Grade Point Average, better known by its common acronym, GPA, plays a major role in the academic careers of students at all grade levels. It is calculated by averaging the grade points earned from letter grades with total number of credit hours/amount of credit hours/course credit.
GPA is especially important for high school students seeking admission to colleges, universities, or other such higher education institutions. It’s also extremely important for current college students seeking admission to graduate and professional programs. In many fields of employment, college GPA is also an important metric recruiters look at on a resume.
In particular, GPA plays a critical role for high school students navigating the college admissions process who are filling out college applications. This is because Grade Point Average gives colleges and universities one of the best possible pictures of a student’s academic achievement in their coursework and potential for success in college, which they use along with SAT/ACT scores, essays, extracurriculars, letters of recommendation, and other factors in making admissions and scholarship decisions. A higher GPA often makes admission to selective colleges more possible.
Specifically, the type of GPA that plays one of the biggest roles in college and university admissions is the Cumulative GPA. As a result, many students may find themselves asking “What is cumulative GPA?” or wondering how to calculate cumulative GPA.
Cumulative GPA factors in all grades that a student earned over the course of their high school academic career up to the time in question, rather than just grades for a given quarter, semester, or academic year(s).
As a result, Cumulative GPA allows colleges and universities to get a better sense of a student’s academic performance throughout all of high school, and allows them to factor in things such as upward or downward trends in academic performance when making their admissions and scholarship decisions.
In this article, we will discuss in further detail the answers to questions such as “What is a cumulative GPA?” and “Is cumulative GPA weighted?” as well as “What does cumulative GPA mean?” and “What is the difference between GPA and cumulative GPA?” as well as the specifics of the cumulative GPA definition, and how to calculate cumulative GPA for all semesters.
What Is A Cumulative GPA?
As we mentioned earlier in this article, cumulative GPA is a measure of a given student’s grade point average over their entire time in their academic program(s).
For the sake of this article, we will limit our discussion to high school, so cumulative GPA in this case would be a measure of a given student’s grade point average throughout all of high school up to the time period in question. Specifically, cumulative GPA is the average of all of the student’s quarter/semester/year (depending on how their school’s schedule works) GPAs.
What Is Cumulative GPA Used For?
As we mentioned earlier in this article, cumulative GPA is used to give a clearer, better pictures of a student’s full body of academic work and performance throughout their entire high school career, rather than a picture of their academic achievements only in one given quarter/semester/year.
This makes cumulative GPA particularly valuable in the college and university admissions process. Cumulative GPA is almost always the main, if not only, GPA that colleges and universities consider when making their admissions decisions. This is because cumulative GPA allows colleges to see how a given student’s academic performance has improved, declined, or otherwise changed over the course of their entire high school career. This means that every class is important, but that no one class or year will ultimately determine an admissions result on its own in most cases.
How Is Cumulative GPA Different From The Overall GPA?
In most cases, the terms Cumulative GPA and Overall GPA are used interchangeably, and generally have the same or a similar meaning. However, that can vary from school to school, and there are definite exceptions to the aforementioned rule.
The most notable of those exceptions is that some schools use the term “Overall GPA” or “Overall Cumulative GPA” to refer to what we have been previously calling simply “Cumulative GPA” in this article, and they then use the term “Cumulative GPA” to refer to what we have been simply calling “GPA,” that is, the student’s GPA in a given quarter/semester/year.
For the purposes of this article, we will continue to use our original definition of Cumulative GPA, but it is important that you consult your school and find out which terms mean what in your given situation, and adjust your understanding of this article’s contents accordingly.
Is Cumulative GPA Weighted Or Unweighted?
While, again, the answer to this question may vary from school to school, generally speaking, Cumulative GPA can be (and usually is) both weighted and unweighted.
“How can cumulative GPA be both weighted and unweighted?” you might ask. The answer to that is, like quarter/semester/yearly GPA, most schools often report a weighted and an unweighted cumulative GPA separately on the same transcript. However, you should consult your school to find out if that is in fact the case in your specific situation.
What Is A Good Cumulative GPA For College Admissions?
The answer to the question of what is a good cumulative GPA for college admissions is generally a simple but not always satisfying one: it depends on your situation and your goals. There is no such thing as a single “good” GPA or cumulative GPA, but rather a “good” cumulative GPA for a given college or university.
Generally speaking, you want to be at or above the median (or average, in some cases) cumulative GPA for the college or universities you want to be admitted to, and ideally at or above their 75th percentile (along with SAT/ACT scores) to have the best chance possible. Although, of course, every college, applicant, and situation is different.
For example, though, for the class of 2024 at Yale College, the undergraduate school of Yale University, one of the most selective universities in the United States, almost 95% of their admitted students were in the top 10% of their high school classes, and most had weighted cumulative GPAs over 4.0 and unweighted cumulative GPAs close to or at 4.0. A “good” cumulative GPA to be admitted to Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, or any other of the nation’s most selective institutions of higher education is as close to 4.0 unweighted as possible (assuming your school uses a 4.0 unweighted scale) and as high as possible in terms of weighted cumulative GPA.
Of course, a perfect GPA alone isn’t enough, since high SAT/ACT scores, excellent essays, extracurriculars, and letters of recommendation are often also needed to be admitted to such selective colleges and universities. While other highly selective institutions in the country may not be quite as difficult to get into as the aforementioned schools, many of them are still difficult to obtain an acceptance to without a similarly high cumulative GPA, among other factors.
In another potential scenario, let’s say you want to obtain an acceptance to a well-known, prestigious flagship state research university, such as the University of Florida or the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, just to name a few. The middle 50% cumulative GPA range for the University of Florida’s most recent admitted class was 4.4-4.6 while the University of Michigan’s most recent median admitted student cumulative GPA was 3.90.
For another example, at Florida Atlantic University, a well-respected state school in Florida, the middle 50% cumulative GPAs for their most recent freshman class was 3.23-3.81 for students starting in summer term and 3.73-4.33 for students starting in fall term. As you can see, every college has varying statistics, making a “good” cumulative GPA dependent on your goals.
You should consult the websites of colleges and universities you hope to attend in order to determine what might be a “good” cumulative GPA range for you to aim for.
How To Calculate Your Cumulative GPA?
Now that you understand what a cumulative GPA is and how and why it is important, you might be wondering how to calculate cumulative GPA. While your school most likely does this for you on your transcript, it is a multi-step process that you can also do yourself on your own time if you are curious as to what your cumulative GPA is without looking at your transcript ot if you want to project what it might become if you earn certain grades in given classes.
Obtain Your Semester GPA And Credit Hours
The first step to calculating your cumulative GPA is determining your semester GPA for each semester (for our purposes here, we are assuming your school uses a semester system, but feel free to replace semester with quarter, etc.) and credit hours. For example, if you received all As in four 1-credit classes, you’d have a 4.0 semester GPA for that semester.
Calculate Your Total Grade Points
The next step to calculating your cumulative GPA is adding up your total grade points. Typically, an A is 4 grade points, a B is 3 grade points, a C is 2 grade points, and so on, but consult your school to find out what each grade is worth in terms of points at your school. Once you’ve done so, you should add them all up to get your total grade points across all semesters of your high school academic career.
Determine Your Total Credit Hours And Cumulative Total Grade Points
For the next step towards calculating your cumulative GPA, you should calculate your total (cumulative) grade points across all semesters in high school as well as how many credit hours you have taken throughout all of high school.
Divide Your Total Grade Points By Your Total Credit Hours
Last, but certainly not least, you need to divide your total grade points throughout high school by your total credit hours throughout high school. The result will be your cumulative GPA thus far.
Example of Cumulative GPA Calculations
Now that we’ve described the process of calculating your cumulative GPA, we will demonstrate it with a purely hypothetical example using the grades of a fictional/imaginary student.
Our imaginary student just finished their first semester of their sophomore year of high school. All classes at their school are worth 1 credit, and an A is worth 4 grade points, a B is worth 3 grade points, a C is worth 2 grade points, and a D is worth 1 grade point. In their first semester of freshman year, they took six classes, earning three Bs, one A, one C, and one D. In their second semester of freshman year, they also took six classes, and they earned four Bs, one A, and one C. In their first semester of sophomore year, they also took six classes, and they earned three As and three Bs, demonstrating a very solid upward trend.
Based on that aforementioned scenario (and assuming they do not have pass/no pass courses), our imaginary student has taken 18 credits total, and, in terms of number of grade points, they have earned 16 grade points in their first semester of high school (three Bs = 3 x 3 = 9, one A = 4 x 1 = 4, one C = 2 x 1 = 2, one D = 1 x 1 = 1, 9 + 4 + 2 + 1 = 16), 18 grade points in their second semester of high school (four Bs = 3 x 4 = 12, one A = 4 x 1 = 4, one C = 2 x 1 = 2, 12+4+2=18), and 21 grade points in their third semester of high school (three Bs = 3 x 3 = 9, three As = 4 x 3 = 12, 12 + 9 = 21). Thus, our imaginary student has earned a total of 16 + 18 + 21 = 55 grade points over 18 credits, so their cumulative GPA is 55 / 18 = ~3.05 or ~3.06 (depending on if their school rounds up or down), which could be a good high school GPA depending their goals/the college they hope to achieve enrollment at. You can use a similar such calculation to determine an estimate of your current GPA, for the current semester (if you have your semester grades or estimates of them) or cumulative, and you can do it with or without a cumulative GPA calculator/grade calculator.
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About The Author
William Grossman is a student at the University of Florida studying Economics. He scored a 1500 on his SAT and a 32 on his ACT. While it may seem unorthodox, William always reads the last chapter of a new book before going back to read it from the beginning — that way, he can see if the book will be any good before deciding to read the whole thing!