Many high school students who are seriously considering applying to college are very concerned about the difference between weighted and cumulative unweighted grade-point averages (GPAs). GPAs are commonly used by college admissions committees to make decisions about which applicants are a good fit for the college and which students don't get in.

Cumulative GPA is the Standard

When most people think of GPA measurements, the common 4.0 scale comes to mind. The 4.0 GPA scale is what is used for cumulative unweighted GPAs. When a student receives an A in a course, he receives a 4.0 for his GPA. When he receives a B in a course, he earns a 3.0. When he receives a C, he gets a 2.0, and when he earns a D in a class, he receives a 1.0. A student does not earn any points toward his GPA if he fails a class. These scores average together to form a cumulative GPA.

Types of Courses that Impact Weighted GPA

Schools may have different GPA scales and policies. Some schools don't participate in weighted GPA programs, while other high schools weight each student's GPA even if the student took classes at the normal level. However, most of the time, when a school participates in a weighted GPA program, only students who take honors, advanced placement, dual enrollment, international baccalaureate and advanced international certificate of education courses are eligible to participate in a weighted GPA program.

Weighted GPA Boosts Class Rank

Weighted GPAs can be used to boost a student's class rank and overall GPA, which is the main difference between a cumulative unweighted GPA and a weighted GPA. For example, when a student enrolls in an advanced placement course and achieves an A in the class, he will be given a 5.0 instead of the 4.0 that would be received for an A in a normal high school level course. Similarly, a student who receives a B in an advanced placement course will receive a 4.0, just as a student who receives an A in a normal high school level course will receive a 4.0. This offers advanced placement students the opportunity to improve their GPAs and boost their class ranks.

What Your Future College Thinks

Every college's admissions committee is unique in its decision-making processes. Some colleges in the United States do not take weighted GPAs into consideration when determining who has earned a spot at the university, while other universities will consider both the weighted and unweighted cumulative GPAs when making an admissions decision. Montgomery Educational Consulting states that "most colleges will consider both your weighted and unweighted GPA." It is important to work hard to maintain a high unweighted cumulative GPA as well as a high weighted GPA in order in order to account for the different policies of different colleges you may apply to.