Do Weighted GPA’s Matter?

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Dima Pankov

            Grades are usually considered to play the biggest role in college admissions. But how do colleges choose students that come from such different schools and systems? How do unweighted GPA’s compare to weighted ones? And most importantly, which do colleges prefer? To find the answers to these questions, we must first understand what both GPA’s mean.  

            A weighted GPA reflects how difficult a student’s course is, and students taking harder classes can have a higher, weighted GPA. In most cases, the more challenging courses are weighted. Such courses are known as AP and honor classes. “The weighted GPA factors in all the possible grades so an A+ is more points than a A,” says our testing coordinator, Amy Doll. 

            On the contrary, an unweighted GPA is simpler, and only calculates a student’s overall GPA on a 4.0 scale. Some criticism of this type of GPA is that it does not account for the difficulty and load of the class. A person that is taking regular language arts, can have the same GPA as a person who is taking AP language arts.  

            But which GPA matters more to a college? The answer is not so straightforward as it may seem, because every college is different. According to Amy Doll, “The question about which is best, weighted or unweighted, depends on the College, many admissions recalculate all applicants’ GPAs so that everyone starts from the same page.”  

            Even though many high schools and colleges prefer the unweighted GPA system, it does not negate the importance of more difficult classes. In the words of Ms. Doll, “Colleges pay attention to Honor and AP courses on a transcript even if they are scored the same as a gen ed class.” So, if students do well in their freshmen year, they are highly encouraged to push themselves to take higher difficulty classes that will look better on their academic transcript. But students also must be careful not to overload themselves because this can have a very negative impact resulting in worse mental health, and a lower GPA. GPA is still highly valued, and some colleges won’t even look at a GPA that doesn’t meet their cutoff. Ms. Doll, emphasizes that, “Ivy League schools will only look at a 3.5 unweighted and or a 4.4 from a weighted GPA.” It is important to find the right balance between the workload and the difficulty of your courses. As for WSHS, both weighted and unweighted GPAs are calculated, but Ms. Doll says we no longer share the weighted unless it is requested by the students or college.  

            There is a lot that goes into college admissions. A GPA is one of, if not, the most important things in a student’s transcript. Knowing where your GPA is relative to college expectations is important in creating a balanced list of college options. Knowing what classes to take at your high school next year and planning how much time you spend on homework and outside-of-school activities. High school is like a customer’s plate in a buffet, you want to get enough food to feel full, but never want your plate to overflow.