What is the Highest GPA? How to Calculate and Increase Yours

Confused about grade point averages? This article explains everything you need to know, including the highest GPA possible and tips on how to boost yours.

TCM Staff

16th September 2022

GPA plays an important role when it comes to college admissions. The GPA, or grade point average, attests to a student's academic performance and holds high value when applying for colleges and financial aid. A high GPA can open many doors for students like you, as the higher your GPA is, the more colleges you can apply to. Additionally, higher GPAs tend to help secure more financial aid and scholarships.

What is the Highest GPA
What is the Highest GPA

So, what is the highest GPA you can get?

The highest possible GPA is 5.3 for weighted GPAs and 4.3 for unweighted GPAs. If the school doesn’t distinguish between As and A+s, this will be 5.0 for weighted and 4.0 for unweighted GPAs.

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?

Different types of GPA

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.

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.

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.

It’s worth mentioning that some schools distinguish between As and A+s, which means the highest GPA could be:

  • Unweighted; distinguishing between As and A+s: 4.3
  • Unweighted; not distinguishing between As and A+s: 4.0
  • Weighted; distinguishing between As and A+s: 5.3
  • Weighted; distinguishing between As and A+s: 5.0

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.

How Is a GPA Calculated?

Your GPA will usually be included in your transcript at the end of your school year. However, waiting that long to find out your grade point average doesn’t really help you adjust your efforts through the year.

If you’d like to figure out your GPA on the fly, you can always use a GPA calculator to make your life easier. 

You can also manually compute your GPA by converting each letter grade into its corresponding number score, adding all your scores up, and averaging them out. The chart below gives you the conversions.

Grade

Weighted Scale

Unweighted Scale

A+

5.3 (or 5.0)

4.3 (or 4.0)

A

5.0

4.0

A-

4.7

3.7

B+

4.3

3.3

B

4.0

3.0

B-

3.7

2.7

C+

3.3

2.3

C

3.0

2.0

C-

2.7

1.7

D+

2.3

1.3

D

2.0

1.0

D-

1.7

0.7

F

0.0

0.0

If you are using a weighted scale, make sure you account for subjects worth 5 points or 4 points at maximum! 

What’s 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. 

In this GPA scale reporting, the highest GPA you can earn is 5.3. That happens when a student secures an ‘A+’ in Advanced Placement classes. Getting all As will earn you a 5.0.

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

Example of a Weighted GPA

Let’s do a sample computation for a weighted GPA. First you need to take your letter grade and convert it into the appropriate number score according to the chart above.

Subject

Letter Grade

Conversion

AP Chemistry

A

5.0

AP Biology

B+

4.3

AP History

A-

4.7

AP Statistics

B

4.0

English (regular, weighted at 4 points)

A+

4.3

Band (regular, weighted at 4 points)

A

4.0

German (regular, weighted at 4 points)

B-

2.7

Once you have converted everything, add all of the numerical scores and divide by the number of classes:

5.0 + 4.3 + 4.7 + 4.0 + 4.3 + 4.0 + 2.7 = 29, divided by 7.

Therefore, your weighted GPA will be 4.14.

What is the Highest GPA You Can Get 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. 

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. If your school distinguishes between As and A+s, this number will be 4.3. 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.

Example of an Unweighted GPA

Let’s do a sample computation for an unweighted GPA. Following the same steps, convert your letter grades into number scores. Unweighted GPAs always follow a scale of 4.0 (max 4.3 in some cases).

Subject

Letter Grade

Conversion

AP Chemistry

A

4.0

AP Biology

B+

3.3

AP History

A-

3.7

AP Statistics

B

3.0

English 

A+

4.3

Band

A

4.0

German

B-

2.7

Once you have converted everything, add all of the numerical scores and divide by the number of classes:

4.0 + 3.3 + 3.7 + 3.0 + 4.3 + 4.0 + 2.7 = 25, divided by 7.

Therefore, your unweighted GPA will be 3.57.

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 for 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

Is Getting a Perfect GPA Possible?

You might be wondering whether it’s possible to get a max GPA or a perfect GPA score. There’s no competition for the GPA highest score, and there are no scoreboards or leaderboards to get your “high score” on. But high GPAs can get you into your school of choice, so why not aim for a perfect grade point average, right?

So is getting the perfect GPA a possibility? The answer depends on which scale you’re talking about.

On an unweighted scale — yes, absolutely! It is 100% possible to get a perfect 4.0 if your school uses the unweighted scale and doesn’t really distinguish between your A or A+. In this case, getting an A in all your subjects is enough to get you a perfect score. And even if your school does distinguish between As and A+s, there is still a distinct possibility of earning a 4.0.

On the weighted scale, well… it’s still a possibility. However, it won’t be nearly as easy — and in some schools, it simply won’t be possible at all. To earn a perfect 5.3, you’ll need to be able to take only advanced courses and earn A+ grades in each one. Unfortunately, most schools using the weighted scale don’t really offer enough courses that are worth five points.

Colleges and universities don’t generally expect 5.0s or 5.3s. In fact, higher GPAs tend to be up to maybe 4.5. Rather than chasing a 5.3 or a 5.0, you might want to focus more on your extracurriculars, which can help round out your application better.

How Many People Earn a Perfect GPA?

It’s tough to tell just how many people actually earn perfect GPAs, as actual statistics can be quite hard to find.

Rather than concerning yourself with earning the perfect GPA, it may actually serve you better to focus more on making sure you have a well-rounded college application in the future. A perfect GPA won’t guarantee your admission into your dream school — just look at Harvard and other universities of the same caliber.

The prestigious Harvard University uses a holistic approach when considering applications for admission. This means that while your GPA and previous academic performance matter, other factors such as your extracurricular activities and your spike (what makes you stand out) are also considered.

Thus, it may be a good idea to aim for the highest possible GPA you can get without neglecting other things that can make you stand out in a sea of applications. Just make sure that you reach the minimum or recommended GPA for your chosen schools.

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.

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.

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: 

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.

General Guidelines for Scoring the Highest Possible GPA

Although your academic performance is often just a part of what colleges consider when you apply, ensuring you have a high enough GPA is often still important. Having the highest GPA you can get is a good way of ensuring you can actually apply to some colleges which have minimum grade point average requirements (whether they are spoken or unspoken). Committing to earning a higher GPA can be vital to ensuring you have a shot at applying to your dream schools.

But how exactly can you increase your GPA before it’s time to apply for college?

It’s important to note that you must start working on increasing your GPA in the earlier years of your high school career. The closer you get to graduation, the more challenging (and in some cases, the more impossible) it will be to get your grade point average higher.

The guidelines below are best suited to helping you get the highest GPA for colleges while you are in your freshman or sophomore year.

On the Weighted Scale, Avoid Unnecessary Classes

If your high school is operating on the weighted GPA scale, it becomes vitally important to avoid classes that aren’t really necessary to graduate. It may feel pretty tempting to take that elective, especially if you know you can get an A+. However, there are many electives weighted at four points. Thus, even if you do manage to get an A+, your four will still bring down your GPA. 

Choose more challenging courses weighted at five points and do better in those instead. That way, you won’t immediately put yourself at a disadvantage when your GPA is calculated.

Don’t Skip School, and Do Your Best to Participate in Your Classes

It goes without saying that actually going to school and attending your classes is vital to getting a good GPA. Although it is entirely possible to learn what you need from notes and other materials and resources, you may miss some of the more nuanced explanations that your teacher may provide during class. Plus, other students may ask questions that can also help you better understand a subject or course material.

Of course, missing lessons isn’t the only problem you might face by skipping classes. Depending on your school and your school district, you may get suspended, held back, or even expelled for frequent unexplained absences and truancy. Not only will this affect your GPA, but such a record may make it more challenging to get into your colleges of choice.

Set Goals and Break Them Down

Setting goals is a good way of helping you learn how to prioritize which tasks, subjects, or activities to prioritize first. Writing your goal in your planner, binder, or anywhere else that is easily visible such as on a Post-it note on the inside of your locker door, can make it easier to keep in mind. This goal and the constant reminders serve to help keep you motivated throughout your school year.

If you have conditions such as ADHD that may make it more challenging to keep focus or get motivated, breaking your goal down into more manageable mini-goals can help ease your way through your high school career.

Join Study Groups or Ask for a Tutor

No matter how hard you work, there may simply be subjects or topics that can stump you or fly right over your head. If you find yourself struggling to understand a subject well, see if you can join a study group. Alternatively, you can find a tutor to help you out. A little external help can make a huge difference when you’re trying to get the best GPA possible.

Review What You’ve Learned Each Week

It might feel like a pain to do, but it’s always a good idea to review what you’ve learned every week. This way, you increase your chances of actually absorbing what you’ve learned. Weekly revision can make studying for quizzes and exams a much easier endeavor all around. Additionally, if you find out earlier that a certain topic or subject is giving you trouble, it gives you more time to figure things out.

Speak With Your Teachers

It’s a good idea to speak with your teachers if you find yourself struggling with certain subjects and materials. Teachers can help you understand something better. Additionally, if you’re already struggling with your grade in their subject, you may be able to respectfully request for a paper, assignment, or project for extra credit. Also, remember that your teachers have office hours, so do your best to respect and adhere to them!

Use Your School’s Library or Make Use of Online Resources

Most students these days don’t really use their school’s library as much, thanks to the wealth of resources available online. However, it may still be a good idea to look at the resources available in the library. Additionally, school libraries often make excellent environments for study, so spending a little extra time there won’t hurt!

If you’re struggling to better understand a subject, try to see what you can find out about it online. There is a vast ocean of resources right at your fingertips. You can check out Khan Academy, which provides free and high-quality courses in K-12 (to 14) subjects.

Put Effort Into Your Projects and Assignments

Finally, it’s always a good idea to put a little bit of extra effort into your assignments, reports, and projects. As they all contribute to your final grade, doing better can help you earn a better rating overall.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the highest GPA possible?

It depends on which scale you are using. If you are talking about weighted GPAs, the highest possible is 5.3, but with unweighted GPAs, the highest you can get is a 4.3. If you’re asking, “what is the highest GPA you can get in college?,” the answer is 4.0.

Conclusion

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. You don’t always need the highest GPA in college applications.

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

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