When colleges evaluate your academic record for admission, your GPA isn’t the first thing that’s considered. Rather, it’s the particular courses you take over all four years coupled with the rigor (degree of difficulty) of those courses. Yes, colleges would rather see you take an AP course and get a B than take an Honors course and get an A. Thus, you should take the most challenging courses you can comfortably handle, and get the best grades you can. Don’t overburden yourself, but, by the same token, don’t wuss out either!
When it comes to your GPA, the one that’s on your transcript is not necessarily the one that colleges will use! For example, the mid-50% GPA range for students admitted to Emory is 3.79-4.00, while the mid 50% GPA range for a student admitted to the University of Florida is 4.2-4.6. These numbers could lead you to draw an incorrect conclusion – that UF is tougher to get into than Emory – but that’s simply not true! They use two different measures of GPA. Emory uses a core unweighted GPA (counting courses only in English, math, science, social science, and foreign language) without any additional weight added for AP or Honors courses, while UF recalculates a core weighted GPA (but uses different weights than most high schools). In fact, some colleges don’t even calculate a GPA, but give your academic record an “index” rating; others take the highest GPA off your transcript. In most cases, the GPA on the transcript includes all your courses and is heavily weighted to account for Honors and AP/IB/AICE/DE courses. Selective universities like Emory, on the other hand, separately analyze the rigor of your curriculum, so that unweighted 3.79-4.00 GPA we listed above is complemented by a challenging curriculum with a significant number of AP and Honors classes.
So what about the other state universities in Florida? How do they calculate your GPA? Answer: All of them use a “core weighted GPA,” recalculating your GPA using:
- Only your core academic courses (English, math, science, social science, foreign language)
- All core academic dual-enrollment courses
- Electives only if AP or IB or AICE (e.g., AP Computer Science Principles)
- Year-end grades converted to the 4.0 scale (A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1, F=0)
- No points added or subtracted for plus or minus
- An additional 1 point added for each AP, IB, AICE, or Core Dual Enrollment with a grade of C- or better
- An additional ½ point for each Honors, Pre-IB, or Pre-AP course with a grade of C- or better grade
To get the “core weighted GPA,” all of the above numbers are added together and the total is divided by the number of courses used in the calculation.
On another note, not all colleges give you a “bump” for AICE courses. For example, none of the nine schools in the University of California system (e.g., UCLA, Berkeley) add any weight for AICE courses.
Here’s the moral of the story: To determine how close of an academic fit you are for a college, always ask Admissions how they evaluate a student’s transcript – in other words, which GPA they use and how they calculate it.