What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

Improve Your High School GPA With These 8 Strategies

What’s Covered:


It’s a fact of life that your high school GPA is important. Whether you’re an honors student or struggling more than you’d like to be, chances are you care about the grades that you’re getting. After all, these grades can determine the colleges you’re admitted to (or not admitted to), the scholarships you earn, and your access to other academic and career-related opportunities.


Currently, your biggest focus is probably how to leverage your grades to get into the college(s) of your choice. Academics typically play a key role—if not the most important role—in your admissions decision. However, many students apply with the same GPA, so to further distinguish candidates from each other, most colleges consider factors like extracurriculars, test scores, and achievements in addition to your grades.


That being said, your GPA certainly isn’t everything in life. It’s not the end of the world if your grades aren’t where you want them to be—and there are always steps you can try to take in order to raise your GPA. You’ve already made an important and proactive first step by clicking on this blog post!


Read on for tips and strategies on how to improve your high school GPA now! If you don’t know your exact GPA, you can use our free GPA calculator.


How to Improve Your GPA


1. Be Realistic


When considering how to raise your high school GPA, the first thing you should do is take stock of where your grades are and where you are in your high school career.


If you’re a 9th or 10th grader, the good news is that you still have a decent amount of time to get your GPA up since you haven’t earned all that many grades yet!


If you’re in 11th grade, you might feel a little more pressed for time, and if you’re a senior you might feel even more so. In fact, if you’re getting close to the college admissions process and still aren’t satisfied with your numbers, then you might even be better served by focusing on improving your test scores.


While evaluating your grades, try to determine your strengths and weaknesses. Are your grades on an upward trend or have they gone down steadily since you started high school? Are you constantly getting worse grades in a particular subject? Do you tend to do better in a particular subject? What other factors—maybe extracurriculars or unfortunate circumstances such as a family emergency—have played a role in getting your GPA to where it is right now?


Understanding this information is a critical first step that can help you adjust your future schedules or better allocate your time and energy within your existing schedule.


2. Take Easier Classes


We’re not suggesting that you just “go for the easy A.” However, if you’ve been consistently struggling in the same subject in a way that has been negatively affecting your GPA, it might be time to think about switching down a level. That way, you’ll already be familiar with the content of the course since you’ve already been learning it at a higher level.


Again, you should think realistically about what your strengths and weaknesses are in terms of your grades and your GPA. You should also consider your experiences with the teachers in particular courses, as these can inform the ways in which you might seek more help to improve your grades.


3. Think About Weighting


At some schools, certain courses will be worth more points than others in the calculation of your GPA. For example, an A in some honors courses will be worth a 5.0 as opposed to a 4.0. Be sure to get to know these policies at your school and think critically about how they affect your GPA.


Are you taking any honors courses? If so, are you doing well in them? You might want to think about taking some 5.0-weighted courses in order to raise your GPA. Taking these high-level courses may end up being advantageous to you, because even if you don’t do as well in them, they will be worth more to your GPA. It’s also always a good thing to challenge yourself academically—you will learn more, and colleges will see that you are a hard worker who is interested in learning at a more rigorous level!


Keep in mind, though, that honors courses will often be more challenging and might require more of a time commitment. Be sure to think about your schedule and other responsibilities or obligations that might lessen your ability to take on a heavier course load. You also shouldn’t take a harder course if you don’t think you’ll be able to get a B or above in it.


4. Increase Your Course Load


If you’re thinking about ways to get your GPA up to where you want it to be, taking more courses might give you the opportunity to do well in multiple courses and raise your GPA.


Some schools will offer a free period, study period, or early dismissal for seniors. If your school offers these benefits, you might consider taking a course during this period instead in order to raise your GPA.


Think seriously about the subjects you enjoy and do well in, and try to take one of these courses. Again, make sure you’re not just slacking off or trying for an easy A, but rather, remain realistic about what you can and can’t do academically.


5. Seek Academic Help


It can be really overwhelming to not be in your ideal academic standing, and many students often feel as though they’re the only ones struggling and can’t do anything about it. However, this isn’t the case! There’s nothing wrong with reaching out for help, and this can be one of the most beneficial things you do to start turning your grades around.


First, see what resources your school already has in place. Take advantage of any tutoring programs or clubs that utilize your instructors. Many teachers designate time during lunch or after school for those who want or need extra help.


If your teachers don’t already have these sessions officially, you can always ask them to set aside time—usually, they’re more than willing to help you out. Talking to your friends and setting up peer tutoring or group study sessions can also be super valuable, as you can use your individual strengths and weaknesses to help each other out.


There is also a wealth of information online—for free! YouTube has a host of tutorial videos in just about every subject imaginable, and websites like Khan Academy offer plenty of resources to students seeking academic help with their coursework. Just make sure your source is legitimate and credible to avoid confusing yourself with information that might not be correct!


6. Improve Your Test Scores


If you’re a senior, or if getting your grades up simply isn’t working for you, then it might be time to focus on other elements of your college application that you can improve.


For senior year, this will most likely be your test scores—you might want to try retaking the ACT or SAT in the fall of your senior year. For some application timelines, you can retake the test all the way up until January (though November is usually the last time you can test for Regular Decision deadlines).


If you’ve already taken your ACT/SAT, then it’s time to look into retaking the test to improve your scores. The idea of retaking might seem daunting, but it’s a common practice that could yield significant improvements in your score. Initial attempts at these exams offer a firsthand understanding of the test’s pacing, structure, and question types.


With this experience, you can then refine your test-taking strategies and deepen your content knowledge for subsequent attempts. Remember that colleges will typically look at your highest scores, so there’s no harm in trying more than once.


As you prepare for these exams, practice tests and prep services can prove invaluable. They allow you to simulate the test-taking experience, familiarize yourself with the types of questions asked, and assess areas of strength and weakness.


Additionally, it’s crucial to note that the College Board, the organization behind the SAT, is transitioning to a digital test format.This change means that familiarity with the digital interface, along with proficiency in typing responses, especially for the essay portion, will be instrumental in your success.


7. Develop Your Extracurricular Profile


While your GPA is definitely an important factor in admissions, so is a robust extracurricular profile. Extracurricular activities (ECs) demonstrate your passions, interests, and commitments outside of academics. They provide colleges with insight into your character and potential for engagement beyond the classroom. ECs can be broken down into four tiers to help gauge the level of importance of certain achievements with respect to college applications.


  • Tier 1 includes outstanding achievements, such as qualifying for the Olympics or winning a national award. These activities show a high level of dedication and success.


  • Tier 2 activities are those at a state or regional level, like being the captain of a state-champion team or an All-State musician. These show significant achievement and dedication.


  • Tier 3 activities are those at a local level, such as being a high school club president or a member of the school band. They demonstrate involvement and leadership.


  • Tier 4 activities are those with casual involvement, like being a member of a club or participating in community service. These activities show engagement and interest.


As you head into your junior and senior year, your extracurricular profile becomes particularly important, so take extra care to take any additional steps to improve your extracurricular standing.


8. Write Stellar Essays


The Common Application personal statement is a critical aspect of your college application. Understanding the essay prompt and its underlying meaning is the key to writing an engaging piece. Your essay is a unique chance to allow admissions officers to learn about you beyond just numbers like test scores and GPAs


Crafting your essay as a narrative rather than a recitation of facts can make it more memorable. Use detailed, sensory language to bring your experiences to life, all while remaining focused on answering the prompt.


The heart of your essay lies in reflection. Delve into how your experiences have molded you and the lessons they have taught you. This introspective angle will add depth to your essay, making it not just a story, but also a glimpse into your thought process and character development.


That being said, as crucial as content is, don’t disregard the importance of polished grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. Your first draft is just that—a first attempt. Dedicate time to editing and revising, ensuring that your essay is as well crafted as it is thought-provoking.


Which Schools Can You Get Into With Your GPA?


Selective colleges use a metric called the Academic Index (AI) to represent the strength of an applicant’s GPA and test scores. If your AI is too low, a school may not even review the rest of your application.


Though you should focus on maximizing your AI, remember that colleges value more than just your grades—attributes like diversity, leadership, resilience, and extracurricular involvement carry weight too. Strive to apply to colleges that not only match your academic capabilities, but that also align with your personal growth goals. This balance ensures a well-rounded college experience and a fruitful educational journey.


Diversification is essential to the college application process. The importance of having alternative plans cannot be overstated in the face of the unpredictable nature of college admissions. Your safety net may include a Plan B, a Plan C, and even a Plan D as you aim for the stars. Remember, an acceptance letter from a prestigious institution isn’t the only benchmark of success. The personal growth and experience you gain throughout the process hold equal, if not more, importance.


We’ve made it easy to understand the impact of your GPA and other important factors regarding admissions by creating a free chancing engine. This calculator considers factors such as grades, test scores, and extracurriculars, to estimate your odds of getting into hundreds of colleges and universities. It will let you know how your profile stacks up against other applicants’ profiles while also providing insight into how to improve yours!


You can also search for schools based on preferences like location, major, cost, and more. Give it a try to get a jump-start on your college admission journey!

Short Bio
Varun is a recent graduate from Arizona State University, Tempe, with a degree in Computer Science. He aims to share his knowledge of computer science, the IB Diploma Program, and all things college-related with high school students. In his free time, he can be found performing DJ sets or cooking!