Grades can either make or break a college student. Impressive grades can open doors to a successful future, but low grades can become the biggest disappointment in a student’s college career. Because grades play such an important role in determining a person’s future, it’s no wonder that people stress over them. And the fact that in college you have a cumulative grade point average or GPA and also a GPA in your declared major, adds fuel to the stress, because it can cause confusion between the two GPAs.

Cumulative GPA

The cumulative GPA is the cumulative grade from all the courses you took during your four years in college. This number shows how well you performed academically as a student. If you decide to include your GPA on your resume, the cumulative GPA is the one you should always add. Since your cumulative GPA is something that your future employers may inquire about, you should work hard to have a high GPA, if possible.

Major GPA

Your major GPA, unlike your cumulative GPA, represents only the grades you received in the major you declared. For instance, if you are a biology major, your major GPA is based on the grades you got in all biology classes, and in other classes that are specific to your program of study. Your major GPA may not be as important as your cumulative GPA, but a high GPA is undeniably essential, if you are applying for a job in your major.


Your college will let you know what your official cumulative GPA is and what your major GPA is. If you can’t wait to ask someone at your school, you can compute your own GPA. To do this, convert all your letter grades to their numerical equivalent. Add up the numbers and divide them by the number of grades on your list. The numerical equivalent of grades varies from school to school, so check with your adviser if you aren’t sure what your school uses.

A Warning

If you are aiming for honors by the time you graduate, keep in mind that every subject is important because some people tend to take major subjects more seriously than the minor ones. What they don’t realize is that getting high grades in their major courses will not always result in an outstanding cumulative GPA. If they get low grades in their minor subjects, they might end up pulling down their cumulative GPA to an unsatisfactory level.