Your GPA and College Admissions Requirements

Your GPA and College Admissions Requirements
  • Opening Intro -

    High school students seeking entrance into college know that a high SAT or ACT score is an important consideration of college admissions officers.

    Also given significant weight is the prospective student’s grade point average which represents the student’s cumulative GPA from their freshman year of high school on.


Most schools use a 4.0 grad scale with a 4 representing an “A,” a 3 a “B” and so on. The higher the GPA, the better the student’s chances of gaining admittance, particularly at the finest institutions.

Not every high school uses the same grading system or the school may give bonus points based on academic achievement, extracurricular assignments or for International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement classes according to Peterson’s College Search. [1] Moreover, colleges and universities may have differing admissions criteria. For example, Cornell University states that it does not use “…any single formula for its admission decisions.” Cornell looks at the student’s high school record, coursework rigor, grades and in-class rank among other factors to determine whether a student is accepted into this Ivy League university. [2] Most schools want students who are in the top tier of their class and have at least a 3.0 GPA.

Handling Differences

So, your school uses a different GPA system, one that allows its top students to score above 4.0. This means a 3.0 GPA at your high school may be treated differently from a 3.0 at a school that pegs its top number at 4.0. At this point you need to set up a meeting with your school’s guidance counselor to understand its grading formula and find out how colleges will interpret your GPA.

If your school’s system is easy to understand, then its top awarded GPA of 4.3 represents an “A+” average, which is 4.0 at other schools. A 4.0 would be an “A” which may also be 4.0 at schools using a traditional grading formula. From an “A-” on down, the scores should be uniform with a 3.7 GPA equaling an “A-” at all schools. If the grading formula is different, then your guidance counselor should explain that and offer a conversion chart to help you determine your adjusted score.

Other Considerations

A lower GPA won’t necessarily disqualify students from admissions consideration. For example, if your GPA is 2.88 and you took predominately advanced placement classes, you should receive consideration equal to or ahead of the student who has a 3.0 GPA and took only the required courses. This is why your academic portfolio must accurately reflect the classes you took and be easily identified by admissions officers. Don’t worry: high schools know that an (AP) or (IB) notation after a course can help out wherever a course name alone doesn’t do justice.

Finally, other considerations given weight include your essay, volunteer and community participation, recommendations and your admittance interviews. Add these in with your test scores and GPA, and your college will have a clear picture of the type of student you are and your potential as an undergraduate. [3]


[1] Peterson’s College Search: College Admission Requirements and Your GPA

[2] Cornell University: What Are the GPA and SAT/ACT Cutoffs for Admission?

[3] University of South Florida: Freshmen Requirements

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Categories: Academics