What is the Highest GPA?

GPA plays an important role in college admission. Learn what is the highest GPA, is 4.0 a good GPA, how to maintain it a high GPA, and more

Updated by TCM Staff on 31st May 2021

GPA plays an important role when it comes to being admitted into college. It is a testimony for a student's academic performance and holds high value while applying for both colleges and financial aid. So, what is the highest GPA you can get? 

The highest possible GPA is 5.0 for weighted GPAs, and 4.0 for unweighted GPAs. 

On occasion, schools will offer bonus points for students taking advanced placement classes, which means it may even be possible to earn a GPA higher than 5.0. However, this is quite rare.

For high school students, the national average unweighted GPA is 3.0.  

Some colleges demand a higher GPA while some are satisfied with an average one. In this article, we will talk about the highest GPA one can secure in high school, college, or university and how it varies according to different point scales. 

Learn more: What is GPA?

Student marking exams in classroom

What are the Different Types of GPA Scales?

The Grade Point Average is the average of the total grade points you obtain in core subjects. There are two main ways to perform a GPA calculation. 

These scales are known as the weighted scale and the unweighted scale

The difference between these scales is primarily based on the difficulty of the classes taken. Weighted scales take into account the complexity of the coursework, whereas unweighted GPA scales have a methodology that excludes the complexity of the subject.

What is the highest GPA

It is really important to know how your school or prospective school calculates GPA. This will help you to know where you stand against your peers, as well as how much effort you need to invest to boost your GPA. 

When you are in the college application process, it also helps to filter schools that you’re likely to be admitted to based on your GPA.  

What is the Highest GPA on the Weighted Scale?

On a Weighted GPA Scale, the average GPA is computed by considering the difficulty of the enrolled course. The grade point increases by +1 point as compared to the unweighted scale. Thus, the total GPA also increases. 

The following table shows the weighted scale calculation for the highest GPA possible in a school or college. 

GPA (Weighted) Grade
5 A
4 B
3 C
2 D
1 F
0 F

In this GPA scale reporting, the highest GPA you can earn is 5.0. That happens when a student secures an ‘A+’ in Advanced Placement classes. 

The weighted scale is comparatively less popular than the unweighted scale as most colleges refrain from incorporating the 'difficulty of course' into their consideration. 

What is the Highest GPA on the Unweighted scale?

On an Unweighted GPA Scale, only grades are counted to calculate the GPA, without considering the difficulty level of a class. That means an 'A' in an AP class and an 'A' in a regular session are worth the same amount. 

In this scale system, the highest GPA is 4.0. The following table exhibits the unweighted GPA scale, along with the corresponding grades. 

GPA (Unweighted) Grade
4 A+
4 A
3.7 A-
3.3 B+
3 B
2.7 B-
2.3 C+
2 C
1.7 C-
1.3 D+
1 D
0 F

When you earn an ‘A’ in all your classes, then the average comes out to be 4.0. This is the highest GPA on an unweighted scale. This system of calculating the grade point average is followed in many educational institutions — from high schools to colleges to grad schools — within the U.S.

Is 4.0 a Good GPA?

A 4.0 GPA is an amazing achievement. It defines your credibility, and uplifts your odds to secure admittance in top educational institutions. 

Here is a recommendation of colleges that have historically accepted students in the 4.0 GPA range:

Institution GPA
California Institute of Technology 4.21
Rice University 4.18
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 4.17
Yale University 4.13
Columbia University 4.13
Harvard College 4.18
Princeton University 3.9
University of Pennsylvania 3.88
Stanford University 3.94
Brown University 4.09
Dartmouth College 4.09

Some of the best educational institutions in the nation favor a 4.0 GPA (as per the aforementioned data). You may also visit individual websites (for the above institutions, and more) to learn about their academic requirements. It’s also beneficial to contact the school advisor or the admission committee to get in-depth information on their selection process. 

You might also want to read: 

Differences Between a Weighted GPA and an Unweighted GPA

Weighted GPAs consider the difficulty of the class, along with a student’s performance, to calculate a grade. Weighted GPAs use a scale ranging from 0 to 5.0 and unweighted GPAs are scaled between 0 and 4.0, with higher-level classes such as Advanced Placement and honors measured using the weighted scale. 

Read more: Weighted vs Unweighted GPA

How GPAs are calculated and weighted vary from high school to high school. Colleges are aware of this and will calculate your GPA using their own system. This way, they can compare applicants from different schools in a more standard way.

High school student receiving graded paper back from teacher

What is an Average GPA?

According to the statistics (for 2009) reported by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the median or average GPA is approximately 3.0 (NCES has not conducted/ reported any new statistics since 2009).

However, with changing times and increasing competition of both the student demographic and the coursework, the average GPA has escalated to 3.38 or higher. It’s important to note that this GPA is for high school students who have the intention to go to college and have also taken the SAT. It is not reflective of all high school students in general. 

The average GPA varies depending on various factors. These factors include:

Student demographic

The average GPA fluctuates depending on the student population. Female students are witnessed to have acquired a higher GPA as compared to the male demographic. As per the statistics by the National Center for Education Statistics, the GPA secured by women is 3.10 which is approximately 6.9% more than the GPA of 2.90 of male students.

Racial variation 

Asian/Pacific Islander students top the GPA chart with a glorious 3.26 GPA. This is followed by white students with a GPA of 3.09. The graph for the Hispanic and Black students have undergone minimal changes with average GPAs of 2.84, and 2.69 respectively. This data is in concordance with the statistics by NCES. 

Course-type variation

Students have found it easier to score better grades in non-core subjects. Students have typically scored an average GPA of 3.43 in non-academic courses such as Physical Education. Through subjects like fine arts and foreign languages, students acquire an average GPA of 3.18, which is higher as compared to the 2.82 GPA of core courses like Math, Social Science, English, and more. An overall average GPA of 3.03 has been estimated for all the courses, academic and otherwise. 

The average GPA is also affected by the status of English learning students. According to the statistics (by NCES), English learning students experience lower grade points as compared to native English students.

The following table is a comprehensive study of the relationship between GPA, English learning students, and non-English students. 

  For English Learners For non-English Learners
Course type Average GPA Average GPA
Overall 2.75 3
Core subjects 2.52 2.79
Non-Academic subjects 2.91 3.15
Other subjects 3.1 3.4

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Why is a High GPA Beneficial?

Before delving into the other metrics, it's important to know why it is important to have a high GPA. In your entire academic career, GPA is the sole metric used to analyze your academic performance. A higher GPA indicates a more successful academic career. 

GPA plays a key role when you apply for scholarships and other forms of financial aid. It could also help you to be admitted into your dream college.

A high GPA also showcases your efforts. It gives a positive look at you and your college application, as it speaks about your diligence and ability to ace challenging courses.

How Do I Earn a High GPA?

Even though a high GPA is tempting, it can be tough to attain. That being said, what’s tough is not impossible! 

The highest GPA for both the weighted and unweighted scales requires you to remain dedicated and persistent when it comes to your academic career.  If you score below average at the beginning of freshman year, then your average GPA will drop. That’s why it matters to try your best from the beginning. 

Try striking the best grades in the first year. Choose easy and good scoring subjects. Obviously, studying hard and always completing assignments is crucial to obtaining a high GPA.

What Happens if I Have an Average or Below Average GPA?

A low or average GPA can impact your academic career. A freshman or sophomore still has a window to improve their GPA. It is always advised to seek help for subjects that you are struggling to understand. AP and IB classes are instrumental in increasing your GPA. However, you should only enroll in these classes if you are confident that you can earn at least a B. 

A junior or senior student has comparatively meager chances for a grade improvement due to the shortage of time before graduation. However, this should not deter your efforts. Your efforts will never go to waste. It is also advised to earn exceptional marks and scores in standardized tests.

Your High GPA is Important, But it isn’t Everything

Even if you don’t have the highest GPA ever, you can still work towards raising it while you’re still in school. 

If you’re running out of time in high school as a senior, then you don’t have to lose all hope. When you apply to colleges, the admissions committees take into consideration more than just your GPA. 

With this being said, having a high GPA will provide you with a competitive advantage and help you look more attractive to be admitted into the college of your choice. 


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