What Is A College GPA

Assorted number sitting on a brown shelf.

Colleges use grade point average (GPA) to determine a student’s academic standing. GPA is exactly what it reads, it’s an average of all the student’s grades throughout the semesters, terms, and years. GPA is calculated at the end of each semester usually on a scale between 1.0 and 4.0.

A student’s GPA does more than rank academic standing. It also determines class rank, graduation, acceptance into a major, continued enrollment in your major, honors, academic warnings, financial aid and scholarship eligibility, future employment opportunities, eligibility for athletic teams, and acceptance to graduate school. In college, GPA is not everything, but as you can see from the latter, it is important and affects a variety of factors.

Different Types Of GPAs

When looking at your transcripts you will see several different types of grade point averages. There will be a term GPA, a cumulative GPA, and the GPA that you earned at your college. If you attend 2 colleges, you have 2 GPAs.

Term GPA

A term GPA is a combined GPA of all the grades a student has earned in a single semester.

Cumulative GPA

A cumulative GPA is the combined GPA of all the semesters a student has taken including transferred credits.

University GPA

A university GPA is all the grades a student has received at a specific university.

My GPA And Transcripts At CSUS

When we look below at my transcripts we can see my transfer school, Butte College. Butte College is the community college I attended before transferring. My GPA of 3.7 transferred to my university, California State University Sacramento (CSUS). It’s how I was accepted into the business program. However, once I was a student at CSUS the university would only observe their GPA for academic ranking and standing.

Below each semester you will see a Term GPA, CSUS GPA, and Cumulative GPA. If I make the honors list, it will show beneath the list of GPAs. I made the Dean’s Honor List twice, so it shows on those semesters only.

Your College Sensei's college transcripts from California State University Sacramento showing all grades, classes, and GPA

College Majors Have A Minimum GPA

When a student is applying for a major, especially if you choose one that is highly sought after, there will be a GPA requirement to get accepted into the program. In-demand degrees are impacted therefore, colleges can be very selective of the students they let in.

At my alma mater, CSUS, their undergraduate business college is incredibly impacted. Impacted is when the number of applicants received is greater than the number of available spaces. This means when you declare your major it will be more difficult to get in. Currently (2022), these are the admission requirements:

“Overall, students must have 45 units completed with a qualifying overall grade point average (minimum 2.4 GPA); and be in good standing at last college or university attended. Please note: merely having a 2.4 GPA does not guarantee admission to upper division business program. Students will be rank-ordered by overall GPA. The GPA cutoff for the past few admission cycles has been in the 2.90/2.95 range.” –CSUS School of Business

While the minimum GPA is 2.4 to apply to the business program that GPA does not guarantee admission. Since the program is so impacted, students are ranked by their overall GPA. That means you are competing with the GPAs of all the other students who are applying. Therefore, you will want to have the highest GPA possible to ensure that you will get accepted.

Be sure to read, 10 Practical Ways To Increase Your College GPA.

If you intend on applying to graduate school, your GPA will play a crucial role in your admission. Some graduate schools set specific requirements for their admission, but generally, admission requirements vary from a 3.0 to a 3.5 average, depending on the university, degree, and program.

C’s Get Degrees, Not So Fast

While the saying, “C’s get degrees” can be correct, C’s may not get you into a good major. Earning a C is okay, and a student can easily graduate and have a good career, and income while having mostly C’s. What’s important is to get a few B’s and even possibly A’s to bring those C’s up a little. As you can see from my alma mater, having a C average won’t get you into the business program, but you definitely don’t need straight A’s either. When you know the major you want to apply for, see what their minimum GPA requirement is and shoot a little higher to ensure you will get in.

What Is a Good College GPA?

What is a good GPA? That’s a hard question to answer as it greatly depends on the college you are attending and your major. If you have browsed around Your College Sensei you know by now, that I preach three concepts religiously; community college, in-state public universities, and earning a degree in one of the best majors (those that have excellent earning potential and employability). When I measure what a good GPA is, these are the factors I consider.

For an in-state university, I feel an average GPA of 3.2 is good. Not excellent, but good. A 3.2 is just slightly over a B average and should be good enough to get you into almost any major. A 3.2 isn’t too difficult to maintain throughout your college career. It can also give you breathing room if you happen to have a hard semester or a few difficult classes.

How To Calculate Your GPA

Calculating your GPA is easy. First, identify the grade value for each completed course based on the grade you received. Almost all colleges use this grading scale.

college GPA calculator

The majority of universities don’t give out A+’s therefore, I didn’t include it in the chart. Community colleges usually don’t have plus (+) or minus (-), calculating at the community college level is straightforward. Check your college’s website if you are unsure, they will have their grading scale listed in their academic policies.

Now that we know the grading scale let’s use my Fall 2018 Term as an example.

CSUS Fall 2018 Semester showing what is a college GPA

Here’s the calculation of my Fall 2018 Term: Grade Value multiplied by Credit Value.

calculating what is a college GPA

To calculate Term GPA take the total grade points achieved, which are 54, and divide by total credits, which are 15.

54 ÷ 15 = 3.6. My Term GPA is 3.6.

There are a lot of good GPA calculators on the web. I personally like this one, College GPA Calculator.

Should You Put Your College GPA On Your Resume

If the job you are applying for is not specifically asking for it, it’s not necessary to include your GPA on your resume. Currently, I am a manager at a Fortune 500 Company. I’ve seen a lot of resumes and hired a lot of people and I have never asked a potential employee what their GPA was. When my current employer was hiring me, they did not ask about my GPA.

If you think about it, do you know what your doctor or dentist’s GPA is? How about your teacher or professor? When you hire a lawyer or another professional do you ask what their GPA was when they were in college? The truth is when you become a professional, there are so many other factors that are more important for an employer to consider than your GPA. Personally, I look at the degree and experience and that’s what most employers consider.


Sensei Side Note:

The grading scale goes from A to F. Why not A to E, after all, that makes chronological sense. The answer is quite simple.

The earliest record of a letter-grade scale comes from Mount Holyoke College in 1897. Their grade scale was A-E. The letter E represented fail. Over the decades students and parents often associated E with “excellent” not “fail”. By the 1930’s the scale became what we now know today. The F replaced the E. This change was to clear up any confusion as F represented fail.