Calculating Your GPA

If you’re applying to a top university in the USA, you’ve probably been asked for your Grade Point Average (GPA). It’s a standard feature on most school application forms, as well as financial aid forms, scholarship applications, and loan applications, and you’ll hear about it a lot.

But what exactly is a GPA? And what should you do if your undergraduate or high school grades were calculated differently? How can you convert those grades (or any other grades) into a cumulative GPA easily understood in the USA?

We’ll tell you all about how schools, scholarship providers, and lenders use GPAs in their decisions; teach you how to calculate your own cumulative GPA; identify useful GPA conversion tools that will allow you to convert your percentage grades into a GPA; and discuss how other factors can affect GPA calculations.

What is a GPA? And what is the difference between a semester GPA and a cumulative GPA?
In the USA, both high schools and colleges and universities usually calculate a GPA based on a 4-point grading scale.

The system works like this:

Letter GradeCorresponding Numeric Value
A4.0
A-3.67
B+3.33
B3.0
B-2.67
C+2.33
C2.0
C-1.67
D+1.33
D1.0
D-0.67
F0

How do schools use GPAs in the admissions process?
Schools use a student’s GPA as one key factor in the admissions process, but it’s not the only factor. In general, the higher your GPA, the higher your chances of getting in to a school. And the more selective the institution, the higher your GPA needs to be – for the incoming class of 2021 at Harvard University, for example, the average high school GPA was 4.18.

It’s important to note that GPA data for schools in the USA is generally provided as a range; there’s often not a strict cutoff since other factors also affect admission to a school. Plus, GPAs tend to get somewhat less weight in admissions decisions for Master’s degrees and MBA programs, especially if applicants have significant work experience and have a demonstrated track record of professional achievement.

How do scholarship providers and student lenders use GPAs?
Some scholarship competitions only consider candidates with a GPA above a certain threshold. For example, a scholarship competition may be open only to students with a GPA above 3.0.

If you’re an international student applying for scholarships that require you to list your GPA, it’s very important to convert your grades into the U.S.-formatted GPA. Why? If the scholarship provider can’t determine if you meet the GPA requirement, you won’t pass their eligibility check and won’t even be considered! So when you search through scholarship listings, make sure you have your GPA already calculated.

Some student lenders operate in much the same way. Private lenders, whether in your home country or in the USA, typically don’t ask about your grades if your loan is collateralized, meaning that your parents have mortgaged their home or other property to secure the loan. That’s because the lender knows your educational or financial prospects don’t matter since it can seize your parents’ property if you fail to make your payments.

If, however, you have a no-cosigner loan, where the loan is based on your future earning potential and not your parents’ assets, the lender will most likely ask about your grades. Grades are an excellent prediction of your future success – and your ability to finish your degree program, get a great job, and pay the lender back – which is all loan providers care about. Of course, companies issuing no-cosigner loans also consider other predictors of future success, such as the reputation of your university, the value of your degree program, and your prior professional experience.

How can you convert your percentage or other grades to a semester or cumulative GPA?

To get started calculating your American GPA, try the iGPA Calculator. It’s a free tool that gives you an approximate GPA based on the standard 4.0 scale.

The challenge for international students, of course, is that converting your GPA to its equivalent in the USA can be more complex than simply performing a straight mathematical conversion. Other factors that might be taken into consideration include:

This is where an official credential evaluation can be useful. It’s a verified report that takes all these factors into account and can be sent to college admissions officers, job recruiters, financial institutions, and other organizations that require official documentation of your academic accomplishments in your home country.