It may be tough to believe for some high school students and their parents, but there was indeed a time when Advanced Placement (AP) credit courses didn’t exist. Created on the heels of World War II, in 1955 the College Board officially took reins of the program which awards college credit to high school students. Nowadays, admission into a top undergraduate business school all but requires completion of one or two AP courses.
This year, for the first time ever during the data collection for the Poets&Quants for Undergrads Best Undergraduate Business Schools ranking, we asked schools to report the average high school GPAs of the most recent incoming class (fall 2018). Not all schools were able to report the data, but many of the ones that did boasted some impressive scores — and at the top of them all is Villanova University’s School of Business, which reported an impressive 4.29 GPA.
The traditional GPA in the U.S. is reported on a 1.0 to 4.0 scale. It is calculated based on the total number of credits a course is worth and the grade that the student received. Generally, an “A” or “A+” is a 3.5 to 4.0. Successfully completed AP courses are weighted heavier, which is how some students and schools are able to report higher than a 4.0: an “A” or “A+” could be weighted to a 4.5 or 5.0, for example.
Following Villanova among schools with the best average GPA score is the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce, which reported a 4.22. After Virginia, Washington University in St. Louis Olin Business School and the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business tied at 4.20. Rounding out the top five in terms of highest average GPAs was The College of William & Mary’s Mason School of Business, which had a 4.17.
Of the 79 schools that submitted high school GPA averages, 11 had at least a 4.0 or higher. None of the 79 dropped below 3.0; the average for all schools was 3.73.
If high school GPA isn’t a strong point for you, take a look at the schools below. The Hult International Business School has the lowest average high school GPA at 3.04. Kent State University isn’t much higher at 3.15. Ithaca College, Sacred Heart University, and Northern Illinois University round out the next three lowest averages with 3.18, 3.2, and 3.3, respectively.
While having a solid high school GPA can play a role in getting you into a good college, there is not much — if any — correlation between high GPAs and early career success. Some researchers even suggest that earning straight A’s can be a sign of over-conformity and a lack of creativity.
“Getting straight A’s requires conformity,” Wharton professor Adam Grant recently wrote in The New York Times. “Having an influential career demands originality.”
(See the next page for an entire list of average high school GPAs at the Best Undergraduate B-Schools.)