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We are often asked about what happens to a GPA when a student transfers high schools. In Texas, many high schools convert grades to an unweighted GPA, which can be very confusing—and perhaps even frustrating, especially when it’s on top of adjusting to a new home and new high school. However, it’s an expected process and not something to worry too deeply about. I hope I can offer some clarification on what is going on when a GPA is converted.

What may appear at first glance to be a downgrade of GPA is, in many instances, simply a conversion from a weighted to an unweighted GPA. If you have a GPA over 4.0, for example, it’s almost certainly a weighted GPA, meaning it reflects the rigor of the courses you are taking (which is probably very rigorous with lots of honors courses). It’s quite possible that your actual unweighted GPA is lower. A good way to check is by looking at your student’s actual grades. Do they have all straight A+ grades? Without all A+ grades, you actually cannot have above a 4.0 unweighted GPA. On an unweighted scale, a B= 3.0, B+ = 3.3, A- = 3.7, A=4.0 If your child has a mix of A/B grades, their unweighted GPA probably actually is closer to a 3.5 (which is a low A-).

Before you worry too much about a precise GPA figure, please know that colleges aren’t all that concerned by what a high school is listing as a student’s GPA. When I reviewed a student’s application file, I was actually diving into their entire four years of transcripts and not focused on their cumulative GPA. I wanted to see what classes they took to earn what grades and what the four-year trends looked like. It was not uncommon for a high school to list two GPAs on the transcript, one that showed the “weight” of the rigor and one that was a straight average of the actual grades (the unweighted GPA). The distance between these two figures told me a little something about the level of rigor for the classes the student has chosen.

No conversion can take away the grades your student received before they transferred high schools. Those grades will remain on their transcript as earned. The college will see if the high school is calculating a weighted or an unweighted GPA and note that accordingly. A lot of the colleges I worked at actually recalculated GPAs to bring everyone to an unweighted 4.0 scale; this means that quite often a student who was listed as a 4.0+ something GPA on their high school transcript was actually converted to a low 3.0 something with their unweighted GPA. This is a common practice, and not anything you have to concern yourself about.  As long as your child does well in a curriculum that challenges them, they have done their part, and the college admissions offices will take it from there.

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Written by Tova Tolman
Tova Tolman is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts. Prior to joining College Coach, Tova worked in admissions at Fordham University, Montclair State University, and Barnard College.