average gpa for college

Average GPA for College & GPA Requirements: Introduction

Your Grade Point Average (GPA) plays an important role in the college application process. But you may be wondering just how important your average GPA for college is. In this guide, we’ll discuss college GPA requirements, what GPA you should aim for during high school, and how to get into college with a low GPA.

This guide will also cover topics like:

  • Is there an average GPA for college?
  • What role does your GPA play in college admissions?
  • What colleges accept low GPA scores?
  • What are the average GPAs & GPA requirements at top schools, and more.

But firstly: what is a GPA?

A GPA, or grade point average, is a cumulative number indicating your performance in classes throughout high school. Every grade you receive is assigned a numerical value that gets factored into the calculation of your overall GPA. In the USA, GPAs are typical calculated on a 4pt scale (1.0-4.0). However, if your high school calculates your GPA one a weighted scale, your GPA can be higher than 4.0. In this scenario, certain classes impact your GPA more heavily than others—we’ll talk more about this below. 

In the meantime, are you interested in calculating your own GPA? Check out this calculator to see how you’re doing.

Average GPA: Weighted vs. Unweighted

For the most part your GPA for college is calculated on an unweighted basis, falling on a scale between 1.0 to 4.0. In an unweighted GPA, all of your classes contribute equally to the overall score. The C you got in your freshman biology class, for example, affects your GPA the same as an A in your sophomore calculus class. Furthermore, each letter grade you receive is associated with a numerical value. See the table below for standard unweighted grade conversions.

Unweighted GPA to 4.0 Scale Conversion Table

Percent GradeLetter Grade4.0 Scale
97-100A+4.0
93-96A4.0
90-92A-3.7
87-89B+3.3
83-86B3.0
80-82B-2.7
77-79C+2.3
73-76C2.0
70-72C-1.7
67-69D+1.3
65-66D10
< 65F0.0
*This scale may vary slightly by school

Weighted GPA

A weighted GPA falls between 1.0 and 5.0, and usually applied to more challenging classes—honors, APs, and IBs—affecting your score more profoundly. An A in an AP class is equivalent to a 5.0, while an A in a regular class is a 4.0. 

Weighted GPAs are a more accurate assessment of a student’s performance, rewarding students for selecting more challenging classes. However, unweighted GPAs allow all students to be considered equally regardless of whether their school offers harder classes. 

The average GPA for college will usually be converted to an unweighted scale. However, as you are filling out applications, admissions websites will tell you what their college GPA requirements are and whether they’d prefer the weighted GPA for college. You can also see individual college admissions requirements on your schools’ websites and can read each college GPA requirement list before you apply.

GPA for College: What role does it play when applying to college?

Before you begin college admissions, you may wonder why there are college GPA requirements at all. Well, when college admissions officers look at applicants, one of their primary questions is whether each applicant can handle their school’s academic rigor. Achieving a high average GPA in high school tells admissions officers that you can handle the workload. 

What GPA do you need to get into college?

College GPA requirements vary depending on the school. Moreover, very few schools have actual college GPA requirements. Rather, it is more telling to look at the average GPA for college of enrolled students. Use this to guide your own expectations about how high your GPA for college needs to be. 

If you look at the application requirements for Harvard, there is no mention of a minimum GPA or Harvard GPA requirements. However, the average GPA for college amongst admits is 4.18 on a weighted scale. Therefore, if you want to attend Harvard, this is where your own GPA for college should fall.

For each of the schools on your list, do research to find the average GPA for college amongst admits. This will help you ensure you’re on the right track. 

Finally, a few schools do have college GPA requirements. For example, UC Admissions indicate different thresholds for California residents and non-residents. The UC GPA requirements for California residents are 3.0, and the GPA requirements for non-residents are 3.4. For this reason, double-check the college GPA requirement list to see if there is a minimum-required GPA for each school you apply to.

average gpa for college

GPA Requirements vs. Average GPA

In the last section, we saw how some schools publish college GPA requirements – a minimum GPA for college you must meet before you apply. This is a required GPA. 

On the other hand, an average GPA for college is simply the average score attained by successful applicants. If your score is lower than a school’s average GPA for college but higher than the college GPA requirements (or if the school has no college GPA requirements), you can still apply. 

So, how do you know if a school has college GPA requirements? Read the college GPA requirement list on the school’s website. If there is nothing about university GPA requirements, then research the school’s average GPA for college. Use the average GPA for college to determine whether a school is a safety, reach, or match for you. 

Safety, match, reach

A safety school is a school to which you have very good odds of gaining acceptance. That is, your average GPA exceeds the average GPA for college students at this school. In contrast, a match school is one where your GPA falls close to the average GPA for college students at this school. 

If your GPA is lower than a school’s average GPA for college, you should consider this school a reach school for you—one that you have lower odds of gaining acceptance.

Later in this “Average GPA For College” guide, we will discuss how to get into college with a low GPA. We’ll also call attention to colleges with low GPA requirements. Rest assured, there are colleges that accept low GPA scores.

Which colleges require a high GPA?

Many elite universities expect to see a certain level of academic rigor on your transcript, and often a specific GPA for college. Although most Ivy League schools and other prestigious colleges do not have college GPA requirements, your GPA must be strong if you are to compete. 

Many times, the lower a school’s acceptance rate, the higher your GPA for college should be. Most Ivy League schools, for example, have an acceptance rate of less than 10%, with an average GPA of above 4.0.  

College GPA Requirements Examples

Many students want to know the national average GPA for college in order to compare themselves to their peers. While it’s hard to quantify the overall average GPA for college, this “Average GPA for College” guide will share the average GPA for some of the most popular schools. 

For each of these schools, we’ll look at:

  • College GPA requirements
  • The average GPA for college from the recent enrollment
  • A recent acceptance rate
  • Whether your GPA for college is high enough

Harvard GPA Requirements

Harvard is one of the hardest institutions to gain acceptance to. For this reason, many students wonder about the Harvard GPA requirements, curious if their GPA for college is enough for this elite institution. 

average gpa for college; Harvard gpa requirements

Firstly, a note before we dive into the Harvard GPA requirements. When discussing a school that has a 3.19% acceptance rate, know that a strong GPA will never guarantee admission. With this in mind: are there any true Harvard GPA requirements? 

On the positive side, there are no real Harvard GPA requirements. Rather, you should use the average GPA for college amongst Harvard admits as a guide for your own GPA for college. For the most recent class of admits, this was a 4.22

So while there are no Harvard GPA requirements, you should aim to exceed a 4.22 to boost your odds of admission. Ideally, your GPA for college will be even higher than this average GPA so you stand out.

Yale Average GPA

Secondly, we’ll look at Yale’s college GPA requirements. Similar to the Harvard GPA requirements, there are no true GPA requirements for Yale. Rather, let’s take a look at the Yale average GPA and what the average GPA for Yale is in a typical year. 

average gpa for college; yale average gpa

The average GPA for Yale is not published. However, in light of students’ strong average ACT/ SAT scores, the Yale average GPA is likely to be high. This means that the Yale average GPA for college is comprised primarily of As in challenging classes. The acceptance rate for this class was 4.46%, which is almost as low as the estimated Yale average GPA is high. 

In order to be competitive with the estimated average GPA for Yale, you need to take hard classes in high school. Moreover, in order to attain the Yale average GPA, you should be getting strong grades in these classes. This resource will help you work out the GPA for college you should aim for if you want to get into Yale. 

The estimated average GPA for Yale is among the highest of any average GPA for college or university. Even though there are no Yale college GPA requirements, to have the best odds, treat the Yale average GPA as a minimum that you must aim for. Even if you meet or exceed the average GPA for Yale, it will still be a reach school. As the average GPA for Yale shows, this school attracts thousands of extremely competitive applicants every year. 

UCLA GPA Requirements

The next college GPA requirements we’ll look at in this “Average GPA for College” guide are the GPA requirements of UCLA. The UCLA GPA requirements align with the GPA requirements for the University of California system as a whole. 

average gpa for college; ucla gpa requirements

If you are applying to UCLA as a California resident, the GPA requirements for UCLA are 3.0. If you are applying from out of state, however, the UCLA GPA requirements are higher. In fact, for out-of-state applicants, the GPA requirements for UCLA are 3.4

Is it enough to simply meet the UCLA GPA requirements? UCLA is one of the most difficult public universities to gain acceptance to, with an admit rate of just 12.4%. Therefore, applicants who are on par with the UCLA GPA requirements, though eligible, may not gain admission. 

So, if meeting the GPA requirements for UCLA is not enough to compete, what score should you aim for?

Recent enrollment

The Fall class of 2021 had an unweighted average GPA for college of 4.0, far higher than the UCLA GPA requirements. If you want to meet the GPA requirements for UCLA and be considered a strong applicant, we suggest aiming for at least a 4.0. 

If you meet the UCLA GPA requirements but are lower than the average GPA for college, does that mean you shouldn’t apply? Not at all! If you have met the GPA requirements for UCLA, you are still welcome to apply. However, you should recognize that this will be a reach school for you even if you have technically met the GPA requirements for UCLA.

The UCLA GPA requirements are a good example of why meeting university GPA requirements is not always enough for a school to be a match for you.

Stanford GPA Requirements & Stanford Average GPA

If you’re considering applying to Stanford, you may wonder whether there are any Stanford GPA requirements. Similar to many of the most prestigious private institutions, there are no official Stanford GPA requirements. However, even though there are no Stanford GPA requirements, we suggest treating the Stanford average GPA as a minimum goal for your own GPA for college. 

stanford gpa requirements

So, let’s look at the data on the Stanford average GPA. In the most recent class of admits, 74% had a weighted GPA of 4.0 or higher. The Stanford average GPA, unweighted, is 3.96. In other words, the Stanford average GPA requires almost perfect academic performance in high school. 

Hoping to gain acceptance to Stanford? Then as with Harvard, Yale, and other highly selective universities, treat the Stanford average GPA as a stand-in for Stanford GPA requirements. Despite the lack of Stanford GPA requirements, the Stanford average GPA for college suggests you must be at the top of your academic game in order to have a chance at this school. 

NYU Average GPA

Wondering how to optimize your odds at NYU? Let’s take a look at the NYU average GPA and what it takes to get into NYU

nyu average gpa

The most recent acceptance rate at NYU was 12.2%, making NYC a highly sought-after choice. And while there are no GPA requirements, the NYU average GPA was 3.7 amongst the most recent class of admits.

The NYU average GPA suggests that most successful applicants scored primarily As in high school, with perhaps the occasional B or B+. In order to boost your own chances, you should meet or exceed the NYU average GPA.

Is your GPA for college lower than the NYU average GPA? Keep reading this “Average GPA for College” guide to learn how to get accepted with a low GPA for college. Because there are no official GPA requirements, you can still apply and get accepted if you don’t meet the NYU average GPA. 

USC GPA Requirements

Just like the other colleges in this “Average GPA for College” guide, there are no official USC GPA requirements. However, instead of USC GPA requirements, we suggest treating the average GPA as an unofficial guide for the USC GPA requirements. 

USC gpa requirements

The last class of admits at USC, with an acceptance rate of 12.5%, had an average GPA of 3.75‒4.00. While the average GPA is not the same as USC GPA requirements, it suggests that you should be achieving primarily As in your high school classes.

Further, USC offers merit-based scholarships. In order to be in with a chance of winning these, you’ll need to submit a strong GPA and other academic credentials. There are no official USC GPA requirements, even for scholarships. However, if you are applying to a USC scholarship, aim for a higher GPA than you would for admission to the university.

In short, there are no official USC GPA requirements. However,  in order to be in with a chance, you will need to meet the average GPA for college of previous admits.

MIT GPA Requirements

Next, let’s turn to the MIT GPA requirements. As MIT itself says, there are no MIT GPA requirements. In fact, there aren’t any college admissions requirements that will guarantee admission to this school.

Best colleges for architecture

However, with an acceptance rate of just 3.96%, MIT expects applicants to be at the top of their game. Therefore, similarly to USC, you should be treating the average GPA of admits as a guide to the MIT GPA requirements.

While there are no MIT GPA requirements, you should strive for As in honors, AP, and IB classes in order to be considered competitive at this university. In fact, you should really aim to exceed, rather than meet, the unofficial MIT GPA requirements in order to have the best odds.

Howard University GPA Requirements

Next up in this “Average GPA for College” guide, we’ll consider the Howard University GPA requirements. 

howard university gpa requirements

You might be wondering: are there any published Howard University GPA requirements? 

Similar to the other schools covered in this “GPA for College” guide, there are no official Howard University GPA requirements. The university does publish its average GPA, which is 3.66 unweighted. 

Even though there are no Howard University GPA requirements, aim to meet or exceed the school’s average GPA. However, even if your GPA for college is lower than Howard’s average GPA,  you are welcome to apply, since there are no formal GPA requirements. 

Find out more about Howard’s college admissions requirements in this article

CalTech GPA

Wondering how to get into Caltech? According to the office of admissions, there is no minimum Caltech GPA required for acceptance to this university. However, with an acceptance rate of just 7%, Caltech is no easy school to get into. Therefore, make sure your Caltech GPA is competitive in order to give you the best odds of admission.

cal tech gpa

The average Caltech GPA is 4.19 weighted. The admissions office also indicates that in order to seriously consider prospective applicants, they need a minimum Caltech GPA of 3.5 unweighted. Use these Caltech GPA figures to guide your expectations as you apply.

Pomona GPA Requirements

pomona gpa requirements

With an acceptance rate of 9%, Pomona is one of the hardest colleges to get into. While there are no published Pomona GPA requirements, we estimate the average GPA amongst admits is 4.0. Therefore, a competitive applicant is achieving mostly As and Bs in challenging classes. As with the other schools on this list, we suggest treating the predicted average GPA as a substitute for the Pomona GPA requirements.

Is a high GPA enough? Read our guide on how to get into Pomona to find out about Pomona’s other college admissions requirements.

Georgetown GPA Requirements

Planning on applying to Georgetown? Good news: there are no Georgetown GPA requirements! This means you can technically apply to this university no matter what your GPA for college is.

georgetown gpa

On the other hand, Georgetown has an acceptance rate of just under 17%. So it’s a  reach school for most applicants. To give yourself the best odds, we recommend treating the average GPA, a 4.0, as the unofficial Georgetown GPA requirements.

What do the unofficial Georgetown GPA requirements say about the average applicant? A 4.0 GPA indicates that most applicants are achieving A’s and B’s in hard classes. Therefore, treat the Georgetown GPA requirements similarly, aiming to get high scores in challenging classes throughout high school.

Duke Average GPA

Next in this “Average GPA for College” guide, let’s talk about the Duke average GPA and the Duke GPA you should aim for. The most recent admissions cycle saw a middle SAT range of 1510–1560 and an acceptance rate of 6%.

duke average gpa

While the school doesn’t publish the Duke average GPA, we estimate the Duke average GPA to fall around 4.1. These numbers suggest an incredibly competitive admissions process. 

If you’re hoping to get into Duke, your Duke GPA should be at least as high as the estimated Duke average GPA. In other words, your Duke GPA must consist of mostly, if not all, As in your school’s most challenging classes. 

Of course, matching the Duke average GPA is not all you will need to do for a chance at acceptance. However, the Duke GPA is one of the key ways the school determines whether you can succeed academically at this institution. As such, your Duke GPA needs to be very strong.

Northwestern GPA

The next example on our college GPA requirements list is the Northwestern GPA. There is no Northwestern GPA required for acceptance to this university. However, with an acceptance rate of 7%, Northwestern is a highly selective institution. Therefore, your Northwestern GPA must reflect that in order to optimize your odds.

northwestern gpa

While the school does not publish the Northwestern GPA average, it is likely to be high. Over 95% of admits are in the top 10% of their graduating class. Therefore, we estimate the average Northwestern GPA to be around 4.1. As such, you should meet or exceed a 4.1 in your own GPA for college.

Fordham GPA Requirements

With an acceptance rate of 54.1%, Fordham University is one of the least competitive schools on this college GPA requirements list. However, meeting the unofficial Fordham GPA requirements is still important.

fordham gpa requirements

As with other schools on this college GPA requirements list, there are no official Fordham GPA requirements. The closest thing to Fordham GPA requirements is the average GPA of admits, which is 3.81. Therefore, if you want to boost your odds of being accepted to this university, then exceed 3.81. 

Find out more about Fordham’s college admissions requirements here

UPenn GPA

The last school on our GPA requirements list is UPenn, an Ivy League institution with an acceptance rate of 9%. Similar to the others, there are no official UPenn GPA requirements.  

upenn gpa

Rather, you should use the UPenn GPA average to guide your own target GPA for college. In the most recent admissions cycle, admits had an average UPenn GPA of 3.9. This UPenn GPA was unweighted, sot the UPenn GPA is comprised almost entirely of As. 

While you’re not guaranteed admission for meeting or exceeding the UPenn GPA, we suggest you use it as a baseline to keep yourself in the running.

What is a good GPA for university?

Although many people wonder what the national average GPA is, knowing the average GPA for college wouldn’t help you. Instead, find the average GPA and GPA requirements of the colleges on your list. Indeed, as you can tell from the list above, every college GPA requirement list is unique, and they all have a different average GPA. 

Therefore, a strong GPA is one that exceeds the average GPA for college at the places you apply.

For example, let’s say your GPA is 3.8. Admissions teams at schools with an average GPA of 3.7 or lower will see this as a strong GPA for college. However, in contrast, admissions teams at schools with an average GPA of 3.9 and higher will see that same GPA as low. 

What happens if your GPA is lower than the average GPA for college at a school on your list? In many cases, you can compensate for a below-average GPA for college by meeting other college admissions requirements. 

Later in this “Average GPA for College” guide, we’ll go into more detail on how to get into college with a below-average GPA for college. However, rest assured, there are colleges with low GPA requirements you have good odds of attending. 

How to earn a high GPA?

So, you’ve researched the average GPA for college at all the schools on your list, but now what? How do you actually meet the college GPA requirements? 

Your GPA is comprised of all the grades you earn in your high school classes. Therefore, you boost your GPA by earning higher grades. If your GPA for college is weighted, aim for high marks in your more challenging classes, as these affect your GPA more dramatically. 

How do you ensure good grades? Develop strong study skills early on in high school. This includes turning assignments in before the deadline and managing your time well. Forming these habits early on means you will build a strong foundation for your GPA, rather than trying to make up for lost time later.

How to get into college with a low GPA?

After all this discussion of college GPA requirements, you may wonder what to do if you have a below-average GPA. 

For example, let’s say your GPA is on the lower end, and it’s too late for you to boost it with additional classes. Firstly, we want to reassure you that a low GPA isn’t the end of the world. You can compensate for a lower GPA using other college admissions requirements. 

average gpa for college

1.  Craft a compelling candidate profile

This includes passion projects, extracurriculars, hobbies, community service, and any awards you have won.

2. Write a powerful personal statement and supplemental essays

These are fantastic college admissions requirements because they shed light on your life in a way that GPAs can’t. You can also use the “additional information” section to explain why your GPA is low, particularly if you have an explanation related to family circumstances or personal challenges.

3. Take advantage of demonstrated interest

Not all schools use demonstrated interest as a component in their college admissions requirements. For those that do, however, showing interest in a school—via visiting, interviewing, and more—can help you stand out. 

4. Stand out in the application process in other ways

Colleges care about who you are as a person, and this goes beyond the numbers and the more objective college admissions requirements. Therefore, go beyond the college admissions requirements.

As you can see, there are many ways to strengthen yourself as an applicant outside of the university GPA requirements. However, if you are still skeptical about your odds, do research to find colleges with low GPA requirements or colleges that accept low GPA scores. 

There are many colleges with low GPA requirements. Start your search by selecting schools with a higher acceptance rate. Look at these colleges’ average GPAs and make sure they have low GPA requirements. You can also find lists of colleges that accept low GPA scores.

College GPA Requirements and Holistic Admissions

“Holistic admissions” is a phrase thrown around a lot when discussing college admissions requirements. In short, it’s an evaluation tactic used by many admissions offices. It means that a college evaluates each applicant as a whole, rather than any one factor. In holistic admissions, your GPA for college is only one of many factors being considered.

These are the other factors weighed in admissions:

  • Personal statement
  • Supplemental essays
  • Extracurriculars, work, and volunteering experience
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Awards and recognitions
  • Admissions interviews (when offered)
  • SAT/ACT scores (note: many schools offer a test-optional policy)

In short, college GPA requirements are not the only thing that matters in admissions.

Average GPA for College: Final Thoughts

While there is no national average GPA for college, nor a single set of college GPA requirements for all schools, your GPA is an important part of your candidate profile. 

When you’re constructing your college list, check the college GPA requirement list for each of your prospective schools. This will help you build a balanced list of safety schools (schools for which you exceed the college GPA requirements), target schools (those for which you meet the college GPA requirements), and reach schools (where you fall short of the college GPA requirements). 

Remember, if you find your GPA on the lower end, it is not the end of the world. Simply find more colleges with low GPA requirements. 

Finally: your GPA is not the only thing that matters to the colleges on your list. However, every one of them will use it to evaluate your eligibility.  As such, it’s important to set the foundation for a strong GPA early on in high school.

This article was written by Becky Weinstein. If you want to get help with your college applications and need advice about your average GPA for college, reach out to our CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Experts. If you register with CollegeAdvisor.com today you will be connecting to a network of college admission resources to support your higher education goals!