Understanding Letter Grades, Percentages, and GPA’s

If you're applying to college, you'll hear a lot of talk about your GPA, and how much it matters in the college admissions process. Your GPA, or grade-point average, indicates your overall performance in school--i.e., your grades. Your GPA is calculated from your letter grades or percentage grades, and is expressed as a number from 0.0 to 4.0.

Although your GPA is a very important number, many students find it confusing:

  • How come it's a number from 0.0 to 4.0? 
  • What if your school gives out grades as percentages from 0 to 100?
  • What if your school gives out letter grades?
  • How do you go from letters to numbers?

As mentioned above, your GPA is the average of your entire high school academic performance. Essentially, they take all of your grades, add them together, and divide them by the number of grades, and voilá! You've got your GPA. But before you can add them all together, you need to convert them to the 0.0 to 4.0 scale that is used in GPA calculations. Here's how letter grades and percentages compare to GPA numbers:

letter grade gpa percentage conversion table

Note that this is just a general table, and that some schools may have slightly different variations; however, this table should give you a good general idea of how letter grades compare to percent grades, and how they both compare to GPAs. Based on this chart, if the average of your grades was a 81, then you would have a GPA of around 2.7. If you had a C average, then your GPA would be a 2.0.

A tip for those of you who go to schools where the grades are given as letter grades: If your school doesn't give you a GPA or the average of your grades, and you want to get a good idea of what your GPA is, you could do the following:

  1. Get your transcript.
  2. Convert all of your letter grades to their corresponding GPA number.
  3. After they are converted, add all of the numbers together.
  4. After you add them all up, divide them by the number of grades.
  5. The resulting number is your GPA!

If your school gives out grades as percentages, then just add all your grades up, divide the result by the number of grades you added, and then find the resulting value in the table above. The corresponding number in the GPA column is your overall GPA!

Your GPA is an important part of your college application. Make sure you know what it is and how to find it, so that you can know what you're showing potential schools!