Written by: Cooper Aspegren and Chaewon Lee
Even with extensive data on applicants ranging from test scores to summer activities, sorting through more than 150,000 students can be a daunting task for admissions officers within the University of California (UC). As of now, the UC system’s weighted and capped Grade Point Average (GPA) policy disadvantages students who take many AP or honor classes and complicates the admissions process. Although the GPA is not the only factor colleges consider when admitting applicants, it is one of the main factors and needs to be optimized. If the UC system switches to the fully weighted GPA system, the GPA will become fully effective in judging students and helping admissions officers.
Under the UC system’s current GPA policy, a student’s official GPA is weighted only for eight semesters worth of honors and AP classes. If a student takes more than eight semesters worth of weighted classes, the extra courses will be counted for regular weight.
The main problem with capping arises when students who take more than eight weighted classes are compared to those that take exactly eight. In this situation, the higher-achieving student is not given the proper level of credit he or she deserves.
Consider two different students that satisfy the above situation’s requirements. The first student has straight As and takes seven classes per year. He completes 5 yearlong AP courses and 2 honors courses during his high school career. He desires challenge in his courses and is willing to sacrifice plenty of time and effort to maintain good grades. For the UCs, he will have a capped or UC GPA of 4.19 as opposed to an uncapped GPA of 4.5.
The second student is also a straight-A student, but he takes just four honors classes overall. He, like the first student, will also have a GPA of 4.19.
In terms of academic accomplishment, the two students are clearly not equal, and it is unfair for the UC system to give both the same numerical evaluation for their academic performance. The first student should be better recognized for his higher level of academic achievement, regardless of how minimal this recognition may end up being in the larger picture of admission. Under the weighted grading system, he will be compensated.
The weighted and capped grading system also slows down admissions officers who must quickly and efficiently sort through thousands of applications. The capped GPA system fails to distinguish between students who take few APs and those who take several, even though the GPA system is supposed to help colleges more precisely assess a student’s effort and level of difficulty in his or her classes. To be fully effective, a GPA should encompass all the student’s work. A fully weighted GPA does just this; the capped GPA inherently does not.
In theory, the weighted and capped GPA system accounts for the imbalance between students from schools that offer many AP and honors classes and students from schools that only offer a few. However, the school discrepancy is already taken care of by admissions officers, who also use factors like average school GPA in determining acceptance and rejection.
In short, if the UC universities switch their official policy from weighting and capping GPAs to just weighting them, both applicants and universities will benefit. The universities will save their admissions officers from unnecessary work and they will give students the equitable judgment that they deserve.
The University of California (UC) system limits the number of classes that carry a weighted grade on the student’s transcript to eight semesters. While criticized by some, the decision to institute a “Weighted and Capped” GPA stands as effective and well-executed policy on the part of the UC system. It encourages students to pursue their academic passions without feeling pressure to take as many Advanced Placement (AP) and honors weighted classes as possible. In addition, the policy helps reduce the level of stress in students’ lives by diminishing the rewards reaped by undertaking an all too extreme course load. Ultimately, the cap on weighted GPA as implemented in the UC system benefits students far more than it causes detriment to them.
Capping the number of weighted classes per school subject encourages students to satisfy their specific academic interests. It allows mathematics aficionados to enroll in Analysis Honors as juniors without feeling pressure to take AP United States History concurrently, and vice versa for humanities-oriented students. Because the weighted and capped GPA removes the impulse to overburden oneself with an excess of AP and honors classes, students can choose to take higher level classes in the subjects in which they are most interested. As a result, they can concentrate on enhancing their knowledge of the subjects they love without facing interference from other advanced coursework in which they have far less interest.
More than allowing students to pursue their academic interests as they see fit, a weighted GPA capping system serves to decrease the level of anxiety associated with a schedule of too much rigor. AP and honors classes, when taken in too high an abundance, can result in overwhelming levels of homework and concept difficulty for some. By capping the number of weighted classes, the UC system essentially removes obligation on the part of students towards enrolling in too many AP and honors courses for their own good.
Even with its undeniable advantages, the UC weighted and capped GPA system has met more than its fair share of detractors who argue against the limitations it imposes. For some, restricting the number of AP and honors classes that carry a weighted designation on the UC transcript unfairly disadvantages students who took more than eight semesters of AP and honors coursework, especially if they earned less than desirable grades in those classes. However, those critics fail to realize that the GPA occupies just one aspect of the college admissions criteria. The rigor of the secondary school record occupies just as significant a role in the final admissions decision; students in the position described ultimately would have very little about which to worry.
Instituting a cap on number of weighted classes to eight semesters reflects a savvy understanding on the part of the UC system administrators as to how academically competitive students operate. The measure motivates students to pursue their specific academic interests at a higher level. At the same time, capping the number of weighted classes alleviates the level of academic stress that such a system’s absence would develop. In the end, the weighted GPA capping system proves a far more useful course of action than its alternative.