What is the Highest GPA? Is 4.0 GPA good?

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 Viswathika on 14th October 2020

GPA plays an important role when it comes to college admission. It is a testimony for a student's academic performance and holds high value while applying for both colleges and financial aids. 

The highest GPA in weighted GPA is 5.3//5.0 and 4.3/4 in an unweighted GPA. 

A 4.0 GPA ranks in the middle of the academic range in many educational institutions.

Learn - What is GPA?

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

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 types of GPA scales- weighted scale and unweighted scale. The difference between these scales primarily lies in the consideration of the difficulty of the subject. Weighted scales take into account the competency of the coursework whereas unweighted GPA scales have a methodology that excludes the competency of the subject.

What is the highest GPA

It is integral to be aware of the type of GPA adopted by a school, primarily to understand where you stand, the amount of effort you need to invest, and the market competition. This also helps you stay informed during the college application as you can filter out colleges according to 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 in a school or college. 

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

In this system, the highest GPA you can get is 5.0, if a student secures ‘A’ in non-regular classes or the Advanced Placement sessions. The weighted scale is comparatively less popular than the unweighted scale as most colleges refrain from incorporating the 'difficulty of course' factor into their grading schemes. 

What is the highest GPA on the Unweighted scale?

On an Unweighted GPA scale, only grades are counted to calculate the GPA excluding the difficulty level of a subject. That means an 'A' in AP class and 'A' in a regular session are the equivalent ones. 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 score ‘A’ in all the subjects, 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 all hierarchy of educational institutions( high school, college, Grad-school) of the U.S.

Is 4.0 a good GPA?

A high school GPA of 4.0 or an average may place you in the middle of the academic range at some of the colleges. Incoming undergrad grade point averages for a large portion of U.S. schools and targeted colleges, where students have more chance of getting in with a 4.0. These colleges are ranked by the best colleges ranking. 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. You may also contact the school advisor or the admission committee to get in-depth information on their selection process. A 4.0 GPA is lucrative, defines your credibility, and uplifts your odds to secure admittance in top educational institutions. 

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Difference 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 with the weighted scale. 

You can read more about 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.

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).

With changing times and increasing competencies of both the student demographic and the coursework, the average GPA has escalated to 3.38 or higher ( as reported by the University of Georgia ). 

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 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, 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 non-English learning 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 do you need a high GPA?

Before delving into the other metrics, it's important to know why is it important to have a high GPA. In your entire academic career, GPA is the sole metrics 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 financial aids. It also helps you to get to 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 to secure a high GPA?

Even though a high GPA is tempting, it is tough to attain. It is tough but not impossible!

The highest GPA for both the weighted and unweighted scales requires you to have a sincere approach to your academic career.  If you score below average at the beginning of freshman year, then the average GPA climbs down a few steps.

However, if you have scored less at the end of the year, it won't affect your GPA. So start as early as possible. Try striking the best grades in the first year. Choose easy and good scoring subjects. 

What should you do if you have an average/below average GPA?

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

A junior or senior student has comparatively meager chances for a grade improvement due to the shortage of time. 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.