GPA stands for grade point average. A certain number of points is assigned to each grade. For instance, an A earns 4.0 points, a B earns 3.0 points, and so on. Your GPA is the average of these grade points.
Many colleges and universities calculate a cumulative GPA (your average grade points for all courses taken), a major GPA (the GPA for only classes in your major), and a semester GPA (your GPA simply for one semester). Universities place students on the honor roll and the dean’s list each semester based on the student’s GPA for that semester.
How to Calculate Your GPA
If all of your classes are worth the same number of credit hours (as is common in high school), calculate your GPA by totaling the grade points for each class. Divide the total number of grade points by the number of classes taken.
Otherwise, multiple the total grade points for each class by the number of credit hours for that class. Add all of these numbers together and then divide by the total number of credit hours you’ve taken as shown in the example at this link.
Note that some schools have a plus-or-minus grading system. In that case, an A-minus is awarded 3.7 points, a B-plus is worth 3.3 points, and so on.
What Is Considered a Good GPA?
Believe it or not, this depends largely on your plans after college. According to Pat Criscito in “How to Write Better Resumes and Cover Letters,” employers consider a good GPA to be over a 3.5. Criscito argues that a GPA between 3.0 and 3.5 will neither impress an employer nor create an unfavorable impression. Job applicants should omit college GPAs lower than a 3.0 from their resumes.
Students interested in attending law school should investigate the average GPA of students admitted to their prospective schools. The Internet Legal Research Group reports that the average GPA of students admitted to the top fifty law schools in the United States in 2009 ranged from 3.31 to 3.77. Pre-med students should be aware that the average GPA of students admitted to medical school is higher; according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), students accepted to medical school have GPAs ranging from 3.46 to 3.91.
Students intending to apply to graduate school have more flexibility. What is considered a good GPA varies from school to school and field to field. Check the graduate school’s minimum requirements for GPA for admission; programs within that graduate school might have further requirements. In general, students with a GPA lower than a 3.0 may find it difficult to be accepted to a master’s or doctoral program.
Things to Consider
Having a high GPA but a transcript filled with easy or lower-level classes may be less impressive to graduate, medical, and law schools than a slightly lower GPA but a history of tackling difficult coursework. Do not be discouraged if you have a rough freshman year in terms of grades. You can highlight your improvement either on your application or in an interview.
Finally, pay attention to your major GPA as well as your cumulative GPA. Many graduate and medical programs will look at both in considering your application.
- "2009 Raw Data Law School Rankings." Internet Legal Research Group. Available at: https://www.ilrg.com/rankings/law/index.php/1/desc/GPALow
- Criscito, Pat. "How to Write Better Resumes and Cover Letters." Hauppauge, NY: Barron's Educational Series, 2008.
- "Medical School Average MCAT Scores and GPA." Undergraduate advising from University of Washington. Available at: www.washington.edu/students/ugrad/advising/gpamcat.pdf