How To Calculate Your GPA — And Why It Matters

Making it through college-level classes takes a lot of hard work. At the end of the day, you want to know that it was worth the effort, and your grade point average (GPA) is the most concrete way of doing that.

Calculate your GPA for academic success. (Credit: Hive Miner)

Calculate your GPA for academic success. (Credit: Hive Miner)

Do you use your school’s GPA calculator to keep track of your GPA? As college students, we are told that our cumulative GPA will affect our postgraduate and our professional possibilities. So, it’s a good idea to know how to calculate your GPA.

Calculate your GPA

Check with your school counselor and you’ll probably find that there is a calculator online that you can use to track your semester and cumulative GPA. An example of a calculator is this one from the University of California, Berkeley.

Look closely at the grade scale and you’ll see that this calculator uses a different value for B- than for B or B+. Your school’s calculator probably uses the same scale. The grade point average is calculated by dividing the total amount of grade points earned by the total amount of attempted units with grades. The grade point average may range from 0.0 to 4.0.

Pass/No Pass and Credit/No Credit courses aren’t included in the calculation. Neither are Withdrawals. Incompletes don’t count either unless you fail to complete your “Incomplete Grade Contract,” in which case you will get an F grade (check with your school for its Incomplete policy). If you repeat a course, the second grade that you earn is the one that is used in the calculation.

Why track your GPA?

You can use the calculator to help plan ahead. If you see that a particular course is hopeless, then you might want to drop it by the drop date rather than completing it with less than a B grade.

Other reasons to track your GPA:

  • To plan ahead for summer to finish an Incomplete or repeat a course you dropped
  • To make sure your GPA still qualifies you for scholarships and financial aid
  • To avoid academic probation

If you just can’t seem to get your GPA as high as you would like, it might be a good idea to consult with your school counselor about strategies that you can use to improve your numbers.

Strategies to increase GPA include:

  • Participate in a study group
  • Do extra credit work, if possible
  • Take online classes if you struggle with attendance
  • Take extra courses to earn more credits

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has a GPA calculator that will help you to calculate GPA, and the number of credits you need to take to raise your GPA by a desired number of points.

Does GPA matter?

When it comes to getting a good job, will your GPA really matter? Susan Adams talked to career advisors and company recruiters to find out for her December 6, 2013, article for Forbes.com, “Do Employers Really Care About Your College Grades?

What she found is that the big companies use GPA as a way of screening job candidates. Many won’t consider someone with less than a B average. Smaller companies and start-ups focus less on grades. Adams recommended that college students list their GPA on their resume if it’s at least a B average.

The good news, however, is that a company recruiter may still consider hiring you despite a lower GPA if you can demonstrate other qualities. She recommended attending job fairs where you can meet recruiters face-to-face to sell yourself.

Trudy Steinfeld, head of career services at NYU, suggested that, “[…] students can compensate for bad grades with a compelling story which they can put on their résumé, like describing an internship where they did an analysis of workflow issues and improved productivity by 20%.”

Do you use your college’s GPA calculator? Tell us how it helps you in the comments.

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