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If you’ve never heard the term GPA, it’s time to familiarize yourself! It’s one of the most important components to your college application. GPA stands for Grade Point Average and represents a summary of all of your grades throughout your four years of high school. Here’s what you need to know about GPA:

 

Weighted vs. Unweighted
Every school has a different method for determining your GPA. The main difference you’ll want to know is whether your school uses a weighted GPA or an unweighted GPA. A weighted GPA gives you extra points (or weighting) for taking more rigorous classes (like Honors and AP). An unweighted GPA calculates all grades the same way regardless of the level of class you’re in.

 

Scales
The second difference is the scale your school uses. The three most common scales are: 0-4.0, 0-100, and A-F, but there are many others. You’ll want to find out what your school uses. For the 0-100 scale, it’s pretty self-explanatory, but for 0-4.0 and A-F, you’ll want to find out the various benchmarks your school uses.

For example, does your school give pluses and minuses (i.e. A- or B+) or just the main letters? For the 0-4.0 scale, a 4.0 equates to an A, a 3.0 is a B, a 2.0 is considered a C, and a 1.0 is a D. If your school uses pluses and minuses, you either add 0.3 or subtract 0.3 (i.e. a B+ is a 3.0 + 0.3 = 3.3) Familiarizing yourself with your school’s GPA calculation policies early on will help eliminate the possibility for surprises during your senior year.

You’ll also want to find out how your class grades are calculated. Are they calculated based solely on your test grades? Could you lose points for submitting homework late? You should also keep in mind how class participation and absences affect your grade.

 

Rankings
Lastly, you’ll want to find out if your school ranks students. You don’t have to worry about this until senior year, but if your school does rank, then you’ll want to find out if it reports your percentile rank (i.e. you’re in the top 10th percentile) or if they will report your actual rank (114 out of 365).

Having an understanding of all the factors going into your GPA early on will help you make the right decisions (especially surrounding course selection) in maximizing your GPA before applying to college.