Undergraduate Admission Blog

Follow the Official USC Undergraduate Admission Blog for information, advice, and a behind-the-scenes look at our process

October 5, 2017

3.876 – The High School GPA

Weighted, unweighted, academic – there are so many versions of this little number.  Some schools even calculate the GPA out to the thousandth place as if there were any material difference between a student with a 3.876 and a 3.877.  Some students even believe they don’t have a GPA simply because their school does not print it on the transcript (here’s a hint: if you get grades, you have a GPA, it’s just math).

You’ve probably been led to believe that your high school GPA is one of the most important factors in the college admission process.  And it is – but only sort of.  It is, insomuch as your GPA is a neat calculation for all the grades you have received throughout high school.  But it really is just a shorthand for your overall transcript – and one that doesn’t do a very good job of distinguishing one student’s preparation from another.

When we are reviewing a student’s transcript, we are focused on their overall academic preparation.  We do learn this from the grades on the transcript (which make up the GPA), but we learn at least as much from the courses you chose, how you progressed through high school, the subjects where you chose to challenge yourself, and what classes you have in progress even before you have earned any grades in them at all.  And we’re doing all of this while thinking about you in the context of your individual high school; we learn about different curricula, the baseline rigor that is offered at your school, and how students from your school have done when they have come to USC.

Add to that all the other ways we learn about your academic preparation: your secondary school report, standardized testing, letters of recommendation from teachers and counselors who talk about you in an academic setting, and through your own words as well.

Which is all just to say that we are spending much more time looking at the courses and grades you have on your transcript and considering your overall academic preparation than we are thinking about the number that is calculated for the GPA.  So don’t worry about your GPA number – by the time you’re in the college application process any new grade you earn will only change your GPA by a small fraction.  Instead, spend time telling us about what excites you academically, how you have prepared for college, and why you think USC might be the right next step in your academic journey.  You have many opportunities throughout the Common App and USC Supplement to share your story with us and we are looking forward to getting to know you.

BY: Becky Chassin
Assistant Dean of Admission


  1. Sy says:


    As a prospective freshman applicant to the Engineering major, is it “recommended” that I take SAT Subject Tests? If so, which ones? I haven’t taken any yet.

    Thank you.

  2. Karen says:

    My school does not provide a weighted GPA and does not have a scale for such. Am I required to provide a weighted GPA?

    • Hillary Higgins says:

      Hi Karen, You do not need to provide a weighted GPA. We just need your high school transcript so we can see your grades and the classes you took.

  3. Hana says:

    How much will having one C in a weighted class my junior year affect my acceptance?


    • Brittany Baker-Brousseau says:

      Hi, Hana! Our process takes so much into account that it’s impossible to say. I encourage you to focus on this year’s work and what you can do to put together a strong college application.

  4. Gregory THom says:

    As a sophomore I am just wondering if the average GPA of 3.8 is a weighted or unweighted grade.

  5. Saharsh Yeruva says:

    My school has a GPA scale that is substantially different from what many other schools have. If I were to just submit this and it was compared to the GPA of other students who took the same classes of the same difficulty and level, my GPA would appear lower. When looking at admissions, you say that you look at the high school as a whole, but do you consider this as a factor, or do you just look at the GPA that my school provides? I do understand that GPA doesn’t make or break my application, but it is one of the factors that determine if one gets admitted?

    • Hillary Higgins says:

      Hi Saharsh, We look at a student’s academics in the context of their high school. We use the school’s secondary school report to understand their grading system.

  6. Kenya Wallace says:

    I was wondering if USC even looked at one’s weighted gpa? Also, if there is a particular weighted or unweighted gpa requirement to be accepted into USC’s film school?

    • Hillary Higgins says:

      Hi Kenya, USC looks primarily at unweighted GPAs. We do not have any GPA requirements for admission.

  7. Sunny says:

    My school calculates A minus to be the same as As, would this hurt me when recalculating gpa

  8. Tang says:

    I was wondering if anything else would help to give me better chance to get in to USC since it is my dream school?

  9. Cassie Ogburn says:

    I’m looking into several colleges, this being one of them, yet my unweighted GPA is not incredibly stellar. I have been an IB/AP student for all four years of high school, and about half of my classes fall into one of these two categories. As these are harder classes, sometimes getting straight A’s in them is far more difficult, which in turn is damaging to the GPA. However I intend on applying to the cinematic arts college with my background in animation. Would a 3.8 weighted GPA even be considered if it were to be paired with a specific portfolio for your arts college and a 1500 or higher SAT score? And would athletic scholarships lessen the focus on the GPA?

    • Brittany Baker-Brousseau says:

      Hi, Cassie! We do not have GPA minimums and we consider all students who apply, regardless of the numbers. We value things like academic rigor, writing ability, extracurricular involvement, etc. so decisions are not made on numbers alone. While our arts departments expect students to be able to succeed in all of their courses at USC, a student’s audition/portfolio has significant weight in the admission decision as well.

      As for athletic scholarships, those are entirely based on athletic merit and are awarded by the coaches.

  10. David Fernandez says:

    I have a 3.5 unweighted but a 4.05 weighted. Which of these GPA’s would be considered for college applications?

  11. Amy says:

    Are grades 9-11 calculated in your admissions GPA? Do you recalculate the unweighted GPA to reflect any honors/AP courses? If so, which honors/AP classes are considered? Or do you count the number of honors/AP courses and consider that with the unweighted GPA? Will you consider any community college classes in your GPA calculation? Do they count as an honors course? If so, for one or two semesters of high school since one CC semester usually equals two HS semesters.

    • Brittany Baker-Brousseau says:

      Hi, Amy! We recalculate a GPA including grades 9-11 and reflecting weight for AP and IB courses. We typically do not include classes taken outside of high school in the GPA (there are some exceptions), but they are considered as part of the overall academic profile of a student.

  12. Amy says:

    Thank you!

    Is you GPA recalculation only for academic classes i.e PE, etc. is excluded?

    Also, you mentioned AP/IB classes being weighted. Are H courses in core classes weighted?

    Are middle school courses such as Algebra 1, Geometry, and foreign language factored into your admission GPA?

  13. Ruth says:

    Hi! My dream has always been to attend USC Thornton School of Music for Music Industry. My unweighted is roughly a 3.57 or 3.6 and my weighted is a 4.0. If I have gotten around 1500 on my SAT will it help my chances since my GPA is below average? I know numbers aren’t the only thing that will help me get in, but I am afraid my GPA will outweigh my SAT score as well as maybe my extracurriculars since Music in USC is competitive. Any tips to help me raise my chances?

    • Jaclyn Robbin says:

      Hi Ruth, USC has a holistic admission review process, which means we will evaluate all aspects of your application, without putting significant determining weight on any one factor.

  14. Kevin Enriquez says:

    Hello, I was recently informed that almost all the UC’s in California only look at your 10-12 GPA. Do you guys also follow in some way that format of paying little attention to your 9th-grade grades?

    • Brittany Baker-Brousseau says:

      Hi, Kevin. We consider the trend and place more emphasis on recent grades, but we still do consider 9th grade in the GPA.

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