offer extra credit for advanced courses, you’ll need to earn straight A’s. Some schools do award a 4.3 for an A+, meaning you could theoretically get an A- if you also have an A+ on your transcript, but this is not the case across the board.

 

Refer to this chart to understand GPAs and their corresponding letter grades and percentage values. Use this chart and this guide to calculate your own GPA.

 

A+

97-100

4.0

A

93-96

4.0

A-

90-92

3.7

B+

87-89

3.3

B

83-86

3.0

B-

80-82

2.7

C+

77-79

2.3

C

73-76

2.0

C-

70-72

1.7

D+

67-69

1.3

D

65-66

1.0

F

Below 65

0.0

 

Do You Actually Want a 4.0 Unweighted GPA?

 

If you’re aiming for a highly selective school, you should aim for the highest GPA possible. But don’t sacrifice the rigor of your curriculum to achieve an unweighted 4.0 GPA, because colleges want to see you challenge yourself with honors and AP courses.

 

Generally speaking, if you think you’ll be able to get at least a B in an advanced iteration of a course that will complement your profile, then it’s a good idea to take the more difficult version. For instance, if you are intending on pursuing a degree in Humanities, it would be better to take AP Language and Composition over a standard English course. 

 

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7 Tips for Getting a 4.0 GPA

 

1. Seek out opportunities to actively participate in class.

 

Participation isn’t just about demonstrating your knowledge in class and racking up points. It’s also a way to engage with the information and learn more critically. Not only will you show your teacher that you’re interested in learning — but you’ll also be able to ask questions, get answers to questions you have, and clear up any confusion you might have about the material. This is a way to improve your understanding and ultimately perform better on your assessments. In the grand scheme of things, active participation in class will lead to greater retention of the material; which is crucial to getting prepared for college-level courses.

 

2. Welcome feedback.

 

Feedback is an important learning tool. Constructive feedback from your teachers or peers leads to revision and reflection that may prompt you to put aside or completely scrap previous work. While getting upset and even angry by feedback is a natural reaction — many of us are prone to getting defensive when we feel insulted — work on accepting and studying the feedback. This will help you learn from it and improve your performance in your coursework. If your teachers aren’t providing feedback or the feedback they do provide doesn’t seem particularly constructive, try asking them to clarify further or to give you specific steps to take to improve your performance.

 

3. Take classes that play to your strengths.

 

We’ve touched on how to decide whether or not to take advanced classes. But if your ultimate goal is truly to achieve an unweighted 4.0, you simply can’t afford to take courses where you’ll risk getting anything lower than an A. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take honors and AP courses — you absolutely should. Just make sure these challenging courses are in areas that are strengths for you and complement your overall profile. For example, if you’re a STEM person, prioritize taking APs in math and science instead of in English, history, and foreign languages.

 

4. Collaborate with other students.

 

Some high school students see their classmates as competition. But that’s not reality. It’s a misconception (perpetuated by pop culture) that colleges have one slot at Harvard for students from a thousand-person high school class. So, try to work with, rather than against, your peers. This will help you approach problems in new ways, engage with diverse perspectives, and learn in a more positive and supportive environment. It’s also a good idea to speak with upperclassmen who have already taken certain courses. They will be able to offer advice on how to do well in given courses, what various teachers are looking for, and could help with specific topics.

 

5. Study smarter.

 

Find out what strategies work best for you. We’re not saying you should cram or spend every second of the day studying. Instead, learn the right ways to study, namely the ones you respond to the best. Perhaps you learn best with flashcards, or maybe drawing pictures of the material helps you grasp it better. Try out different methods to find the fit. Many people also need to find their perfect study spot. Study hygiene is an underappreciated aspect of studying smarter. Do you like to study in quiet or loud places? Do you prefer studying in your room or at a library or cafe? Ask yourself questions like these to discern what type of study environment works best for you.

 

6. Retake classes if possible.

 

Some schools might allow you to retake classes if you didn’t do as well as you’d like. Perhaps you can attend summer school or take a course at a local community college (or online) to earn a higher grade. Talk to your guidance counselor about the various options you have for inching your grade up. Remember, if this is an option, you’ll have to figure out what went wrong the first time and correct it the second time around, which will take time and effort.

 

7. Ask for help.

 

There’s nothing weak about asking for help when you need it. Teachers want you to succeed and if you need extra clarification they are ready and willing to help you. A tutor can also help you improve your grades. This isn’t just an option for students who are struggling in class — it’s also a good choice for solid students who want to do just a little better. If you are concerned about the financial aspects of securing a tutor, take advantage of school-run tutoring programs or reach out to see if a teacher can provide recurring, additional help during office hours.

 

How Will Your Grades Impact Your College Chances?

 

Your grades play a critical role in the college admissions process. Most highly selective schools use the Academic Index, a metric that combines your grades and standardized test scores into a single value that weeds out students who don’t meet a certain threshold before admissions committees review other aspects of your application.

 

How do you stack up? Find out with CollegeVine’s chancing engine. This free tool predicts your real odds of admission to hundreds of selective schools across the country.

 

 

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Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.

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