If you’re putting into a top university in the USA, you have probably been making attempts at converting or calculating your GPA, so you’ll have something to present if you’re asked. It’s a standard feature on most school application forms, as well as financial aid forms, scholarship applications, and loan applications, and you’ll hear about it a lot.
But what exactly is a GPA? And what should you do if your undergraduate or high school grades were calculated differently? How can you transform those grades (or any other grades) into a cumulative GPA easily recognized in the USA?
We’ll tell you all about how schools use GPAs in their judgments; demonstrate to you how to compute your own cumulative GPA; identify useful GPA conversion tools that will enable you to transform your percentage grades into a GPA, and talk about how other factors can impact calculating GPA.
What is a GPA? And what is the difference between a semester GPA and a cumulative GPA?
In the United States, high schools, colleges, and universities generally compute a GPA based on a 4-point grading scale.
The system works like this:
- For each class a student takes, the student receives a letter grade. An “A” is the highest grade in this system, and an “F” is the lowest grade. (“F” stands for “Failed.”)
- Each letter grade is allotted a benchmark numeric value:
|Letter Grade||Corresponding Numeric Value|
- In calculating the student’s semester GPA, every class grade is transformed to its numeric value and then averaged together. (If every class has the same number of credit hours, they are weighted equally, but if they have different credit hours then it will be a weighted average.) This means that if a student took four classes in a semester, receiving an A (4.0), an A- (3.67), a B+ (3.33), and a C+ (2.67), all with the same number of credit hours, those four numbers would be added together and then divided by 4. So this student’s GPA for the semester would be 3.42.
- Conventionally, all GPAs were computed based on the chart above. But, in recent times, some high schools have adopted weighted GPAs, giving an extra 1.0 to advanced classes. These classes are often classified as “Honors,” “Advanced Placement (AP),” or “International Baccalaureate (IB).” So, for example, let’s say that a student took five classes in her last semester of high school and received all “A”s. However, two of those classes were IBs. In calculating her GPA, three of her classes would be allotted values of 4.0 each and her two IB classes would be allotted 5.0 each. Her weighted semester GPA would therefore be 4.4.
- Schools also compute every student’s cumulative GPA, which is computed in the same way as a semester GPA but includes all the classes that the student has taken so far.
How do schools use GPAs in the admissions process? –
Schools use a student’s GPA as one key factor in the admissions process, but it’s not the only factor. In general, the higher your GPA, the higher your chances of getting into a school. And the more selective the institution, the higher your GPA needs to be – for the incoming class of 2021 at Harvard University, for example, the average high school GPA was 4.18.
It’s vital to note that GPA requirements for schools in the United States are typically provided as a range; there’s often not a strict cut-off since other elements also affect admission to a school. Plus, GPAs tend to get somewhat less weight in admissions decisions for Master’s degrees and MBA programs, especially if applicants have significant work experience and have a demonstrated track record of professional achievement.
Calculating Your GPA
To begin calculating your American GPA, use the iGPA Calculator. It’s a free tool that gives you an approximate GPA based on the standard 4.0 scale.
The challenge for foreign students, of course, is that transforming your GPA to its equivalent in the United States can be more complex than merely carrying out a straight mathematical conversion. Other factors that might be taken into consideration include:
- The general grading culture and systems of your home nation (in some nations, the average grade might be the equivalent of a 2.0 in the USA, while it might be 3.0 in others).
- The grading systems of your particular high school (if applying for undergraduate studies in the United States)
or undergraduate institution (if applying for a graduate program).
- The difficulty of programs taken and how an American institution evaluates them.
This is where a formal credential evaluation can be valuable. It’s a verified report that takes all these factors into account and can be sent to college admissions officers, job recruiters, financial institutions, and other organizations that require official documentation of your academic accomplishments in your home country.
Calculating Your GPA. Find more articles on Student Resources here