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What Is a GPA and How Can You Raise It Quickly? Admissions Expert Weighs In

Educational consultant Mark Montgomery describes the math behind a GPA and answers one of life’s great questions: how to raise it so you can get into a great college.


So It’s the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, and I think I’m going to memorialize this day as GPA Day, and the reason for that is I got several different inquiries today by phone and email about, “How do you calculate your GPA?” And I have several other posts on the blog here that you can refer to, and I’ll put links to those in the text here, but I was kind of struck by the fact that this is seen as such a complicated issue because really, fundamentally, the GPA is an average. It’s a mathematical average of the grades that you receive, and each grade corresponds to a number, you add up the numbers, you make a division by the number of numbers you have in the little story problem here, and you come up with an average. So it’s actually fairly simple to come with the average. Now, where things get a little bit problematic is when you have classes that perhaps are worth less than a full semester credit, or when a school maybe organizes by trimesters, and so different schools do things in different ways. So students, one of the things you can always do if you’re really confused about how this works, go into your guidance counselor and just ask. And find out how your school does it and how the number is calculated.

The other thing that can sometimes mess people up is if certain courses are weighted differently from others, an honors course, an AP course, an IB course, maybe a concurrent enrollment course. Those can trip you up. So it’s not that it’s really that complicated because again, it’s a mathematical average, but it can get complicated depending on how your school operates. So if you have questions, number 1, make sure you understand what an average is and how it’s calculated, and then once you understand that, go into your guidance counselor’s office and ask, “So what are the weirdnesses about how things are calculated here?”

The other question I got from another young man was, “How do I raise my GPA? Do you have any tips, Mark, for how to raise my GPA?” And this one was more — I guess it was Friday afternoon and I’m feeling a little bit punchy, but how do you raise your GPA? Well, you get better grades. Because again, this is a numerical, mathematical average. So in order to move the average, you have to move the numbers of good grades that you get so that the average will go up. So this is a fairly simple proposition. If you want to raise your GPA, you’ve got to study. You’ve got to get a better grade on that final exam. You have to raise your grades. Because that is how you raise your GPA.

So it’s Memorial Day, it’s GPA Day. And this is an important set of questions that everybody’s asking themselves. It’s not that hard. But to actually make it happen, I admit, gaining good grades can be tough. But go out there and study and you can raise that GPA really quickly.

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