Your GPA can be a critical representation of your abilities in high school and college when it comes to your academic career. Having a good GPA in high school can make it easier to get into college, and having a good GPA in college can open up more real-word opportunities after graduation. But don't worry. If you have a low high school GPA, you can still bring it up if you start now.
What is a GPA?
GPA stands for grade point average and is based on the collective grades you receive for all of your classes. It’s likely that in your high school the final grades are given in letters (A-, B+, etc.) or as a percentage (92%, 85%, etc.). Your GPA converts these letters or percentages into numbers on a 1.0–4.0 scale and finds their average.
Your GPA is usually an essential factor in applying to college, as it gives an overall representation of your academic performance in high school. It’s meant to be an indicator of your intelligence, work ethic, perseverance, and willingness to improve.
GPAs are useful for colleges in comparing applicant to applicant. Imagine you're an admission officer who reviews thousands of college applications: would you prefer to look at long transcripts with each individual class grade or have a single average that allows for quick comparisons across the board?
Before you start any improvement methods, you need to know where your GPA stands. There are a few ways of calculating your GPA, but the most straightforward option is to use the online GPA calculator for a quick and accurate final number.
Got your GPA and still need some help? Let’s get started on how you can improve it!
1. Take the right classes
If you have some control over the classes you take, take the right ones. Let's face it, you can't take all the AP classes ever offered, four languages at a time, and some college-level courses expecting to get straight A’s. Although you may feel the need to be highly competitive, don’t burn yourself out. Take the classes that you know you can handle and will reflect positively on your abilities. If this means three AP classes instead of four, that’s fine. Your GPA will thank you, and colleges would much rather see a good GPA with three AP classes than a poor one with four.
2. Pull up middle school grades
If you did well in in middle school, especially in advanced classes, talk to your school counselor about the possibility of including them in your GPA. Some high schools will allow this as a more comprehensive representation of your education. (Only do so if you have A's, as B grades will lower your GPA).
3. Go to summer school
If you haven’t done well during the school year, you may need to think about summer school as an option. It’s not ideal because everyone would like to save the summer for fun, but you’ll have more fun summers and school is important. Talk with your counselor to figure out if a summer school course is necessary for you. The courses your own school offers are usually the easiest and best way to go, as they’ll be the closest to the academics you’ll have when the school year starts up again.
4. Retake classes during the school year
Most high schools will allow you to repeat classes in the next academic year. If you’ve ended up with a grade that you’re unhappy with, make room in your schedule to retake the course if you think a second chance will be beneficial to your academic success. The second time is often easier because you’ve had the extra time to grasp the material.
Before adding it to your schedule, talk to your counselor to make sure that taking it again will replace your lousy grade, or see if they may have other options to bring up the grade without completely retaking the class: Can you retakes some major tests? Complete an extra project? Most schools want their students to succeed—so there’s nothing to lose by asking.
5. Don’t miss classes and participate consistently
You'd think it would be obvious, but many students don't go to class. Make sure you’re going to all of your classes, unless you have a real reason not to. Many teachers add points to your class grade just for attending classes. And a lot of teachers give credit just for handing in homework regardless of how you did.
Also, while you’re in class, make sure you participate as much as possible. Teachers don't care if you're right or wrong; they care if you're progressing. They care that you are as invested in your own education as they are in providing it to you. Show them you care by taking part, and you’ll often be rewarded with grade boosts for participation and improvement.
6. Retake a class somewhere locally
Your city may have local businesses or learning centers that offer classes your school might accept as a substitute for a class you got a bad grade in. These classes are often similar to one-on-one tutoring, where you can really master the material with some help because you are the only student.
7. Make time for extra studying
The best way to bring up your GPA is to spend 30 minutes to an hour more on homework every night (whatever you can make work with your busy schedule). What kind of studying works best for you? Some options include:
- Recording lectures and listening to them over and over again
- Converting your notes into pictures
- Taking your written notes and rewriting them on the computer to print
Whichever way you choose, see what helps you the best. Just because a method is unconventional doesn’t mean it’s not effective.
Related: Secrets to Successful Studying
8. Get a tutor as soon as possible
A tutor can be a peer mentor, a private tutor who comes to your home, or a free tutor you can find in places like your school or at the library. As soon as you feel there is a problem, ask for more help! Don't delay, because the class will continue to move forward with or without you.
Having a tutor is nothing to be ashamed of. Even students at the top of the class get tutors sometimes. How do you think they stay on top? The competition for getting into college is increasing, so make sure you are always putting yourself at an advantage.
If you can't find an official tutor that works for you, even working with a friend, an older sibling, or a parent can be helpful. Two minds are always better than one.
9. Get extra help from teachers after school
Use your teacher's working hours, which usually extend after school hours, to go and do your homework in their class so that when you’re stuck, you can ask them questions. That is also to your advantage because they see that you’re making the effort, and some teachers grade more leniently when they know their students are putting in the honest effort.
Your teacher is your primary resource for doing well in class, so whatever aid they are able to offer beyond your usual class time will only be to your benefit.
Teachers also have connections. If you show improvement and interest, they may be able to move you to another class, connect you to a counselor at a college, or pull some other strings that can improve your chances of getting into a better institute.
10. Apply to schools that exclude freshman year grades from your GPA
If your freshman grades are dragging you down, some colleges like San Diego State University, California Polytechnic State University, and Chapman University exclude those grades from your overall GPA. If you haven’t set your heart on a school and are open to new options, do some research and find out which schools offer this opportunity.
Related: Ask the Experts: How Important Is GPA in the Admission Process?
These are just a few ways to improve your GPA, so keep an open dialogue with your school counselor about all your options that may not even be listed here. The best way to bring up your GPA is to take steps to fix it before things get out of control. If you work hard and make the right choices, you could have a place in a prestigious college of your choice.
Use our College Search tool to find schools with flexible GPA requirements.