September 18, 2023 By Kat Tretina

What’s the Difference Between Weighted vs Unweighted GPAs?

What’s the Difference Between Weighted vs Unweighted GPAs?

As you research colleges and their admissions policies, you may see that some schools ask for a weighted grade point average (GPA) rather than an unweighted version. But what is a weighted GPA?

A weighted GPA is a recalculated version that takes into account the difficulty of your courseload. If you took college prep courses, honors classes, or Advanced Placement (AP) courses, a weighted GPA may benefit you by giving you extra points.

But not all colleges require weighted GPAs, and some will recalculate weighted GPAs when they receive student transcripts.

Here’s what you need to know about weighted vs. unweighted GPAs.

Weighted vs Unweighted GPAs: What’s the Difference?

Depending on the high school you go to and the courses you take, your GPA may be weighted or unweighted.

What is an Unweighted GPA?

An unweighted GPA is also known as a raw score. Your GPA is calculated solely based on the grades you earn in your classes, and it’s typically based on a 4.00 scale, with a 4.0 being the best-possible score. Unweighted GPAs tend to be more commonly used by high schools.

According to The Princeton Review, here is how your grades correspond with numerical grades and GPAs:

Letter Grade Grade Points Numerical Grade
A+ 4.0 97 to 100
A 4.0 94 to 96
A- 3.7 90 to 93
B+ 3.3 87 to 89
B 3.0 84 to 86
B- 2.7 80 to 83
C+ 2.3 77 to 79
C 2.0 74 to 76
C- 1.7 70 to 73
D+ 1.3 67 to 69
D 1.0 64 to 66
D- 0.7 60 to 63
F 0.0 0 to 59

What is a Weighted GPA?

Contrary to an unweighted GPA, not only are weighted GPAs based on the grades you earn, but they also consider how difficult your course load was. While weighted GPAs use a 4.0 scale, additional points can be added if you perform well in more challenging courses. For example, you may earn an additional percentage point for AP or honors courses. As a result, it’s possible to have a GPA over 4.0 if it’s weighted.

How schools score honors or AP scores vary. For example, some schools may give an A in an honors course an additional 0.5 or even a full extra point, so students can have a GPA as high as 5.0.

Letter Grade Regular Class Points Honors or Advanced Placement Class Points
A 4 Points 5 Points
B 3 Points 4 Points
C 2 Points 3 Points
D 1 Points 2 Points
F 0 Points 0 Points

To calculate your GPA, add the points per class and divide by the number of courses completed.

For example, let’s say you took the following courses and earned the following grades:

  • Honors English: A
  • Honors Chemistry: C
  • Standard Calculus: A
  • Standard American History: B

Here’s how your grades would translate to weighted and unweighted GPAs:

Letter Grade Points (Unweighted) Points (Weighted)
Honors English A 4 Points 5 Points
Honors Chemistry C 2 Points 3 Points
Standard Calculus A 4 Points 4 Points
Standard American History B 3 Points 3 Points
Total 13 Points 15 Points
GPA 3.25 (Unweighted) 3.75 (Weighted)

Divide the total unweighted points by the number of courses — four — and you find that your cumulative GPA is 3.25.

To calculate your weighted GPA, divide the weighted points by the number of courses — 15 divided by four — and your weighted GPA is 3.75.

You can also use a GPA calculator to find out what your weighted GPA is.

Do Colleges look at Weighted or Unweighted GPAs?

As you begin the college admissions process, you may be wondering if universities consider weighted or unweighted GPAs. Policies vary by school, so which GPA the college looks at will vary by institution.

By default, some high schools provide only weighted GPAs to colleges when they send student transcripts. Some colleges will accept those weighted GPAs, but some schools will request the unweighted GPA instead.

Regardless of which type of GPA your high school uses, you don’t have to worry about adjusting it yourself for your college applications. College admissions departments have their own procedures for reviewing transcripts and recalculating applicant GPAs based on their specific weighting systems. Because high schools have different course options and reporting methods, colleges use their own methods to standardize the admissions process.

What GPA do you need to get into college?

Your grades play a major role in whether you’ll get into your dream school. According to a survey of college admissions professionals released by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, 75% said that course grades are the biggest factor they consider, a higher percentage than those that say they consider grades in college prep courses.

For most four-year colleges, you will need a GPA of 2.7 or higher to get accepted into a program. However, if you have your heart set on a more selective school, like an Ivy League university, you’ll need a significantly higher GPA. Below are the acceptance rates and average unweighted GPAs for some of the most selective schools in the country:

School Acceptance rate Average GPA
Harvard University 4% 4.0
Johns Hopkins University 7% 3.93
Princeton University 6% 3.95
Stanford University 4% 3.96
University of Pennsylvania 7% 3.9

Applying to College

Now that you know how weighted and unweighted GPAs work, you can narrow down your list of potential colleges. College Confidential is an excellent resource; it has a searchable database that allows you to search for colleges based on your current GPA and the average GPA for admitted students. In the meantime, continue to work hard so you can make your college dreams a reality.