If you are in college, you're surely aware that your GPA, or Grade Point Average, is a numerical representation of how well you scored on average in your classes. But do you realize how important that number is to you? It could be the most crucial number in your educational life.
1. Definition of GPA
2. How GPA is Calculated
3. The Importance of GPA
4. Potential Impacts of GPA
5. Suggestions and Solutions
6. LightCourse, Your GPA Guardian
1. Definition of GPA:
A Grade Point Average (GPA) is the average of all the grade points you have earned over a particular period, such as a semester, an academic year, or the entirety of your degree program. It is a common method of assessing academic achievement in the United States.
GPA is generally reported on a 4.0 scale in the United States. Typically, A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1, and F=0. GPA is frequently measured to one or two decimal places, for example, 3.0 and 3.45.
2. How GPA is Calculated
GPA = Total points earned / Total number of credits attempted
GPA is calculated by giving a numerical value to grades and calculating an average number from them. Although GPA is listed on most college transcripts, it is helpful to know how to calculate your GPA so you can estimate it when needed. To determine your GPA, all of your final grades are added together and then divided by the total amount of academic credits you have attempted.
Use the chart below to convert your letter grade or percentage grade to a GPA score on a 4.0 scale. Many higher education institutions in the United States use figures comparable to those in this chart:
4.0 GPA Scale
*Class grade as a percentage = (points earned ÷ points possible) × 100
A cumulative GPA is calculated based on all grade points you have earned throughout the entirety of your degree progress. It's worth noting that P/NP (Pass/No Pass, or Pass/Fail) courses are nearly always excluded from GPA calculations. However, because individual school policies may vary, you should always confirm with your own institution to determine if P/NP courses affect your GPA.
3. The importance of GPA:
GPA is not determined by one or two exams alone. Instead, it records your overall achievement in courses taken over your entire degree progress.
In addition to academic performance measured by assessments—including exams, essay assignments, and lab reports—factors such as class participation, communication with professors, and cooperation with group project members will also likely influence your GPA.
For college and university admissions, the average required GPA is between 3.5 and 4.0. However, a student may still be admitted into a less selective institution with a lower GPA; for instance, a top university may require a minimum 3.5 GPA, whereas a less competitive school may require at least a 2.0 GPA.
For instance, according to the University of California, Berkeley’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions, the student profile of UC Berkeley Freshmen is:
As for transfer student profile:
*Data ranges reflect the middle 50% of students.
Although numbers vary widely between institutions, prestigious frequently schools receive considerably more applications than the number of students they can admit. As a result, in order to be admitted, applicants usually must have an academic profile that is far more impressive than a university’s minimum requirements.
Moreover, many U.S. institutions require first-year students to maintain a GPA of at least 2.0, and if yours falls below that, you may be required to retake courses, suspend your studies, or even withdraw from the school. Note also that because GPA is a measure of a student's overall academic success, original grades for courses that have been retaken are still usually counted in total GPA.
4. Potential impacts of GPA:
A. GPA can be one of the criteria by which companies consider possible recruitment and hiring of graduates:
GPA has long been used by companies like General Motors, Ford, John Deere, and Caterpillar as an evaluation criterion while recruiting on-campus. According to a poll of over 200 employers conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 67% of companies said they screen candidates' resumes based on GPA. It is possible for applicants to meet all the other requirements of recruiting companies but still lose out on a job opportunity because of a low GPA.
According to an article on Indeed, a leading job search site, companies factor GPA into hiring decisions for recent grads in particular, because those candidates often lack much work experience by which they can be evaluated, so GPA may be used as a possible indicator of a candidate's ability to perform the job. When possible, employers consider GPAs of recent graduates in conjunction with other relevant experiences, such as jobs, internships, volunteer work, or student leadership positions.
GPA tends to be most important for entering industries that are more competitive or technical, such as education, finance, health, law, and technology. When an applicant has a high GPA, it will often be advantageous for the applicant to include their GPA in their job application. For example, a GPA in the range of 3.5 to 4.0 can help convey to employers that an applicant is studious, dedicated, and responsible. Generally speaking, a 3.0 GPA is commonly regarded as average, so anything above that has the potential to be evaluated as above average.
B. GPA is critical in determining potential eligibility for admission to prestigious institutions for graduate school:
Some students will choose to continue their studies after graduation by applying for a master's or doctoral degree at their university or other prestigious institutions. In this scenario, the GPA requirements for master's and doctoral students will be higher, and GPA is an essential factor in determining admission to prestigious universities.
According to StudyPortals, the average GPA for students admitted to Ivy League institutions at the graduate level is 3.71 on a 4.0 scale. For instance, the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science reveals that all students enrolled in its master's and doctorate programs have an average undergraduate GPA of over 3.8 on a 4.0 scale.
C. Potential Problems Associated with a Low GPA:
· Not being able to graduate on time or at all
For undergraduate students, a 2.0 GPA is usually required to graduate and receive an undergraduate degree. Graduate programs often have even stricter requirements, with many requiring a minimum GPA of 3.0 and some top-tier programs even specifying at least 3.5.
· Ineligibility to graduate with honors
GPA is used by colleges and universities to determine whether a student will graduate with honors. Students typically graduate cum laude (Latin for "with praise") when they obtain a 3.5-3.7 GPA, magna cum laude ("with great acclaim") when they earn a 3.8-3.9 GPA, and summa cum laude ("with the highest praise") when they get a 4.0 GPA or more. While the exact GPA ranges may vary by school, students with GPAs lower than these are usually not eligible to receive such distinctions.
· Failing to meet the requirements to pursue a dual degree
Students enrolling in dual or double degree programs must meet the standards of their institution. In general, a 3.0 GPA is required to apply for admission to such dual/double degree programs. For example, to apply for Boston University's dual degree program, you must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0. Similarly, students interested in pursuing a dual degree with the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.40 and must have earned a "C" (2.0) or better in specific required courses to be eligible to apply. Students are also not permitted to retake those required courses.
· Ineligibility to switch majors
Students who want to change their majors or switch to a different degree program normally need at least a 2.0 GPA to do so. For example, University of California, Davis students considering changing their major to Computer Science must have a 3.0 GPA at the time the change of major petition is submitted.
· Difficulties in transferring to another school
GPA is critical for transferring to a different school, and the GPA requirement tends to be higher/stricter if you want to transfer to a more prestigious school. Take Brown University as an example: the average GPA of its undergraduate transfer applicants in 2019 was 3.89, 3.98 in 2020, and 4.00 in 2021.
· Not being considered favorably for special programs
Acceptance into exchange programs, internships, research programs, and study abroad options are often determined in part by GPA. Applicants with high GPAs tend to be preferred for these opportunities.
· Ineligibility for some scholarships
The GPA requirement for a scholarship is usually determined by the type of scholarship and the institution that awards it. For example, students must have a minimum 3.0 GPA to apply for an undergraduate scholarship at the University of California, Los Angeles.
5. Tips and Tricks for Improving or Maintaining Sufficiently High GPA:
· Try to earn a high GPA during your freshman year. As you progress through your studies and into later years of college, courses generally become more challenging, and it can become even harder to earn high grades. Since your first semesters' grades will usually be weighted evenly in your cumulative GPA, they can help balance out lower grades in later, more difficult courses.
· For students in sophomore, junior, and senior years, it is important to always maintain your GPA during the current semester and consider retaking courses you previously did not get high grades in.
· Avoid overloading on courses simultaneously. In most semesters, at least some of the courses you take will need to directly count toward your major or degree requirements. When choosing electives or any additional classes, keep the requirements and workload of all courses in mind so that you only enroll in what you can adequately handle. Consider not taking a course you don’t need if it will overburden you in terms of time or effort.
· Have the courage to seek help when you need it. When you feel overwhelmed with your course load, schedule an appointment with your academic advisor or a subject tutor to find ways to help you with your studies. You can also meet up with your instructors after class or during office hours to discuss any learning you may be confused about.
· Make effective use of educational resources. Your campus has extensive and often free resources such as the library, computer lab, writing center, and career center. When working on assignments and research projects, go to your school's online or physical library for materials and to enhance your knowledge and understanding of what you're learning in class. There are also many digital tools available, such as audio, video, websites, interactive devices, and e-books.
· Join study groups with other students. These are great opportunities to discuss and review your coursework with a group of classmates. Participating in a study group allows you to get multiple viewpoints on class subjects, ask questions, and improve your grasp of the content. Try setting up weekly meetings to discuss current topics you're learning in class.
· Consider taking some credits externally. Transferring in credits from other accredited institutions is one of the ways that many students choose to study. It may help meet or supplement some course requirements, as well as potentially accelerate progress towards graduation, save money on tuition, and protect or improve GPA. At many institutions, transfer credit courses do not count towards GPA calculation, so students may be able to “protect” their GPAs from being lowered and also have more chances to improve their GPAs with the remaining courses taken at their home institution.
6. LightCourse, Your GPA Guardian
As a companion and problem solver for students on their educational journeys, LightCourse provides students seeking credit-bearing study possibilities with high-quality and convenient "one-stop" services. Thanks to our dedicated team with more than a decade of experience and expertise, LightCourse is able to provide a full credit transfer service to assist students with the entire process of registering for off-campus courses and transferring credits.
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