Grade point averages, also known as GPA scores, are numbers showing the grades earned by students in many types of academic programs, including high schools, colleges and universities, graduate schools and professional degree programs. High grades usually result in high GPA scores, while low grades result in low GPA scores. An individual's GPA can affect applications to subsequent educational opportunities or employment prospects.
A student's GPA shows performance in the classes taken to complete an educational program, such as high school, college or graduate school. A semester GPA or quarter GPA, depending on the academic calendar used by the school, reflects the student's grades for only that semester or quarter. A cumulative GPA or overall GPA indicates the student's grades for all courses, and for the entire program if the student has already graduated. Many programs use GPA to determine whether students remain in "good academic standing" to continue their studies or graduate. At some schools, GPA determines whether students qualify to stay in honors programs or in specific majors. (See References 1 and 3.)
Students should learn about the calculation methods used by their schools to determine GPA, as the methods may vary slightly from school to school. A school usually has a standardized list of numerical equivalents to each available grade; for example, schools generally assign 4.0 as a numerical equivalent to the grade of A. To calculate a GPA, the student identifies the numerical equivalent to each grade on his report card. Some schools then multiply each numerical equivalent by the number of credits or hours awarded for completion of the class, while other schools do not. The total sum of the numerical equivalents earned, divided by the number of credits or classes completed, depending on the school's calculation method, becomes the student's grade point average. (See References 1 and 2.)
Effect on Academic Admissions
An individual's GPA in high school or college may affect his chances of admission to other academic programs. For example, an applicant for an undergraduate degree program must usually provide his high school GPA to college admissions committees, while an applicant for graduate school must usually submit the grades from his undergraduate program. For some types of academic programs, such as law schools, the applicant can assess the likelihood of a successful application by reviewing the school's published GPA score ranges or GPA averages for admitted students and determining how he compares with those numbers. In that case, a GPA score may determine the selectivity of the academic programs from which an applicant receives offers of admission. (See References 4 and 5.)
Effect on Employment Prospects
An individual's GPA in high school, college, graduate school or professional school may also affect his employment prospects. Some schools set GPA requirements in order for individuals to participate in on-campus recruiting programs and other job fairs; individuals who do not have the minimum GPA may not participate, depending on the requirements for the particular event. Some employers set specific GPA requirements that candidates must meet in order to receive consideration for employment opportunities such as internship programs or job openings. An employer may use a job applicant's GPA as an indicator of his academic performance and potential for future success. (See References 1 and 6.)
- Williams College: Office of the Registrar: How to Calculate GPA
- Cleveland State University: Social Work (B.S.W.) at-a-Glance
- Ohio University: Undergraduate Admissions: Entrance Information for Freshmen
- University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana: School of Labor and Employment Relations: On-Campus Recruiting at LER
Cindy Chung is a California-based professional writer. She writes for various websites on legal topics and other areas of interest. She holds a B.A. in education and a Juris Doctor.