We get asked all sorts of questions about college admissions:
How can I make sure my child gets in?
What’s the most important component of a college application?
These questions are tough to answer because, depending on where your child wants to attend college, the answers to these questions vary greatly.
But one thing’s for sure–no matter where your child wants to go, no matter what they want to do, and no matter where they apply, their GPA will always be important.
Sit back, relax, and stay a while, because I’m going to tell you why GPA could make or break your student’s college career.
What is GPA?
Everyone’s always talking about GPA, but do they really know what they’re talking about?
In case you weren’t already aware, GPA stands for Grade Point Average.
Each letter grade is assigned a point value which is called the Grade Point. At the end of each semester, you can calculate your student’s GPA by adding up all their grade points and dividing by the total number of classes they’ve taken.
But don’t worry, you don’t have to do all that math if you don’t want to! Your student’s GPA can usually be found on their transcript.
There are also several online GPA calculators available to the lazy and mathematically challenged. 😉
What is the difference between weighted and unweighted GPA?
The method for calculating GPA that I just described is the general, more traditional method for calculating GPA, but there are actually several ways a student’s GPA can be computed.
This can get pretty confusing, so you should check with your child’s school and ask how they calculate GPA.
Typically schools compute two separate GPAs for each student, their weighted GPA, and their unweighted GPA. I know what you’re thinking…
How can my student have two GPAs? WHAT IS GOING ON???
Don’t panic! It’ll all be clear soon.
Many schools offer Accelerated and Advanced Placement (AP) classes to students who show academic merit. To distinguish an “A” in the advanced geometry class from that in the regular one, schools often assign a different point system to harder classes.
They may, for example, bump up a student’s grade by .5 points if the class they took was accelerated. Therefore, a student with three “Bs” in a regular class may have a 3.0 GPA while one with three “Bs” in advanced classes may have a 3.5 GPA.
If a student takes only accelerated classes and their school bumps up each accelerated grade by one point, they may potentially earn a 5.0 GPA.
The weight a school assigns to each class varies, and straight “A” students can graduate with different weighted GPAs depending on the school they attended.
Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, right?
Don’t get too excited though. Most colleges only ask their applicants to report their unweighted GPA, not their weighted GPA–this brings me to my next point, the unweighted GPA.
The unweighted GPA is the average of all class grades based on the 4.0 scale I described at the beginning of this post.
If the student earned an “A” in an advanced English class, the unweighted grade would still be a 4.0– the corresponding number on standard grade conversion charts–instead of, for example, a 4.5.
Regardless of class level, each class is graded on the same point system. Things can get a bit confusing when schools have an unweighted scale but still offer and “A+” that is worth 4.3 points. While still unweighted, this GPA is higher than a 4.0.
Your student should take AP and Honors classes!
So we’ve established that AP and honors classes only carry more weight when calculating a student’s weighted GPA and that, typically, colleges only ask their applicants to report their unweighted GPAs.
If that’s the case, then why do students even take honors and AP classes?
Why not just take the easier alternative, get that 4.0, and be done with it, right? Well, it’s not that simple.
Colleges ignore the weighted GPAs of their applicants simply because high schools have different ways of calculating weighted GPA, not because they don’t care about the difficulty of their applicants’ course loads.
On the contrary, the difficulty of your student’s course load matters A LOT, especially if they plan on applying to elite universities.
Let’s put it this way–if your student takes all non-accelerated classes and gets a 4.0, Stanford will never know how your child would have performed in a more difficult class. For all they know, you may have failed it!
So please, encourage your child to take AP and honors courses.
How you can make sure your student gets that 4.0
Obviously you can’t follow your child around class every day and make sure they succeed, but there are definitely a few things you can do at home to ensure that your child maximizes their grades and performs to their fullest potential!
Help your child get organized
One of the main reasons that students do poorly in school is that they lack organizational skills.
If your child isn’t organized, they’re more likely to forget to complete or turn in assignments, lose important papers, and forget to study for crucial exams.
To ensure that your child stays organized, sit down with them and create a sort of “filing system” in their backpack.
Give them a folder and a notebook for each class, and also give them a planner. Make sure that they write down important assignments and due dates in their planners so that they don’t forget anything!
Build good relationships with their teachers
During the first couple weeks of classes, make sure you attend your child’s back to school night so that you can meet and get to know their teachers!
Why does this matter?
If you have a good relationship with your child’s teachers, they’re more likely to notify you if your child is struggling in one of their classes. The earlier you find out, the sooner you can find a tutor, and the sooner you can bring that GPA up!
Who knows! Maybe their teacher wouldn’t even mind tutoring them personally.
Create a consistent schedule for your child
One of the hardest skills for high school students to learn is time management. This is the perfect opportunity to bring up your child’s GPA and teach them a valuable life skill.
Sit down with your child before the start of the semester and draw out a daily, consistent schedule for them. Make sure to leave time for meals, sleeping, studying and, of course, FUN.
Well, there you have it! You are now a GPA expert. Before you start organizing your student’s backpack, let’s do a quick recap of everything we talked about today:
- Weighted GPA adds extra weight to accelerated classes
- Unweighted GPA weights accelerated and regular classes equally
- Regardless, your child should still take honors and AP classes
- Organize your child’s backpack!
- Get to know their teachers
- Create a consistent schedule for your child
What are you waiting for? Go out there and help your child get that 4.0!
Got any other GPA boosting tips? Share with us in the comments below!
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