What is the highest GPA possible? What is an average GPA?
Most American colleges require applicants to submit their GPA on a 4.0 scale. Luckily, many high schools in the United States calculate GPAs on a 4.0 scale. It keeps things simple. However, some high schools do it differently. We at CollegeVine have GPAs anywhere from a 6.0 scale to no numeric scale at all!
If you are attending a school that calculates their GPAs non-traditional scale, don’t worry. Most GPAs can be easily converted, and if you need help, read our handy guide. Since the 4.0 GPA scale remains the most common academic measurement tool for colleges in the US, this is the scale that we will focus on in this post.
Is there a way to get a GPA that is higher than a 4.0? If so, how? What if your GPA is below a 4.0? Is it still a good GPA, still above average? Read on to find out.
What is my GPA and how do I calculate it?
GPA stands for Grade Point Average, and it is a numerical representation of all of your grades throughout high school. Each class you take in high school will be allotted a number from 1-4 based on your grade, and all of these numbers are then averaged. This final average is a huge indicator of success on your college application, and it is also used to calculate your class rank.
On a 4.0 scale, the GPA calculations are pretty simple. If you want to figure out what your GPA is right now, you can either ask to see it at your counselor’s office or you can calculate it by hand. Luckily, we at CollegeVine have compiled a helpful guide to help you calculate your high school GPA.
What is the highest GPA Possible?
If you are measuring your GPA on a 4.0 scale, you might assume that the highest GPA you can achieve is a 4.0. This implies that you have gotten all A’s in all of your classes throughout high school. While this certainly makes sense, the answer is actually a bit more nuanced than that.
If you have an unweighted GPA, the above is true. Your GPA will be measured on a 4.0 scale, and the level of difficulty of our classes makes no difference in the number of GPA points you are allotted per letter grade. For example, an A in an AP-level class will be worth the same amount of GPA points as an A in a regular class (in this case, 4 points). Unweighted GPAs don’t consider the fact that the A in an AP class is much harder to achieve.
However, there is another kind of GPA called a weighted GPA. This type of GPA awards one more GPA point for each letter grade in more difficult classes. In the example above, the A in an AP-level class would be allotted 5 points whereas an A in the regular class would be given 4 points. This system effectively switches GPA calculations to a 5.0 scale by taking the class’ level of difficulty into account.
So the highest GPA possible depends on whether you’re using a weighted or unweighted scale. For college applications, you should calculate both GPA’s and report whichever is requested. If none is specified, you can opt for the higher weighted GPA, if you’ve taken classes on the 5.0 scale.
Colleges know that course difficulty can vary from school to school, so most admissions committees don’t compare actual numbers between students. Instead, they consider GPAs in the context of your school. They may sometimes even use their own system to relativize GPAs, taking school and class difficulty into account. So, there’s no need to worry if your school has grade deflation and you’re applying to selective schools. Rather than aim for a certain GPA, you should strive to be one of the top students relative to others in your high school.
What is an Average GPA?
The last time a study was done to determine a national average for high school GPA was 2009. The study was conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, and it found that the average GPA for a high school student is a 3.0. You can read the full report here; however, since this study was done almost 10 years ago, this information is likely outdated.
We at CollegeVine strongly recommend that you not use the national average GPA as an indicator of how well you’re doing in school or what your college admissions chances are. You should instead strive for a GPA at least as high as the average GPA of students who were admitted to the colleges you want to attend. Many university websites offer that information, so do some research and figure out how competitive your GPA needs to be.
If you need a place to start, check out the College Board’s Big Future website, where you’ll find most of the key admissions statistics you’ll need to know
As a general rule, the more competitive the school, the higher the GPA you need. Once you enter the realm of the top 10 schools and the Ivy League, you can safely assume most, if not all, of the accepted students have a GPA of 4.0 or higher. If these selective colleges are on your college list, you should aim for the highest grades.
For More Information
Want to know more about your GPA and how it factors into college admissions? Check out these previous blog posts:
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!
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