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An Introduction to Online Higher EducationSuzanne Shaffer
Recently I counseled a student who wanted to drop two classes because he worried that he would sink his GPA. After a lackluster fall term, he needed to be sure he could get off academic probation and knew that his low grades in those two classes could drag him under yet again. But he wasn’t aware of the potential consequences his low GPA could have on his overall progress.
GPA — Grade Point Average, —is a term most students are very familiar with, but they often don’t know how it is calculated in college. While a student’s GPA doesn’t equal their worth or potential, GPA can affect a student’s ability to earn a degree at an institution and create a barrier to post-graduation plans.
Grade points = the grade translated into points. A = 4, B = 3, C = 2, D = 1, F/NC (No credit) = 0
Quality points = the grade point multiplied by the number of credit hours. For example:
4 (grade points for A) x 3 (credit hours) = 12 quality points
Grade Point Average = the total quality points divided by the total number of credit hours. For example, two A's and three B's in 3-credit-hour courses results in a 3.4 GPA for that semester.
The short answer is that it can help your student keep track of their progress. The longer answer is that knowing how to calculate GPA will help them make realistic plans and adjustments to their current academic habits.
For example, the student I advised used what he knew about GPA calculation to consider dropping two classes for fear the grades would drop his GPA even lower.
Understanding the calculation process can also help your student create short- and long-term academic goals. If your student wants to earn a spot in a competitive nursing program, for instance, they may need to earn at least a 3.7 GPA to be considered. Earning a 3.7 GPA will require a strong academic plan to study and monitor grades along the way.
Most likely your student’s college or university has an online GPA calculator, and I encourage you both to find it and use it. However, it is still important to know the process as it can help in estimating the effect of final course grades and in planning how best to use a student’s time and energy.
Consider the following grades on 13 credit hours: A, A, A, A and D. If a student needs a 3.5 GPA to keep a scholarship, will they be able to with those grades? It depends on how many quality points they earn for each grade. If the D is in a 1-credit-hour course, the student will earn a 3.76 GPA. If the A is in a 1-credit-hour course, they will earn a 3.3 GPA. Same grades, same total number of credit hours, but different weights based on the credit hours of the course.
For the student who needed advice about his GPA, I walked him through all of the considerations including calculating what he could possibly make this semester and how that would affect his academic standing and his future plans to go to medical school. I wanted him to realize that he could make improvements to his GPA and that doing so could help him reach his long-term goals.