Academic GPA Vs Total GPA: Meaning And Differences

Although academic GPA and total GPA talk about one’s result or performance, they are completely different from each other. And that’s what this article is about.

The term academic GPA refers to the grade point average of all classes or courses completed in an academic session. Total GPA, on the other hand, refers to the grade point average of all your graded work courses.

In this article, I will differentiate between academic GPA and total GPA and talk about which of them colleges look at during admission.

Let’s get started.

What is an academic GPA?

An academic GPA is a single cumulative number that represents a student’s entire academic performance for that session. Schools calculate this grade by using the 4.0 numerical scale.

Each of the grades or percentages receives a numerical equivalent, and the average of those equivalents is the academic GPA.

SEE: Is A 3.5 GPA Good?

What is a total GPA?

The total GPA is the average of all academic GPAs that a student has earned in his or her total duration of academics. This includes all of your graded coursework from the start to the end of your time in an institution.

It is calculated by adding all the GPA from each academic session and dividing it by the number of sessions.

For example, if you have an academic GPA of 4, 4, 3.5, and 3.5 for each session, after adding them together, you have 15.0. Afterward, 15.0 is divided by 4, leaving you with a total GPA of 3.75.

Academic GPA vs total GPA – What is the difference?

As earlier mentioned, these two terms refer to one’s performance; however, they are particularly different. The main differences are;

1. They don’t show the same performance

The academic GPA refers to a student’s performance for a particular session or semester. While the total GPA refers to a student’s performance or consistency level for an entire period of study in an institution.

2. They are both calculated differently

Academic GPA and total GPA are derived in different ways. The academic GPA is derived by assigning numerical equivalents to various percentage grades.

A is usually given a grade point of 4, B is given 3, C is given 2, D is given 1, and E is given 0. The grade for each course is then multiplied by the unit allocated to it. Afterward, the sum of this product is divided by the sum of all the units.

The total grade point, on the other hand, is calculated by adding all the academic GPA and dividing it by the number of academic sessions.

Academic GPA vs total GPA – Which do colleges look at?

Many top colleges consider firstly your total GPA rather than your academic GPA. This is because they want to see how much the student has transitioned through school.

Some students start strong and lose momentum along the line, while others start weak and later on get better with their grades.

However, there are some colleges that focus more on your academic GPA. This is because they understand that not all students start off school knowing how important every term is.

So, they tend to focus more on your academic GPA rather than your total GPA. Because your academic GPA shows them how committed you are to your academics presently.

SEE: Colleges That Accept 1200 SAT Score

How can you boost your total GPA and your chances of entering college?

So, I guess you are wondering how you can recover from a bad freshman grade point average. No worries; in this session, I will highlight a few ways to help your course.

1. Focus on improving your current grade

You will do your total GPA no good if you still add poor academic grades to it. Focus on upping your current grade, average A’s rather than B’s in your remaining high school course works.

Do not assume that any class is easy, it gives you room to be lazy, and that is bad. Rather, treat every class as equal and give 100% commitment to each of them.

2. Get high grades in AP, IB, and other honors classes

AP and IB are different course programs that offer engaging and challenging coursework for students. Many high schools weigh the grades gotten from these programs.

However, the type of class taken matters more to the college than the grade gotten. Many colleges are aware of this system, so they tend to look deeper at the course taken before the grade.

For example, it is common that environmental science is normally an easy A, unlike a course that is more challenging, like chemistry. So, technically, an A- in chemistry would be more valuable than an A+ in environmental science.

SEE: Is AP Human Geography Hard?

3. Enrol for online coursework or classes at your local community college

If your school factors outside work in their calculation of GPA, then this is another way of boosting your total GPA.

You can enroll for coursework or classes at your local community college. Not only do you get to boost your GPA, but you also demonstrate your commitment to education at the college you apply for.

SEE: How Do Online Classes Work?

4. Get a recommendation letter

If you are able to get a good recommendation letter from a teacher or professor in your high school, you will boost your chances. Most colleges are willing to look at your freshman year as a fluke if you have credible backing.

Simply ensure the reason for your performance is stated in the recommendation letter. For example, you could say it was due to medical issues, that way, they have a better understanding of why you did poorly in your first year.

SEE: Recommendation Letter Signature


What is a good GPA for college?

Generally, a GPA between 3.0 – 3.5 is considered good enough for many colleges.

Is academic GPA the same as total GPA?

No, it is not.

Academic GPA shows your performance for each academic session. Total GPA, on the other hand, shows your performance for your entire academic experience is the university.

How is academic GPA calculated?

Generally, it is calculated by dividing the total number of grade points earned by the sum of the graded units undertaken.

How do you keep a high total GPA?

The best way to keep a high GPA is by ensuring you get good grades in every academic session.

Conclusion: Academic GPA vs Total GPA

While the average person might choose a higher GPA if they are looking to get into a better college, this is not always the best decision. A total GPA considers all your grades, even those that do not contribute to your academic standing.

Academic GPA is not a good indicator of whether you will get into a college or not but with a 3.5 GPA for example, you have a good chance of getting into a reputable university.

Many students have had a particularly bad freshman year, but don’t worry, your chances of going to college aren’t at risk. But by following the tips shared in this article, you can directly boost your academic GPA which in turn will give you a better Total GPA.

I hope you enjoyed this article. If you did, you should also read about what you can do with a 3.0 GPA and the universities you can get into.

Thanks for reading.