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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Let's talk about GPAs

When students or parents try to gauge an applicant's chances of admission, GPA is always mentioned along with a flurry of accolades. They usually cite the number and breeze right on by to the next statistic. This makes me worry that people don't think about the subjective nature of GPAs these days.

The methodology for calculating GPA varies dramatically from place to place. What's more, grading scales are all over the map (there are seven different grading scales in use in Virginia public schools alone!). There are schools where 4.0 GPAs are rare and signify all As in the very best courses and there are schools where 4.0 GPAs are common and could be earned with okay grades in average courses. This year, I've read applications from schools with pretty interesting GAP scales, including 18 point and 500 point scales. I've seen schools where no courses are weighted and I've seen schools where Honors and AP courses have the same weighting.

So when you see or hear people from other school districts cite their GPAs, resist the urge to make comparisons. Chances are the grading scales and methodologies in use at your schools are different.

By the way, we don't have any opinion about all those grading scales. Whatever works for your school is fine with us.