If you are planning to pursue your college studies or are already a college student, you are perhaps more or less familiar with the GPA (Grade Point Average) system. U.S. colleges employ the GPA to keep track of students’ academic performance and achievements. This system is often highly competitive and you may find yourself worrying over maintaining the ‘perfect’ GPA or whether your GPA is good enough. Further, you can read up on a more detailed explanation on what exactly is a GPA, what a good college GPA looks like, and what the national average is, moving then to answers on whether a GPA is as important as it seems and tips to help you improve the overall college performance.

What Is a GPA and How Is It Calculated?

Many students have trouble understanding the concept and calculations that go into a GPA. Simply put, the Grade Point Average of a student is an accumulation of the grades received throughout the typical four years of college studies. This is achieved by dividing the total number of points earned in a study program by the total number of attempted credit hours.

The standard scale which is prevalent in its use in most U.S. colleges is a 4.0 scale. This scale implies that students’ GPA can vary from 0.0, being the lowest, to 4.0, being the highest. The grading system uses letters ranging from A being the highest score to F being a failing grade. These simultaneously stand in a numerical grade calculated through a 100 point percentage scale, e.g., an A stands for 90% and above, up to 100% out of the 100 point score.

Why Is a Good GPA Important?

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You may often be doubting your academic performance and anxiously asking yourself: am I doing enough? Is a 3.4 GPA good in college? Are the hard work and long hours of studying really worth it after all? While the accumulation of a student’s grades is not the sole means to measure potential, success, and academic accomplishment, it is universally acknowledged that maintaining a good GPA is of significant importance, be it for your personal, professional, or further academic development.

A 2017 review on the value of the GPA in U.S. recruitment finds that the GPA not only predicts success on a job; it is also an indicator of an employee’s willingness to voluntarily be of aid and assistance to co-workers and the organization. This means the job market will continuously be on the lookout for students with a good GPA seeing as this foresees a good performance in the workplace as well.

In today’s competitive labor market, among other professional qualities and skills that you are equipped with, your GPA might help set you apart from other candidates. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) conducted a 2019 Job Outlook survey to inquire about employers’ intentions and hiring plans and found that at least 60% of respondents will perform GPA screening on potential candidates.

Further, if you intend on pursuing a graduate degree after your undergraduate studies, the grade point average plays a crucial role in your admission. Some graduate schools set specific requirements for their admission, but generally, admission requirements vary from a 2.5 average to a 3.5, depending on the college, program, and degree.

What Is a Good College GPA?

An average GPA in college varies considerably depending on several factors such as the discipline of studies, the college itself, and whether it is a private or public school.

A 2010 grading trends study, which inspected grade inflation and how GPAs shifted over time, discovered that, at that time, from private colleges and universities in their extensive database, the average GPA stood at 3.3 in private schools and 3.0 at public schools. However, this average depends on different factors. Some of these factors involve the discipline of studies, the college itself, and whether it is a private or public school.

Further, students’ performance differs depending on their choice of major as well. The field of your college studies should be taken into account when comparing GPAs and calculating whether you are on the right track to a good GPA. A Cornell study has indicated how GPAs tend to be higher for college students majoring in humanities and social sciences, ranging on average from 3.13 to 3.36 points. Students from STEM backgrounds, in comparison, obtained a GPA ranging from 2.78 to 3.13 points.

You should consider this so you don’t make wrongful comparisons and set unrealistic expectations for your studies. It should also be noted that the Grade Point Average tends to shift from year to year and may potentially change accordingly with industries as well.

What If My GPA Isn’t Good Enough?

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Indeed, the GPA is important, but that is not all there is to the college experience. Keep in mind that there are always exceptions, and having a GPA that is not perfect does not mean you are doomed to failure. Students’ grades tend to be affected depending on the course load, as well. While a high GPA with an average course load is still an accomplishment, a more challenging course load, accompanied by good grades, will be appreciated more.

Renowned organizational psychologist and bestselling author Adam Grant argues for the New York Times how academic grades do not necessarily assess qualities like creativity, leadership and teamwork skills, or social, emotional, and political intelligence.

Most importantly, you should bear in mind that the GPA is not a definitive measure of intelligence, but rather a tool to measure your dedication and hard work in an academic setting. The good thing is that there is always room for improvement.  Here is how:

  • Studying harder is essential; therefore, analyze your studying patterns by keeping track of the time you spend studying, tasks you do, and materials you review. Doing this will help you understand if you are dedicating less time to a particular course or whether you have been neglecting any courses.
  • Communicate regularly with your professors and attend office hours to find opportunities for improvement or extra credit work.
  • Keep in touch with your peers. Some students study and understand course content easier when sharing it with other fellow students.
  • Consider retaking a course in which you did not perform as well, or find out about opportunities to attend summer schools in which you can earn more credit.

Different Ways to Increase Your GPA

Academic success requires time, dedication, and effort, especially if your goal is to increase your GPA. Here are some ways you can earn higher grades and improve your GPA:

Meet with a tutor

If you notice that some subjects are more challenging or difficult than others, you should consider getting a tutor. Your college probably provides free tutoring for most subjects, so you can arrange to meet with your tutor regularly to help with assignments and exams.

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Set goals for yourself

Set specific objectives for yourself on a regular basis. Evaluate what you need to do each week to achieve your goals, and then measure your progress every week. Regularly setting will help you stay on track and raise your GPA.

Ask your professor for help

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Professors or instructors typically have office hours to give you personalized advice or help with your studying material and assignments. So, if you’re struggling in a particular course, go to office hours and ask your professor for help. Remember, ask specific questions, and respect their time.

Choose electives carefully

Make sure to be realistic when picking your elective courses for the semester. Avoid choosing very difficult electives that require a lot of work if you’re not sure you can handle it. They can drag your GPA down, as you can get a low grade.

Stay on top of your exam schedule

Exams and papers determine most of your GPA, so it is crucial that you prepare and do well on them. Avoid all-nighters, and instead, give yourself enough time to prepare in order to succeed and raise your GPA.

Study topics as you go

Staying on a weekly study schedule helps you achieve higher grades and raise your GPA. this will help you get your work done on time and stay on track during lessons. Review class material on a weekly basis, and if anything confuses you, ask your peers or professors for help next time you’re in class.

Take notes

Take notes while you’re in class, and then study those notes later. They can help you remember important information that may be helpful for tests, exams, or when completing assignments. But take notes effectively, and don’t try to write everything down; you may miss important things.

Attend lectures and be active

However tempting it may be, never skip any lectures. It can become a bad habit that has many consequences. You must attend all classes, especially if your GPA is suffering. By attending your lectures regularly, you will get a better understanding of the material, and you won’t miss out on important announcements or changes to the syllabus. Plus, many professors give a participation grade for lectures. So, show up and don’t lower your grade for no reason.

Complete your assignments on time

Always turn in your assignments on time because most professors grade homework for completion. This is a quick and easy way to increase your GPA without doing tons of extra studying. In addition, completing assignments can help you with understanding a subject better, as well as recognizing where you’re having difficulties and where you need to improve.

Study with your peers

Studying with your classmates can be excellent support; you can join to review your coursework, hear different perspectives on class topics, ask questions, and deepen your understanding of a topic you’re learning.

Study past tests

If you’re having trouble with taking exams, consider studying past tests. They have a few benefits; firstly, they help you figure out what kind of material you need to study more, and they simulate test conditions so that you get used to it and feel less anxious on exam day.

Cut back on extracurricular activities

Clubs, sports, and other extracurricular activities are an important part of college life. They help you get a break from school, learn new things, make friends, and have fun. But if your GPA is in danger, consider cutting back on extracurriculars and focusing on your studying.

A good GPA has clearly shown to be beneficial for many career paths, professional development, and an indicator of a dedicated college student. Distinguished students often have an advantage in college since good academic performance makes them ideal candidates for scholarships and financial aid.  The overall performance in college may affect future career choices; therefore, one must be aware of the competition and use it as an incentive to perform better in addition to showing commitment to your studies.