When you start putting together your college applications, there are many components you have to consider. From grades and test scores to extracurricular activities to essays and more, navigating what’s being asked of you can be difficult. Knowing what each piece means for your application can help you plan your application strategy from the start.
Your academics will be one of the most important aspects of your college applications. Different elements make up your academic profile and how it’s evaluated, including standardized test scores, the courses you’ve taken, and the grades you have earned. Your grades are summarized with your cumulative grade point average, or GPA. Your GPA is a useful number that schools can look at to get a sense of your academic achievement before looking more closely at your application to make sure you’ll be able to succeed at their institution. Your school might have a distinct way of calculating yours–for instance, weighted vs. unweighted GPAs–so check with your guidance office to know how they do it.
Is 3.4 a good GPA in high school?
Instead of thinking of your GPA in terms of “good” or “bad,” you’ll want to consider it within the context of the schools to which you are applying. While evaluating your application, most admissions counselors already have a range in mind for the GPAs they would like to see. Because your GPA is one of the first things on your application that a school will look at, they can use it as a way to determine which applications will be read more closely. Consequently, finding schools within your GPA’s range will give you the best shot for acceptance.
A 3.4 GPA is between a B+ and A- average. There are many schools in the U.S. that would be happy to accept a student with a 3.4 GPA and a great rest of your application, but if the school of your dreams is more highly ranked or prestigious, you might run into some issues.
Looking at a school’s incoming freshman profile can help you determine if your GPA falls within their range. Below, we’ve listed colleges and universities whose freshman class have an average high school GPA of 3.4 to help you with your search.
These are the top schools with freshman class high school GPAs of 3.4:
|Benedictine University||Private||Illinois||Great Lakes|
|Catholic University of America||Private||District of Columbia||Mid East|
|Central Michigan University||Public||Michigan||Great Lakes|
|Illinois State University||Public||Illinois||Great Lakes|
|Kent State University at Kent||Public||Ohio||Great Lakes|
|Knox College||Private||Illinois||Great Lakes|
|Mississippi State University||Public||Mississippi||Southeast|
|Montana State University||Public||Montana||Rocky Mountains|
|Union College||Private||New York||Mid East|
|University of Arizona||Public||Arizona||Southwest|
|University of Idaho||Public||Idaho||Rocky Mountains|
|University of La Verne||Private||California||Far West|
|University of Nevada-Reno||Public||Nevada||Far West|
|University of New Mexico-Main Campus||Public||New Mexico||Southwest|
|Washington State University||Public||Washington||Far West|
Steps to Increase your GPA
If you know the school you want to apply to has an incoming freshman average GPA that is higher than 3.4, there are steps you can take to improve your GPA and chances of admission at that school. In the best case scenario, you’re still a freshman or sophomore in high school and have multiple semesters to work toward higher grades and a better GPA. If you work hard and follow these steps, you should be able to show an upward trend in your grades that will be a great asset to your application along with your improved GPA.
Consider Your Courseload
Along with your grades, one of the important pieces of academic information that goes into your application is the rigor of your courseload; colleges like to see that you’ve taken on challenging courses. But if you’re struggling to succeed while taking a full advanced courseload, it may be time to reevaluate what classes you’re taking and how you’re balancing your time between them. If you’re a history buff with your eyes on a humanities major, you might not need AP Biology. Instead, you can use the time you’d spend struggling through labwork having fun acing your next history paper.
Reevaluate Your Commitments
If your current courseload is comfortable, but you just don’t have time to do the work, see if there are any responsibilities from extracurriculars you can delegate or drop altogether. It’s not ideal to let an activity go, but if it’s something you’re less than passionate about and you can use that time to study and bring your grades up, it will be worth it.
Rethink Your Study Habits
One of the most obvious–but also most difficult–ways to improve your GPA is to overhaul your study habits. It requires being honest with yourself: what is working? More importantly, what isn’t? If you know that reading over your class notes doesn’t help you prepare for tests, try new review methods like flash cards, quizzing yourself, even writing new lyrics to a favorite song. Or, if you get easily frustrated by the pages of graph paper it takes to do a math problem over and over, see if you can buy or borrow a personal whiteboard to go through the problem a couple times if need be.
Ask for Help
If working on your own isn’t helping you see the improvement you’d like in your grades, see if your teacher is available before or after school for one-on-one help on topics you don’t understand. And if their schedule doesn’t line up with yours, maybe they can recommend a tutor who has taken the class recently and will be able to help. Finally, if no one is available in person, the internet is full of great, free online resources for help in many subjects. Poke around and see if there are any on the topic you need help with.
What if you don’t have time to increase your GPA?
If your GPA isn’t in range for a school you’re interested in by application time, you shouldn’t panic. While your GPA is important, it is not the only part of your academic profile. Optimizing other aspects of your profile–like standardized test scores–can help show your academic ability even if your grades don’t fully reflect that. Strong scores on the SAT or SAT IIs, the ACT, or even AP exams can demonstrate your understanding of a subject even if your grade in that subject was not particularly strong. And since you can sit down to take the SAT and ACT multiple times (we recommend no more than three times), improving your scores in leaps there might be easier than the long haul work of improving your GPA. And while having a high GPA is ideal, there are demonstrate your full academic potential in other ways on your application. For instance, if you excel in one area and plan to study it in college, try not to worry too much about lower grades in a largely unrelated subject bringing down your GPA.
Finally, if your GPA is the result of extenuating circumstances–personal tragedy, family emergencies, natural disasters, etc.–then that’s something you can include in your application. Schools will understand a drop in grades due to circumstances outside of your control and most will give you the opportunity to address these circumstances in an application essay or the additional information section of your application.
Why Does GPA Matter?
The short answer is that your GPA matters because it’s a quick, relatively standard way for colleges to understand your high school grades and consequently evaluate whether you are a good candidate for admission to their institution without looking at your transcript and each individual grade (though many schools do that, too). College is, after all, primarily to get an education, so if your abilities don’t line up with a school’s expectations of their students, you will be in for a rough time from the start of your university career.
The longer answer is that your GPA is just one of the academic factors that make up your college application, and all of them matter for your applications. The other parts of your academic profile give context to your GPA and allow the admissions committees to further understand how you might fit into their academic community. On the macro level, standardized test scores, for example, give schools a baseline to see how you compare academically to applicants around the world. Meanwhile, the classes on your transcript provide an understanding of how you earned your GPA; a 3.4 GPA with all honors and AP courses means something very different from a 3.4 GPA earned with all standard level classes. One of those students is likely much more prepared for advanced college coursework than the other.
Want to know how your GPA impacts your chances of acceptance to your dream schools? Our free Chancing Engine will not only help you predict your odds, but also let you know how you stack up against other applicants, and which aspects of your profile to improve. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to gain access to our Chancing Engine and get a jumpstart on your college strategy!