Scholarships help college students pay for tuition, student fees, books and sometimes living expenses, like rent and groceries. Since scholarships are gifts of money that don’t need to be repaid, competition during the application process can be tough. One of the ways that scholarship committees evaluate candidates for receiving money is by evaluating their grade point average. Don’t despair if your grade point average is less than perfect, however. You may still qualify for certain scholarships.

Grade Point Average

Most students are familiar with the concept of a grade point average. Each letter grade is assigned a point value; for example, an A grade might be assigned 4.0 points while a C grade is assigned 2.0 points. When grades from all classes are averaged, the resulting figure is the grade point average. Grade point averages help indicate the general level of a student’s academic performance, since the occasional less-than-stellar grade becomes interwoven with better grades. Some schools assign greater weight for “plus” grades; for example, a B+ grade might be counted as 3.3 points rather than the 3.0 generated by a B grade. Conversely, “minus” grades, such as an A- grade, can hurt the grade point average.


Scholarship committees may like seeing a high grade point average among their applicants because it often indicates content mastery and academic success. But high grade point averages can also indicate personality traits of a candidate likely to use scholarship money wisely: discipline, responsibility, and ability to set and achieve goals. Low grade point averages, unfortunately, may alert scholarship committees to students who are possibly less-committed to their studies.

Grade Inflation

Take heart if your grade point average isn’t the best; while it’s important to strive for academic excellence in college, some scholarship-granting organizations have become hip to the fact that high GPA scores sometimes indicate a school’s willingness to assign good grades for mediocre performances. For that reason, some scholarships may include grade point average as one factor in evaluating student achievement, but look for other examples of superior performance as well.

Scholarship Types

It’s true that some scholarship-granting groups will highly value perfect grade point averages from academically gifted students. Other factors that scholarships may take into consideration include financial need, socioeconomic background, first-time college students, athletic prowess, civic participation or talent in the arts. Some scholarships recognize outstanding volunteer work, demonstrated leadership or overcoming a major obstacle. If your grade point average slipped at some point during your college career due to severe medical trauma, family emergency or natural disaster, it’s okay to include a brief explanation in your scholarship essay or as an added statement if the application permits.

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About the Author

Morgan Rush is a California journalist specializing in news, business writing, fitness and travel. He's written for numerous publications at the national, state and local level, including newspapers, magazines and websites. Rush holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, San Diego.