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    Cumulative GPA

    What is College GPA?

    Your College GPA, or Grade Point Average, is a way to average all of your grades, for all of your classes, in a simple numerical expression. So, it’s a way to see how your grades add up, by putting a number to a letter.

    Each letter grade has a number value; A = 4.0, B = 3.0, C = 2.0, D = 1.0, F = 0

    Most college classes are 3 credit hours, but some that meet for extra hands-on time, like computer or science labs, have 4 credit hours. This effectively “weights” the grade of the higher credit hour course, since those classes generally involve more time and work.

    Confused? Don’t worry, we’ll take you through this, step-by-step. And if you're still in high school, check out our high school GPA calculator for a thorough breakdown of how to calculate your high school GPA.

    How to Calculate College GPA

    College GPA calculation involves taking the letter value of your grade, and multiplying each letter grade value by credit hours. We take the total of that, and divide it by the total of credit hours you took that semester.

    Step 1: Calculate total credit hours

    Let’s take a look at a college student’s grades for a semester. Emma just finished her first semester of college. Below are her grades, including credit hours for each class:

    Course Letter Grade Credit Hours
    English 101 B (3.0) 3
    Algebra 101 A (4.0) 3
    Biology 101 A (4.0) 4
    Computer Science 101 A (4.0) 4
    Psychology 101 B (3.0) 3
    Total 17

    Now, these are just made up examples, but if you're interested in learning how to calculate your own class grades, try our grade calculator (we swear you'll never go back to pen and paper).

    Step 2: Calculate total grade points

    Now, let’s multiply each grade point value times credit hours, as shown below:

    Course Letter Grade Credit Hours Grade Points
    English 101 B (3.0) 3 9
    Algebra 101 A (4.0) 3 12
    Biology 101 A (4.0) 4 16
    Computer Science 101 A (4.0) 4 16
    Psychology 101 B (3.0) 3 9
    Total 62

    Step 3: Calculate grade point average (GPA)

    Finally, to find out Emma’s GPA, we take the total of her grade points (62), and divide that by the total number of college credits (17) she completed that semester.

    62 ÷ 17 = 3.65

    So, Emma’s GPA is a 3.65. Since it’s higher than a straight “B” grade (3.0), but less than a perfect “A” grade (4.0), it’s considered a low “A” GPA, or an “A-” average. This is known as GPA conversion, when we convert the number to a letter, or the letter to a number. For example, a 3.0 GPA converts to a “B” average, whereas an “A” average converts to a 4.0 GPA.

    The easiest way to convert your grades is by using a GPA scale, a simple list or table that lets you know what your GPA means in grade letter form (and vice-versa). Here is a typical GPA Scale for College:

    Letter Grade 4.0 GPA Scale
    A+ 4.0
    A 4.0
    A- 3.7–3.9
    B+ 3.3–3.6
    B 3.0–3.2
    B- 2.7–2.9
    C+ 2.3–2.6
    C 2.0–2.2
    C- 1.7–1.9
    D+ 1.3–1.6
    D 1.0–1.2
    F 0.0

    Cumulative GPA vs. Overall GPA

    In college you might also see or hear about “Semester GPA,” “Cumulative GPA,” and “Overall GPA.”

    In the example above, the calculation of Emma’s GPA for her first semester of college was 3.65. That is her cumulative GPA for that semester. If you're interested in calculating your GPA check out our easy to use GPA calculator.

    As Emma continues her college career, each semester will have a cumulative GPA, but to get at her overall GPA, we would average all of her semester GPAs together.

    Let’s take a look at how Emma did during the first two years of college:

    Semester GPA Credit Hours Grade Points
    Semester 1 (Fall) 3.7 14 51.8
    Semester 2 (Spring) 3.7 12 44.4
    Semester 3 (Fall) 3.5 13 45.5
    Semester 4 (Spring) 3.3 12 39.6
    Total 51 181.3

    Now, let’s divide the total grade points by the total number of credit hours:

    181.3 ÷ 51 = 3.55 (rounded to two decimal places)

    This gives Emma an overall GPA of 3.55—a high “B” or “B+” average. Calculating cumulative GPA is pretty simple once you've got the basics down, and our cumulative GPA calculator makes it super easy to keep track of your GPA over the course of your college or high school career.

    Why is Your College GPA Important?

    Besides helping you understand how you’re doing in school, your GPA is a great way to make a good impression after you graduate college. Whether you go into your career right away, or pursue additional college degrees, your GPA can open doors for you if it’s high enough. Likewise, a poor GPA can close doors.

    In short, your GPA can help or hurt you, so it’s important to keep it in the “help” category by keeping it as high as you can.

    Advanced Studies

    If you think you might continue on to advanced degrees, the average college or university will look for an overall GPA of around 3.65. Keep in mind, the college/university that YOU’RE looking at may want a higher GPA, so it’s good to do your research. For example, if you are thinking about pursuing law school or medical school, or a PhD program, shoot for 3.70 or higher.

    Employment

    For career pursuits, you’ll want your GPA to be at least a “B”, or 3.0. Many employers, however, look for higher GPAs. Anything above 3.5 out of 4.0 looks much better than someone with a 2.0 GPA (or “C” average), for example. Employers know that a high GPA means you were dedicated to your studies, and committed to doing your best. Things any employer would value.

    Scholarships

    Most of us can’t afford to pay for college or university out of our own pockets. Scholarships and grants help a lot.

    When you apply for a scholarship, your application goes to a committee; a group of individuals who will make the decision on who gets funding, and how much. These committees look very carefully at a student’s GPA. Typically, they want to see evidence of hard work, and most students who lose out on scholarships for financial aid do so because of low grades; in other words, the most important factor to gaining free money for college is to keep your grades up!

    Limitations of a GPA

    Your GPA is not a perfect reflection of you or your abilities. There are many other factors that a college/university or future employer will look at, in addition to your GPA.

    School Participation

    Colleges and universities, as well as employers, like to see someone who is actively involved in their school life, and life, in general. For example, if you volunteer at a local food bank, or participate in a college-level Rotary Club, or are involved in clubs, student politics and other activities on campus.

    Test Scores

    High test scores for admission to advanced degree programs can often out-weigh the GPA. For example, let’s say your GPA is 3.5 - very respectable, but the university you’re applying to for an advanced degree in education is looking for a GPA of 3.6. However, if they are factoring in your GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) results, and you score 160 in Verbal Reasoning (out of 170), 165 in Quantitative Reasoning (out of 170) and 5.5 in Analytical Writing (out of 6.0), you are showing great skills that will serve you well in your graduate studies.

    Tips on Raising Your GPA

    Let’s say you’re in your last year of college. The university that you really want to go to for your Master’s Degree requires a GPA of 3.5. Unfortunately, as hard as you’ve tried, you haven’t been able to get your overall GPA above 3.4.

    You’re feeling some pressure, but all is not lost. Here are some tips to get that GPA up, and then we’ll figure out exactly what kinds of grades you need to get between now and your graduation to get that overall GPA of 3.5.

    Some Ideas to Get Your Grades Up

    • Attend your classes, every time

    • If you get “lost,” visit with your professor immediately for some extra help.

    • Join or start a study group.

    • Spend extra time studying - outside of your dorm, away from noises or crowds - go to the college library, for example.

    • Develop a note-taking system that works for you.

    • Sleep (but not in class!)

    • Read, read, read - study, study, study

    • Take every class seriously

    • Take advantage of any extra credit opportunities

    • Properly prepare for every quiz, test and exam

    How to move your GPA from 3.4 to 3.5 in two semesters

    OK, so let’s get specific here - you have a goal of getting your GPA up to 3.5 for that university you are really interested in. Your overall GPA is 3.4, which is quite good - but, they are looking for something a little higher.

    You will have two chances, or two semesters, to get that GPA where you need it to be. In order to figure out what you need to do for your last two semesters, we need to go back to your first six semesters. Let’s use this as an example:

    Semester GPA Credit Hours Grade Points
    Semester 1 (Fall) 3.3 12 39.6
    Semester 2 (Spring) 3.4 12 40.8
    Semester 3 (Fall) 3.5 13 45.5
    Semester 4 (Spring) 3.4 12 40.8
    Semester 5 (Fall) 3.5 14 49
    Semester 6 (Spring) 3.3 12 39.6
    Total 75 255.3

    255.3 ÷ 75 = 3.40 overall GPA

    To achieve an overall college GPA of 3.5 you'll obviously need to get a higher cumulative GPA than 3.4 for the next two semesters. Here’s an example of how to do that:

    Semester GPA Credit Hours Grade Points
    Semester 7 (Fall) 3.7 12 44.4
    Semester 8 (Spring) 3.9 12 46.8
    Total 24 91.2

    Adding these two final semester to the previous 6 we end up with a total of 99 credit hours and 346.5 grade points. Dividing hours by points we get a final cumulative GPA:

    346.5 ÷ 99 = 3.50

    Congratulations!!! You did it!

    As you can see, it wasn’t easy - you had to get a near perfect “A” cumulative GPA for each semester, and that’s a lot of work. This also might help you see that it’s best not to wait until your last two semesters of college to improve your GPA! Tracking your GPA with our GPA calculator is a great first step to always being on top of your grades.

    In Summary

    Your College GPA is an important way to track your grades, especially as you plan your future. The good news is that there are tools to help you keep track of your GPA, and to help you understand what you need to do to increase your GPA.

    Employers and graduate level admissions committees will be looking at your GPA, in addition to other factors, like school participation, community service activities, previous and current employment, etc.

    Your GPA can open doors for you; do whatever you can to keep it as high as possible, and if you are considering advanced degrees, find out the minimum GPA needed in order to be considered and competitive.

    Aim high with your GPA!

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