Parents and students often wonder whether weighted or unweighted GPA will be submitted as part of the application, and which is given preference by an admissions committee.
First, it’s important to note that the use of weighted vs. unweighted GPA is at the discretion of your child’s high school. As such, students do not choose between one or the other.
Unweighted GPA measures a student’s grades and academic performance without taking into account the level or rigor of each class (College Prep, Honors, AP or IB, for example). An A in both AP English and CP English would impact a student’s GPA just the same. Your child’s high school will determine the exact number grade that corresponds with an A, B, C, D and F, typically on the 0 (F) to 4.0 (A) scale.
Conversely, weighted GPA assigns a grade point average based on grades and course rigor. Weighted GPA is also scored on a different scale, typically between 0 – 4.5 or 0 – 5.0. For example, if an A in CP English equates to a 4.0 (same as before), then an A in AP English would equate to a 4.5 or 5.0, depending on the scale used by the high school, based on the increased difficulty of the course. The goal of the weighted GPA is to reflect both academic performance and course rigor within one single scoring scale.
High school counselors typically tell parents and students that a B in an AP course counts the same as an A in a lower-level course. While that might be true from a GPA calculation standpoint, it’s not true from a college admission officer’s perspective. At highly selective universities, a B in an AP course is not desired – students should aim primarily for A- or A grades in their AP classes if applying to very selective schools.
Which one is more valuable? For admissions officers, an unweighted GPA is more practical because it allows all applications to be placed on a consistent level for evaluation purposes – that is, unweighted GPAs normalize the grading for all applicants. But weighted GPAs take into account the rigor of the curriculum. Keep in mind that whether your child’s high school submits an unweighted or weighted GPA (or both), academic performance will always be viewed in conjunction with the high school profile submitted by the guidance office. Admissions officers always take the time to understand the ins and outs of a high school’s rank, curriculum and grading scale, regardless of the GPA type submitted.
As author of Untangling the Ivy League, Marc literally wrote the book on gaining admission to highly selective colleges. He earned a BA from Cornell University – where he met AcceptU’s co-founder – and an MBA from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Marc chaired the admissions advisory board; he has also conducted alumni interviews for Cornell for more than fifteen years.