Life isn’t all about metrics like grades and test scores – but when it comes to college, your grades should take center stage.
So, what is a good GPA in college? Like anything, that answer varies. However, there are certain cut-off points that most universities use to determine eligibility for things like scholarships, federal financial aid, and program enrollment.
If you’re wondering whether your GPA makes the cut, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s some more information on how GPAs are used – and what a good GPA might be.
How Is GPA Calculated?
The idea of a GPA sounds complicated, but really, GPA just stands for “grade point average.” If you ever scrutinized your high school transcript, trying to figure out whether your high English grade would balance out your low earth science score, you’re probably already familiar with the basics of how a GPA is credited.
Generally, the easiest way to figure out your GPA is to divide the total points earned in a program by the credits that you attempted. The number that results will be your GPA.
While high schools tend to evaluate grades on a 0-100 point scale, most colleges and universities use letter grades and point values. An “A” is usually a 4.0 while a B is a 3.0. A C equates to a 2.0 while a D is a 1.0. An F usually indicates that no credit was earned for that class because the grade was so low – it equates to a point value of 0.
If you fail a class, no points are earned for that course, but the credits will still be counted in the total attempted credits. Because of this, one failed class can cause your GPA to take a serious hit.
Courses that are taken Pass/Fail often aren’t included in your overall GPA calculation – there are no numbers involved, so there’s not a good way to do this. However, they will still show up on your transcript, so do your best in the class. The same goes for Incompletes.
Some universities only take into consideration classes that were taken at that university when calculating your GPA – credits you transferred in don’t count. Others may look at all of the units that you attempted.
What Is A Good GPA In College?
What’s a good GPA? Well, that depends.
Interestingly, majors in mathematics, engineering, technology, and science tend to have lower GPAs than those in English, music, and language arts. It’s not necessarily a matter of those subjects being harder or easier – but more with the subjective nature of grading for assignments in the humanities versus those in math and science.
Simply put, with a humanities-based major, there’s often more than one right answer and you are graded based on how you express yourself. With mathematics and science, that’s rare.
Some people will tell you that your grades don’t matter, and while it’s true that your GPA serves as only one method of evaluation of your success, it does, unfortunately, matter. If you plan on attending graduate or professionals school after you graduate, your GPA will be considered by the admissions team. It’s only one of many factors, of course, but for many students, it often serves as the limiting factor.
The average high school GPA is around a 3.0 (a B, or an 80) and that number has more or less stayed the same for the last decade or so. When it comes to the average college GPA, that number is a 3.1. It’s increased slightly over the last few years due to grade inflation.
Therefore, you can reasonably conclude that if your GPA is higher than a 3.0 in high school or a 3.1 in college, it’s a good GPA.
Why do you need to know this?
In addition to the reasons listed above for earning a high GPA, having a GPA that is slightly higher than average could also land you a job. In most cases, you don’t need to include your GPA on your resume. But if it’s higher than average, you may want to list it on your resume to show that you’re slightly better than the competition. Of course, if your GPA is mediocre at best, try to leave it off unless your employer explicitly asks for it.
A GPA is just one way of assessing your standing in a pool of applicants for employment or college admission. However, it’s often used as a more concrete measurement for financial aid and other decisions – so do your best to get it higher than average.
The Importance Of A Good GPA
Your grades don’t define you in life – but when you’re in college, they kind of do. At a bare minimum, most schools require a minimum GPA of a 2.0 on a 4.0 scale in order to graduate and to remain eligible for federal financial aid.
For most schools that dole out institutional aid or use GPA as a baseline measurement to evaluate eligibility for athletics or other activities, a GPA of 2.5 or higher is often required. For some competitive programs, like graduate assistantships, that minimum GPA might be even higher – think 3.0 or even 3.5.
Usually, staying above a 2.0 is essential to remain enrolled at a school. Fall below that minimum, and you could be placed on academic probation. You might even be dismissed from your program or the university entirely.
Probation is typically used as a warning system to indicate to students that they are struggling academically. Federal financial aid can also be rescinded if a student falls short of minimum GPA standards for a semester or more.
When it comes to the long term impacts of a low GPA, keep in mind that while most employers won’t care what your GPA was (though that’s certainly not always true!) graduate schools almost always will. This is something that will almost invariably be used to determine your eligibility for grad school as well as most graduate financial aid.
How To Boost Your GPA
There are all kinds of reasons why your GPA might be lower than you like – chances are, if you’re struggling, you probably already know those reasons.
To boost your GPA, you might consider retaking a course that really dinged your overall average. Just know that some courses can only be repeated a certain number of times, particularly if you earned a grade that was passing (albeit lower than you’d like) the first time around.
If you’re struggling to keep your grades up because you are having trouble adapting to the faster pace and increased workload of college acadacmis, you might want to see what else you can take off your plate. Are you dealing with family issues? Having trouble adjusting to the freedom of a college lifestyle? Suffering from an illness?
Reach out to the resources offered at your university to get some help. Whether you need the assistance of a writing center, peer tutoring, or health center, it’s worth utilizing the resources that are available to you. After All, you’re paying to be there!
Having trouble keeping your test scores up because of studying issues? Join a study group! Or consider using a study app, like StudyBlue or Quizlet, to make sure you’re able to study from anywhere at any time. You can also consider using a tutor to help you better understand subjects you may be struggling with. Your school may offer its own tutors, or another option worth taking a look at is Chegg Tutors.
One thing to avoid doing as you try to boost your GPA is to take classes just because you think you’ll do well in them – or to avoid classes in which you think you will perform poorly. Try to take classes that you are interested in (and of course, those that are required for your major) so that you’ll stay engaged and continue progressing toward your future goals. Your grades matter, but it’s more important that you take advantage of everything that college has to offer.
If you’ve found yourself at the end of your undergraduate career and you aren’t thrilled with your GPA as you plan to apply to graduate school, don’t panic. There are ways you can get around the low grades. One of the easiest is to consider applying to graduate schools that won’t consider your freshman year grades as part of the GPA (or schools that don’t use GPA in their admissions decisions at all, though these schools are admittedly few and far between).
A “Good” GPA Depends On Your School And Program
Not sure whether your GPA is high enough? Be sure to check in with the academic officials at your school to find out. There is a lot of variation in what makes a GPA “good” – but it’s important to know whether you make the cut.
For example, competitive nursing, engineering, or pre-med programs often have exorbitantly high minimum GPA requirements. A 2.0 may keep you enrolled at the university, but you’ll be removed from the program once your GPA slips below, for example, a 3.0. Other schools have high standards for their institutional scholarships, sometimes requiring a 2.75 or higher.
Do your research to make sure your GPA is up to snuff – and if it’s not, take steps to boost it before it’s too late. It will be much easier for you to get your grades up before the semester has ended (or the year, or the entire degree!) so act fast to earn a good GPA – whatever that might mean for you.