Helping Students Understand Grade Point Averages


A few years back, one of my high school Seniors told me that she wanted to know what she could do to have a 3.5 grade point average (GPA) before graduation because it was required for a scholarship she wanted. Her current GPA was a 2.5, and she was quite disappointed to learn that there was absolutely no way that she could raise her GPA to a 3.5 in only one semester. Unfortunately, she is not alone. Students often think that they can achieve poor grades during their early years of high school and fix it during their Senior year. Understanding the urgency of taking high school seriously from the beginning can help provide motivation, particularly for Freshmen and Sophomores, who often do not see the connection between their current grades and their academic future.

There are three aspects of GPA that students should understand early in their high school career:

1. GPA is cumulative.

Students should understand that because GPA is cumulative, it will become harder and harder to change their GPA significantly as they progress through high school. One way to teach this is to guide them through a GPA calculator. For example, Preparing for College and Careers, a free online course designed for Adventist high school students, contains an assignment where students use a GPA calculator to determine their current GPA and to experiment with different ways their GPA could change depending on their performance in future semesters.

2. College enrollment often requires specific GPAs.

Having students research the GPA averages of students admitted to colleges of interest to them can communicate the importance of building up their GPA from the beginning. On the website CollegeSimply, students can search for a college of interest to them, click on Admissions, and see the average GPA of students admitted, along with other admissions statistics. Students who assume that Adventist colleges admit anyone may be surprised to find that the GPA averages for admitted students are much higher than they expect. At Andrews University, for example, the average GPA for students who are admitted is 3.49 and 83% of students who are admitted have GPAs above 3.0.

3. Competitive academic areas often require even higher GPAs.

One easy method for connecting GPA with specific content areas is to have students research GPA averages for applications to academic programs for competitive careers within the content area. This helps students to see the importance of GPA while also learning important information about careers within the content area.

While GPA is only one indicator of the learning that occurs in high school, it is one that can have a big impact on a student’s motivation during high school and options after graduation. By ensuring our students understand this often-neglected topic, our students can reap the benefits, and we can benefit as well by having students who are more engaged and have a clearer understanding of the benefits of doing their best throughout high school.


Keri Conwell graduated from Walla Walla University with Bachelor's degrees in English and Psychology and an MAT degree in Secondary Teaching. She is currently serving as a project manager for CIRCLE and has served as a high school English teacher at Mount Vernon Academy and a K-10 Physical Education teacher at Ukiah Junior Academy, USA.


  • | January 31, 2019 at 6:41 pm

    This educative information was very helpful.
    I believe every high school student desirous of entering college or university should read it.

    • | February 4, 2019 at 4:04 pm

      Thank you for your comment, Theresa! You are welcome to share it with the High School students you know.

  • | October 29, 2019 at 10:15 am

    Very useful information, thank you!
    But I would also include this site ( in the list, I always use this GPA calculator to calculate my grades

    • | October 29, 2019 at 2:51 pm

      Great suggestion! Thank you, Sarah.

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