Written by Jenna Marvet
Most upperclassmen have done it: looked longingly at a Naviance graph of a dream school, their GPA just two-tenths below the average. The simplified comparison of test scores to GPA in reference to college admission has made many students romanticize that little number. Understanding how the admission process works can be confusing, which makes it easy to jump on a bandwagon that a weighted GPA would potentially make one student’s GPA look more attractive than the rest. In reality, however, the GPA that a high school submits to colleges is inconsequential and, thus, Gunn has no reason to report weighted GPAs on student transcripts.
As honors, accelerated, Advanced Placement (AP) and other challenging courses have become commonplace at high schools across the nation, each high school has taken on their own weighing system. As a result, weighted GPAs are highly subjective based on the school. For example, someone at one school may get extra weight on their GPA for an accelerated or middle-level class, while others, like Gunn students, may only receive weight for honors and AP classes. For that reason, colleges often recalculate student GPAs. Without doing this, a GPA is basically meaningless to an admissions representative due to weighting inconsistencies. Universities have often crafted their own system for calculating GPAs, rendering any printed GPA submitted by a high school useless in the college admissions process. Many college admissions offices will totally disregard any classes that are not considered “core” subjects when recalculating, while some will disregard freshman year grades entirely.
Plus, admissions representatives tend to look more closely at an entire transcript, rather than just a single number. They can see a student’s academic strengths and any patterns in the student’s grades, like an incline in grades over time or a decline over a particularly challenging semester. Since the transcript includes the titles of classes, admissions officers can easily see the student’s success in more challenging classes without having to see a printed weighted GPA. The transcript as a whole can say positive things about a student’s work habits, skills and passions, while a number that has been concocted by some high school’s particular weighing standard tells very little. Simply having a higher GPA by reporting a weighted GPA is inconsequential to an admissions officer trying to figure out how you, as an individual, will fit into the academic life of your selected major and school.
It is true, though, that a handful of large, out-of-state schools will award scholarships based on whatever GPA is sent in by the high school. Thus, the best solution is to allow students at both Palo Alto Unified School District high schools to request that a weighted GPA is reported when necessary. The instances where it truly is necessary are few and far between, so each student should have to make their case and take responsibility for the process. The medium through which this is reported should be standardized across the district.
The college process is confusing to say the least, and it is easy to get caught up in a whirl of numbers. When it comes down to it, though, GPAs sent by the high school are subjective and are therefore subsequently ignored to be recalculated for a more reliable number.