The Great Debate: Weighted Vs. Unweighted Grades

Infographic showing the Grade Point Average outline in a weighted GPA school.

Infographic showing the Grade Point Average outline in a weighted GPA school.

Adrian Maddox, Reporter

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When applying to colleges, high school students have many variables to worry about on their application. While clubs, activities, sports, and types of classes are factors to a college application, so is Grade Point Average (GPA), the point system that calculates how well students do overall in their classes. With this added requirement for getting accepted to college, some schools have turned to a weighted grades system, which allows for students with Advanced Placement (AP) classes and honors classes to gain more grade points for participating in the higher level courses.

Advanced Placement courses, dual enrollment, and honors level courses are ways for students who are looking for a challenge to have harder classes, and potentially learn more about the topic of the class. In Advanced Placement courses, students are given college level curriculum in the high school setting, and are also given the opportunity to take a test at the end of the year to possibly gain college credit for the classes’ work. dual enrollment classes are, again, college level classes in the high school setting, however, only require a passing grade in the class to gain college credit. Lastly, honors level courses are created for a challenge above the on-level courses provided by the school.

Students often choose to take AP classes or dual enrollment courses for the chance of getting college credit. Maddison Jackson, senior, is currently enrolled in AP Psychology, and dual enrollment College Algebra. Jackson said, “I took AP for the college credit, but also I think for the people. I like taking honors level classes or AP classes because at least people care about their grades, and aren’t just going to goof off.”
(See side infographic for more information on how grades are weighted.)

Unweighted grades won’t add any points to the student’s GPA just because they take harder classes, however, weighted or unweighted grades have little effect on students ability to be accepted into select colleges. Jacob Biener, guidance counselor, described the effects between the two when applying to colleges.
Biener said, “Some colleges unweight the grades and others weight the grades themselves if they aren’t already. Each college uses their own scales when determining admissions and scholarships.”

Though weighted grades give credit to students who take the harder level class, when applying to college, GPAs are not a matter of weighted or unweighted. Colleges will often manipulate the grade point average to find the information they need, therefore weighting or not weighting a grade is less important than the grade and the class.
Biener said, “Colleges do like to see students that have taken AP and honors classes. Those students are typically more prepared to be successful throughout their college career because they have already completed college level courses. Regardless of the grades being weighted they will look at your transcripts to see classes that you have taken and how you did in them, weighted grades can help emphasize whether you challenged yourself with advanced classes.”

Kiessence Bassett, senior, has taken AP classes for four years. She is an advocate for weighted grades, and continues to take the harder level classes when she won’t be rewarded with higher grade point average. She explained, “I do want to be prepared and I do want to challenge myself, and even though we’re not getting the credit for taking the challenging courses, I rather challenge myself and be ready for college.”

Columbia Public Schools is a district that doesn’t weight students grades. Weighted grades give students who apply themselves academically a reward for taking the harder classes, making a Dr. Peter Steipleman, CPS superintendent, commented in an email interview on the use of unweighted grades for the schools.

Stiepleman said, “Columbia Public Schools uses earned grades to report student learning. More than anything, we are committed to giving children multiple opportunities to learn.”

Though Columbia doesn’t weight any grades, students continue to challenge themselves by taking harder classes such as dual enrollment or AP Classes.