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Improve Your High School GPA With These 6 Strategies

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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, 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. 


This being said, 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 do 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 at and where you are in high school.


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, even more so. In fact, if you are getting close to the college admissions process and still aren’t satisfied with your numbers, then you might even be better served 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 steadily down since you started high school? Are you constantly getting worse grades in a particular subject? Do you tend to do better at a particular subject? What other factors (maybe extracurriculars, or maybe unfortunate circumstances such as a family emergency) have played into your GPA being what it is right now?


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


2. Take Easier Classes


We’re not suggesting that you should 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. This way, you will 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 and how you might be able to seek more help to improve your grade.


3. Think About Weighting


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


Are you taking any honors courses? And are you doing well in them? You might want to think about taking some 5.0-weighted courses in order to raise your GPA. It might end up being advantageous to you to take harder courses, 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 and 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, so be sure to think about your schedule and other responsibilities or obligations that might conflict with you taking a heavier course load. 


You also should not take a harder course if you don’t think you’ll be able to get a B or above.


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 in this period instead in order to raise your GPA.


Think seriously about which subjects you enjoy and do well in, and try to take one of these courses. Again, be sure that you are 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 reach out to your instructors. Many teachers designate time during lunch or after school for those who want 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 every subject imaginable, and websites like Khan Academy offer plenty of resources for 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. Think About Alternatives


If you are 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 applications 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).


Other things you could do include building relationships with teachers, joining extracurriculars, and taking leadership positions. You also may want to adjust your goals based on your GPA and think about which colleges will be a good fit for you. Your GPA shouldn’t be a deterrent from applying to more selective schools, as it’s certainly okay to aim high. Just remember to remain realistic and to have a plan B (and maybe even a plan C or D) for yourself in case things don’t pan out in the way that you’d want them to.


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. 


We’ve made it easy to understand the impact of your GPA by creating a free Admissions Chances Calculator. This calculator will let you know how your score stacks up against other applicants’, and give you tips on improving the rest of your profile, including grades and extracurriculars.


You can also search for schools based on preferences like location, major, cost, and more. Give it a try to get a jumpstart on your college strategy. 


You Got This!


High school GPA is important, but again, it certainly isn’t everything. If you’re struggling with your GPA or want to see some improvements, you might consider taking weighted courses, dropping down to an easier level, or taking more courses. There are also things you can do aside from your GPA that will improve your chances of getting into a college that will be a good fit for you, such as increasing your test scores, writing engaging essays, and participating in extracurriculars!


Looking for help navigating the road to college as a high school student? Download our free guide for 9th graders and our free guide for 10th graders. Our guides go in-depth about subjects ranging from academics, choosing courses, standardized tests, extracurricular activities, and much more!


For more tips and tricks regarding high school grades, be sure to check out these blog posts:


What is Actually a Good GPA for College Admissions?

Free GPA Calculator

How to Convert Your GPA to a 4.0 Scale

Devin Barricklow
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Devin Barricklow is a Political Science and Creative Writing double major at Columbia University. She’s really excited to be able to share her expertise about the college process with students who need advice. When she isn’t writing for CollegeVine, she enjoys reading the poems of Mary Oliver, going to concerts in the city, or cooking (preferably something with lots of bok choy and ginger).