Why The Context Of Your GPA Matters

Why the Context of Your GPA Matters

GPA is just one factor in college admissions. And while a high GPA is important, experts say the context of a student’s GPA matters as well. US News recently spoke to experts on how GPA is calculated, and why the context of a GPA matters so much in college admissions.


Most schools typically utilize a 4.0 scale for GPAs. On the 4.0 scale, an A-grade equals 4 while an F-grade equals 0. But, experts say, some schools may use a 5.0 scale, or even a 12.0 scale.

“In a perfect world, we tell students it doesn’t matter what scale your particular school uses because colleges and universities will receive your whole profile along with the transcript,” Colleen Paparella, founder of DC College Counseling, tells US News & World Report. “On either one of those documents, if not both, there will be some type of GPA scale provided to see that your three As and two Bs resulted in ‘X GPA’ and compare that to ‘Y GPA’ from the private school down the street, and so forth. In practice, it doesn’t always work out this way.”

That’s exactly why GPA context is so important in college admissions. No two programs are identical among different high schools, and some schools may not even include elective courses in GPA calculations.

“That’s what we want people to know about our students – that this GPA reflects this school and, probably to some extent then, the degree to which they value those things that they’re factoring into the GPA,” Christian Lanser, an admissions counselor for IvyWise, tells US News.


A 4.0 GPA with easy courses and a 4.0 GPA with rigorous courses are viewed very differently in college admissions.

Experts say colleges prefer applicants who challenge themselves with more challenging courses as opposed to applicants who take less rigorous courses to beef up their GPA.

“Colleges of course want to know that you’re going to be intellectually inquisitive, that you have a desire for learning, that you’re not afraid of taking on challenges and stretching yourself,” Mary Wagner, assistant vice president for enrollment management at the University of South Carolina, says. “But we also don’t want you to use bad judgment and just take those classes for the sake of gaming the GPA, and we do see some of that happening, too.”

Sources: US News, SoFi

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