Freshman year is jam-packed with first-time experiences, including long nights studying in the library to ensure a high GPA. But, what is a good GPA in college? For many students, the college academic experience is focused on maintaining that perfect GPA score required to meet education or career goals.
In college, your GPA is different than in high school. How does a high school GPA differ from your average GPAs in college? And what is a good GPA in college? Let’s find out.
What is a Grade Point Average?
When someone says they have a good GPA, what do they mean exactly? It’s somewhat subjective, as one person’s idea of an average college GPA may differ from someone else’s. Those just scraping by in freshman year may think a good GPA is anywhere from 2.8 to 3.0, while a high GPA for others is the stellar 4.0.
A grade point average represents all of the grades that you have earned in high school or perhaps your freshman year in college. Calculating your cumulative GPA involves taking the grade points you have achieved in a class and dividing it by the number of credits hours of your course.
GPAs range from 0.0 (an F) to a perfect 4.0 (an A+).
Let’s illustrate further with an example. Say that you took a history class that was three credit hours. You earned a letter grade of B. You take that and divide it by three, earning you a good GPA of 3.0. Let’s take this example a step further and determine the GPA for the following courses and grades:
- History: 3 credits, B
- Biology: 4 credits, A
- Math: 3 credits, D
The resulting cumulative GPA would be 2.8. The D in math drags down the GPA significantly. While 2.8 isn’t ‘bad,’ it’s below the average college GPA, so it isn’t ideal if you are looking to enter a graduate program after completing your degree.
The Effects of Grade Inflation
Right now, the average GPA for college students ranks around 3.15. This is somewhere between a B and B+. While 3.15 is the average GPA, it’s not exactly a robust or completely accurate representation of an unweighted GPA. Here’s why.
According to a phenomenon known as grade inflation, many different variables control how an average college GPA turns out. We’re learning more and more about grade inflation and what it means for the future of top colleges accepting students.
For example, professors may be hesitant to fail a student outright, which could seriously hurt their chances in a future graduate program. Another possible scenario is that students and parents could fight for better grades due to more astronomical tuition prices at top colleges. There is a ton of nuance that goes into examining average GPAs at different schools.
While most students earn their high grades, other factors can lead to overall grade inflation. You can see how that 3.15 can be a little misleading or even somewhat inaccurate.
Different majors and schools also boast other GPA averages. ‘Good’ colleges like Brown or Columbia University have an average of about 3.4 to 3.6, whereas less selective colleges like Rutgers University show an average of 3.0.
Regardless of these variables, if we were to take this average GPA of 3.15 at face value, that’s overall a pretty good GPA.
What Can a Good GPA Do for You?
At the outset, we know that a good high school GPA can score you more opportunities to get into good colleges, so what can a good GPA in college earn you?
The most apparent benefit of a good college GPA is your ability to apply and get accepted to graduate school. Letters of recommendations singing your praises and a GPA of 3.5 or above give you unique opportunities to advance your degree and career.
In high school, earning a good GPA can allow you to take Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes. A high GPA in these classes put you in a power position, as you will likely be accepted into the school of your choice no matter the acceptance rate.
Final Thoughts: What is a Good GPA in College?
Grade point averages can boost your potential for post-graduate opportunities. If you are dead set on attending graduate school or want to have a better chance at the career of your choice, getting a GPA that is above average is ideal.
As long as you have at least a 3.0 grade point average, the chances are that recruiters and potential employers will be satisfied enough to give you a shot. If you have a high GPA, like 4.0, you put yourself in a fantastic position to control the tempo of your future.
As long as you keep to your course load, keep in mind the pitfalls of grade inflation, and holding around the average college GPA, you will thrive in a good college. You also have a solid shot at impressive graduate programs.