top of page

How Good or Bad is a 3.5 High School GPA?

It is widely believed that the better your grades are in high school, the wider your options are during college applications. As such, many students prioritize maintaining a high Grade Point Average or GPA to maintain their edge among tough competition. However, with each high school having slightly different GPA algorithms, the classification of students may vary as well.

First, let’s take a look at the performance level of high school students with the national average grade of B. This means that they received a GPA of around 3.0 in a 4.0 scale. If the student reaches a GPA of 3.5 or B+, then they are considered above average which surpasses most high school students in the U.S.

If we contextualize this in certain high schools, we can see a student’s chances of getting into a prestigious university.

Let’s consider the case of Choate Rosemarry Hall in Wallingford, Connecticut. They are the third most famous high school in the U.S, and almamater of President Kennedy. For the past five years, 49 of their students have entered Yale University, 46 went to Columbia University, and 47 to the University of Chicago.

Despite their prestige and reputation, not all of their students are high performing. As can be seen from the figure above, the weighted GPA distribution of their 2023 class shows that only 24.26% of the students exceeded 4.0. The vast majority of students scored 3.5-4.0, wile 15% were below 3.5.

In Phillips Academy, a well-known boarding school in Andover, Massachusetts, they adopted a 0-6 scoring system. Students who receive a 6 are very outstanding and are considered with high honors.

Image source: Phillips Academy in Andover

As shown in the table above, there are very few students who are able to achieve such a grade despite being one of the top private schools in the country. Only half of their students receive a grade of 5 or excellent. About 25% of the students’ scores are below 4.75 which is considered “good” according to their scale.

High school GPA conversion table

Image Source: Network

The above two high schools are already the best among high schools in the United States. According to the data of the National Center for Education Statistics, the average GPA of students in the United States is only 3.0 which can be broken down accordingly:

  • Average GPA for Core Courses (e.g. Mathematics, Science, English, Social Studies): 2.79

  • Average GPA of Other Academic Courses (e.g. foreign languages): 3.14

  • Average GPA in Non-Academic Courses (e.g. PE, Cooking, etc.): 3.39

The average GPA for certain core courses are as follows:

  • Mathematics is 2.65

  • Science is 2.70

  • English is 2.85

  • Social Science is 2.89

STEM courses have a lower average because these are more challenging for students.

In the US, female students have a higher GPA than male students.

Source: The Nation's Report Card

According to a study reported by Inside Higher Ed, an internal reference for higher education in the United States, it showed that GPA scores also have "inflation." When they gathered the data of graduates from 1998 to 2016, it showed that the average GPA of students gradually rose to 3.38.

Using data from North Carolina, researchers at Fordham University, along with Seth Gershenson of American University, found that schools across the state saw a higher GPA average. However, in wealthier schools, they have a 0.27 increase in the median GPA while their average increased by 0.17 points compared with lesser funded schools. In other words, it is easier to get good grades at wealthier schools, thus widening the GPA gap.

In recent years, many schools no longer calculate or publish their class ranks, especially those with well-off students. This makes it moree difficult to use grades as a gauge of a student’s overall performance.

As such, it is not surprising that admissions officers look further than a student’s GPA. Other factors, including extracurricular activities, essays, test scores and letters of recommendation, also play a role in the admissions process.

If your goal is to get into a competitive college, it is still important to improve your GPA but you must also work on other aspects of your application to balance everything out. You may take extracurricular activities that match your interests and goals. To demonstrate your academic abilities, you can take challenging classes and prepare well for your standardized tests. Both of which are important for a the holistic assessment of a student’s performance.

At Enlighteens, we look at every strength of our students and work on their weaknesses to help make them more competitive candidates for their college applications. We have services to boost our students’ grades and consultants that will guide them in choosing the right activities to supplement their academics, thus molding them into a well-rounded individual.

12 views0 comments
bottom of page