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What is a Good GPA in College?

Are you planning to study in the US and wondering what exactly a GPA is and what is considered a good GPA in college? In this article, we break down everything you need to know about GPA.

Mar 14, 2024
  • Education
  • Student Tips
What is a good GPA in college?

If you're planning to study in the US, you've likely come across the term GPA. It is a numerical representation of a student's academic performance and an integral part of the admissions process for American schools. But what exactly does GPA mean, and what is a good GPA in college?

What is a GPA?

During your high school, college, and university education, you receive a grade every time you complete a class. Each of your letter (or percentage) grades is assigned a specific number of points so that the average of those equivalencies makes up your cumulative grade point average (GPA).

GPA is a reflection of your overall academic performance, and it can affect your eligibility for scholarships and other forms of financial aid, ability to participate in college sports and academic activities, and admission to graduate school. Sometimes it can be important for your potential employer, but there are many other hiring qualifications to consider, like your abilities, hard and soft skills, prior work experience, and more.

Many institutions use a 4.0 scale:

Letter gradePercentage gradeGPA
E/FBelow 650.0

Note: Some high schools use weighted GPA scoring for advanced placement (AP) classes, meaning your letter grade can be worth more grade points than an unweighted score for the same grade. Weighted scores are calculated on a 5.0 scale and need to be adjusted in some cases.

Cumulative GPA vs Major GPA explained

There are two types of GPA: cumulative and major. Cumulative GPA includes all college courses, while major GPA only counts courses that are a part of your major.

If you need help figuring out your GPA, there are many GPA calculators available online. All you need to do is input the number of courses you've taken, the grades you earned, and the credit value of each course for every semester of your college studies.

What is a good GPA?

College students studying

A good GPA in college is the number that allows you to stay competitive with your fellow classmates. In general, everything above 3.0 is considered "good". However, this depends on your school and program - the more competitive, the higher the average GPA may be.

Most colleges expect you to maintain at least 2.0 not to face fallout. A GPA of 3.0 is often the minimum for programs and scholarships, and for applying to grad school. And for recent graduates, it's generally recommended not to list your GPA on your resume unless it's 3.5 or higher.

You should aim for your GPA to be above average for your program of choice. This will give you a better chance to be accepted to your top college, get a scholarship, and make your college experience more diverse.

What is an average GPA?

In the United States, the average unweighted high school GPA is approximately 3.0 (or a B) according to the National Center for Education Statistics, and the median GPA for college students is 3.28. Prep Scholar states that the average GPA for students at four-year colleges in the US is around 3.15.

While admissions officers base acceptance on several factors, the average GPA for college admission is between 3.5 and 4.0. Most Ivy League schools admit students with GPAs close to 4.0. Here are the top 10 universities in the US with the highest average GPA:

UniversityAverage GPA
Brown University3.71
Stanford University3.66
Harvard University3.64
Yale University3.62
Columbia University3.59
Vanderbilt University3.57
Duke University3.56
Baylor University3.56
Northeastern University3.55
Dartmouth College3.54

Keep in mind that those schools are very selective and competitive, so don't worry if your GPA is not as high. You may be accepted with a lower GPA to a less selective school. For example, while a small, private college may require at least 3.5, a less selective school may expect only a 2.0 GPA (or a C-) average.

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What is a good GPA in high school?

High-school students

For high school students, a good GPA will likely depend on the colleges they wish to attend. To help colleges understand your academic background, your high school counselor prepares a school profile, though the college application process for international students can be different. This profile provides context about your school's courses and grading system. Admissions officers refer to this document to ensure that they are evaluating your application fairly and objectively. This information also helps admissions officers clarify what is a good GPA at your school.

That's why it is important to start researching programs early on. Although aiming for a GPA of 3.0 or higher is a good start, it is better to set more specific goals. Once you have chosen the colleges and programs you want to apply to, you can have a more concrete plan to achieve the required GPA.

What is a good GPA in college/university?

A good GPA in college is typically higher than 3.0, for popular undergraduate programs - generally 3.5 or higher.

What's considered a good GPA varies across different majors. For example, to enter an engineering program, you're expected to have a 3.7 GPA or higher; business programs can require a minimum 3.5 GPA, or 3.8 if you're interested in the Ivy Leagues.

A good GPA can also be defined by your personal goals. If you want to graduate college with academic honors, meaning receiving special recognition for academic performance, you should strive for 3.5 or higher:

  • Cum Laude: 3.5-3.6 GPA, or the top 16-35% of graduating students
  • Magna Cum Laude: 3.7-3.8 GPA, or the top 6-15%
  • Summa Cum Laude: 3.9-4.0 GPA, or the top 1-5%

Although maintaining a high GPA can make your life easier, you shouldn't make it your primary focus. Aim to keep your GPA above 2.0, because that's usually the minimum grade to avoid academic probation or even fallout. Also, you should check what is the minimum GPA required to be able to graduate from your chosen college. And if you feel like you're falling behind, there are always ways to get back on track.