Depending on how dedicated you were in high school, you either stressed over every A minus or you did not even look at your report cards. Now you want to get into a good college. Depending on which schools you are applying to, your high school GPA may make or break your chances of getting accepted.

It depends on the school.

A strong high school GPA is very important at very competitive schools. You can see this just by looking at the average high school GPAs for accepted students. For example, students accepted to Harvard University have an average GPA of 4.0. That’s the average. At USC, it’s 3.7. The University of Miami boasts an intimidating average high school GPA of 4.2. In fact, according to the Princeton Review, most top tier schools have an average high school GPA between 3.5 and 4.0.

does high school gpa matter in college admissionsKeep in mind, these are averages, meaning they do accept students with higher GPAs or lower GPAs. Also, admission committees at any of these colleges will look at your entire application (essay, letters of recommendation, etc.) to determine your fit. But, at these top tier schools, any high school GPA below a 3.0 will raise some eyebrows and require some major compensating in other areas (i.e. test scores, extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation, or one heck of an essay).

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At many schools outside of the top 100 and in most junior or community colleges, admissions are much less picky about your high school GPA, especially because their admissions are less competitive (meaning fewer people apply). These schools may not offer the same resources to students as their top-tier counterparts, but they will be more welcoming to you if your GPA is not so hot.

Of course, they do have limits, points at which it doesn’t make sense for them or you to accept you into their school. Overall, GPAs below 2.0 can raise red flags because it means you struggled with high school work. If you struggled that badly with high school work, you might be in over your head in college.

The final answer is…

Rule of thumb: the more competitive the college, the higher your GPA will need to be to get accepted. Acceptable GPAs for the top 100 start at 3.0. They received hundreds of thousands of applications and that means they can be as picky as they want. That’s how they keep their college on top of the heap. But if your GPA is not 3.0 or above, you have two options: settle for a less competitive school or find a way to get your GPA up (that’s why some people go to a junior college first).

To see more stats on the schools you’re interested in, the Princeton Review has a searchable catalog of almost every college in the U.S.

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