What GPA do I Need to Get Into College?

What high school GPA you need to get into college depends on the college you are applying to and how the college evaluates your high school record. The more selective the college, the higher your GPA will need to be. While a 2.0 GPA might be adequate for a local community college, if you want to get into a highly selective college, whether a private one or a flagship state university, you should have close to a 4.0 GPA.

GPA and Admissions

According to the U.S. News & World Report, high school grades are normally the most important factor in college admissions. The reason for this is that how you performed in your high school classes is the best indicator of how you will handle college-level coursework. In general, college courses are harder than high school ones. If you struggled to barely pass high school algebra, most admissions staff will be concerned that you will fail college math.

What is a Weighted GPA?

Your high school GPA is not just a single number. You can already guess that most colleges don’t care about whether you did well in physical education, wood shop, or driver’s education, because these don’t predict your future academic performance. Admissions staff look at the difficulty of classes you have taken and count rigorous courses such as those certified as parts of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate┬« programs as worth more than regular classes. This process is called weighting and is also used in calculating class rankings at many high schools. This means that avoiding difficult classes to improve your GPA will not actually help your chances of admission to the colleges of your choice.

GPA and College Choices

You should think of your GPA as information that can help you in the process of deciding where to apply to college. When you are researching colleges, look at the average GPA of their incoming classes, information that most colleges post on their admissions web pages. Next, divide the colleges that appeal to you into three groups. If you are below the average GPA of the entering class, that college is aspirational for you; while you might apply to one or two in this category, your odds of admission are not good. If you match the average GPA of the incoming class, the college is a good fit for you and the teaching is likely to be geared to students just like you. You should also apply to a few “safe schools”, where your GPA is higher than the incoming class average, just to be assured of at least one acceptance.

The Bottom Line

The best way to estimate what high school GPA you need to be admitted to a specific college is to look at the admissions section of the college’s website for the average GPA of admitted students. If your own GPA is at or above that average, your chances of admissions are good, but if you are significantly below that average, your chances of admissions are slim unless you are genuinely outstanding in a non-academic area such as sports or the arts or extracurricular activities.

See also: 50 Great Schools Where High School Students Can Get College Credit