Do Colleges Look at Weighted or Unweighted GPAs?

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With college admissions rates declining year by year, the pressure of getting into a top-tier school is so much higher than it has ever been before. Have you ever wondered if the colleges might look at your weighted or unweighted GPA? Find out the difference between weighted and unweighted GPAs and how they are interpreted by colleges below and tips to help you figure out what will be best for your future goals! Read on for an in-depth explanation of these two types of GPAs and how they are calculated!

Admissions officers consider everything, including your grades, when evaluating your application. 

In the admissions process, universities receive hundreds, if not thousands, of documents as part of the requirements to apply to their programs. There is usually the transcript among these admission requirements, a strip of subjects in which the grades you obtained in your degree are shown. However, various grading scales are used worldwide: 10s, the 20s, letters, and percentages. So how do the different applicant scores compare? This is possible thanks to the GPA, and in this post, we will tell you what it is and how it is calculated since specific programs will ask you to calculate your average on a 4.0 scale.

What is the GPA?

The Grade Point Average, or GPA for short, is a scale generally from 0 to 4 used to standardize academic performance in the United States. As its name indicates (average grades in Spanish), it is a number that indicates how high your average grade was in the courses you took in college. Therefore, a GPA of 4.0 is equivalent to the maximum grade awarded by your university, regardless of the scale they use. 

The GPA is the standard scale of choice at most colleges and is used by many. This is used to assess whether you meet the standards and expectations for the master’s or postgraduate program you are applying to. It should be noted that the GPA can be cumulative or weighted, and then we will tell you the difference between these.

Difference Between Weighted and Unweighted GPA

The weighted GPA is a grade point average that considers the level of difficulty of the classes, giving a higher score to grades from higher-level classes. For example, some colleges assign a score of 5.0 instead of the standard 4.0 to a perfect score in an advanced subject. Most high schools calculate GPA using a 4.0 scale. This is the traditional scale, and it’s what most colleges use when they look at your academic record.

However, some high schools use a 5.0 or 6.0 scale, which weights grades in Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses differently than regular classes. Competitive high schools often use the 5.0 and 6.0 scales to show how challenging their curriculum is.

Weighted GPAs can give you an edge when you’re applying to college—but only if the admissions office at your target school considers them. Many colleges stick to the unweighted 4.0 scale, so their admissions committees don’t put as much emphasis on weighted GPAs.

What matters most to colleges is the level of rigor in your coursework and your grades in those courses. If your transcript doesn’t show that you challenged yourself academically, your chances of getting into a competitive school will be low, no matter what your GPA is.

How is the GPA calculated?

Here is a table to convert your cumulative GPA to a 4.0 scale, depending on the grading system managed by your university:

Letter grade Percent Rating Scale 4.0
A+ 100 – 97 4.0
A 96 – 93 4.0
A- 92 – 90 3.7
B+ 89 – 87 3.3
B. 86 – 83 3.0
B- 82 – 80 2.7
C+ 79 – 77 23
C 76 – 73 2.0
C- 72 – 70 1.7
D+ 69 – 67 1.3
D 66 – 65 1.0
E / F under 65 0.0

What is a good GPA?

A good GPA will depend on the program and university you want to apply to. If you’re going to study at a top university and the graduate program is very competitive, the average GPA of your competition will tend to be high. Top universities usually have classes with average GPA equal to or greater than 3.5. While a minimum GPA isn’t usually required, some programs do recommend a certain GPA score.

Why is the GPA important?

GPA is important to admissions committees because it is an objective metric that shows how well you have performed throughout your student career. This is because your grades indicate your ability to do good work consistently. Additionally, admissions committees understand that scores among applicants cannot be fully compared since they differ among colleges. Some examples of why this is the case are different academic rigor between universities and different severity between professors from the same university.

While your grades are important to admissions committees in determining whether you will be able to complete your studies, they are not everything. Information about an applicant is supplemented with other requirements such as GRE or GMAT standardized tests, personal essays, CVs, and letters of recommendation. So, if you have a slightly below-average GPA for the program of your choice, you can use other requirements to show your achievements and skills in the area.

Remember that your GPA is only one element of your admission application, so regardless of whether your GPA is above, below, or in the class average for the program, you must show a competitive profile through this and other requirements. Therefore, it is necessary that you have an admission strategy that ensures that the different components of the portfolio clearly show your motivation throughout your professional experience. 

Which GPA is Better: Weighted or Unweighted GPA

There’s a lot of debate surrounding weighted and unweighted GPAs. Some people argue that weighted GPAs give students an unfair advantage, while others claim they provide a more accurate representation of a student’s academic abilities.

So, which is better? Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. The truth is that it depends on the college you’re applying to and your circumstances.

For example, if you’re applying to a highly competitive school, they may emphasize your GPA more than other factors. In this case, a higher GPA (whether weighted or unweighted) will give you a better chance of being accepted.

However, if you have other strong extracurriculars or test scores, the school may be more forgiving of a lower GPA. In this case, it will be best to focus on those other areas rather than your GPA.

Ultimately, whether to submit a weighted or unweighted GPA is up to you. If you’re unsure which will look better on your application, talk to your guidance counselor or the admissions office at the school you’re applying to. They’ll be able to give you more specific advice based on your situation.

Do Colleges Look At Weighted Or Unweighted GPAs?

Regarding your GPA, which one should you send to colleges—the weighted or unweighted version? The answer may depend on the school. Some institutions will automatically calculate your weighted GPA using the information you provide on your transcript. Others may require that you submit both GPAs, giving them the option to consider whichever they deem most important.

If you have a choice in the matter, your best bet is to send both. Why? Because each GPA offers different insights into your academic performance.

Your weighted GPA considers the level of difficulty of each course you take (AP, honors, etc.), giving a more accurate representation of how you handle challenging material. This can be beneficial if you took primarily challenging courses and want to show that you can excel in a college-level curriculum.

On the other hand, your unweighted GPA provides a level playing field for all students, regardless of their course load. This can be helpful if your high school offers few advanced courses or if you took a lighter course load (health issues, extracurricular commitments, etc.). It also may be given more weight by colleges that don’t automatically calculate weighted GPAs.

Related Questions

When does a weighted GPA start to count?

A weighted GPA starts to count when a student takes Honors or AP classes. The grades in these classes are worth more than the grades in regular courses, so they significantly impact the student’s GPA.

What are some good points about a weighted GPA?

There are a few good points to having a weighted GPA. First, weighted GPAs take into account the level of difficulty of your course load. So, if you’re taking all advanced or honors classes, you’ll have a higher weighted GPA than someone who is taking all regular classes. This can be helpful when colleges are looking at your transcript because it shows that you are challenging yourself academically.

Another good point about weighted GPAs is that they can help you stand out from other applicants. If you have a high weighted GPA, you’re getting good grades in easy and challenging classes. This can make you a more attractive candidate for college admissions committees.

Overall, having a weighted GPA can benefit the college admissions process because it demonstrates your academic abilities and challenges.


There is no easy answer when it comes to whether colleges will look at weighted or unweighted GPA. However, we can say with certainty that each college has its preferences and requirements for admitting students. Therefore, it’s important that you research each college you’re interested in attending and find out their specific requirements. With a little effort, you’ll be able to put your best foot forward and increase your chances of being admitted to the school of your dreams.

The question of colleges looking at weighted or unweighted GPA is left up to each college, so we recommend that you call the admissions office to determine which one they will use before you apply.

Emmanuel Dominic

Emmanuel Dominic is the Founder and CEO of Examspot, a passionate educationist, avid reader, and data scientist. With a bachelor's degree in Economics and Development Studies, Emmanuel shares practical tips and strategies for excelling in exams such as WAEC, NECO, IJMB, JUPEB, and more. His well-researched blog posts provide valuable insights on exam techniques, study habits, and stress management, empowering students to achieve outstanding results.