Why Do We Use Unweighted GPAs?


On Thursday, April 20, new National Honors Society members were sworn in. NHS represents some of Stoughton High Schools’ top scholars. A 3.5 GPA is needed at least to apply.

As the school year comes to an end, numerous juniors are beginning to look into their options for college applications. According to two sources from Stoughton Area School district, GPAs do have a prevalence in a college application. However, for college, their weight doesn’t matter.
According to Ann Ash, a school counselor at Stoughton High School, one of the first things that a school looks at on an application is a GPA, and a GPA can come in two forms: weighted and unweighted. Weighted GPAs are when advanced classes are considered when calculating the GPA. This means that AP classes are given more “points.” Most schools that use weighted GPAs give AP Classes 5 points, meaning that if an A or a B is received in that class, their overall GPA would be able to exceed a 4.0.
“Most of the [colleges], without exception, unweight GPAs when they get them, and the colleges are more interested in the rigor of the schedule,” Ash says.
A rigorous schedule usually consists of a few AP classes. Even though GPAs are unweighted at SHS, acquiring AP courses in high school will greatly increase a college’s decision on whether to accept you or not, according to Ash. “Some colleges would say they’d rather see a student get a B in an AP course than an A in a non-AP course,” Ash says. “That, to them, is more favorable.”
The reason for the use of weighted GPAs at many schools is to reward students for their hard work in AP classes. The only change made to an unweighted GPA would be a higher class rank, which would only be useful in schools that use the valedictorian system for their senior class. All students with a 4.0 at SHS will be listed as number one in the class rank.
According to Ash, using weighted GPAs would not be the better option for SHS.
“Kids come from all different backgrounds,” Ash says. “Some kids maybe can’t take as many AP courses because they have to work a lot because [of] their families’ financial situation.”
Many online sources write that many public schools, like Stoughton, have never used weighted GPAs. A school that uses a weighted GPA will almost always be a private or public school on the East or West coasts.
Kate Ahlgren is the Director of Curriculum and Instruction at SASD. Her job is to support teachers in making decisions for the systems of learning and curriculum at all five of the district’s schools. To her, a GPA means a lot more than its numbers.
“Our GPA is just one way of trying to understand whether or not students have learned the information that […] we have set forth in our standards,” Ahlgren says. “[A GPA] is just one way that we understand […], and we know there are many other ways we can come to that understanding.”
In the end, the weight of the GPA will not affect a student’s academic performance in comparison with those who use a different weight, according to Ash. Using weighted GPAs praises those who have the ability to take AP courses, while others don’t have the availability or the option to.
“I do think that [using unweighted] GPAs is a little bit more equitable for people based on their overall situations,” Ash says.