Thought #14: The UC Application GPA & How to Calculate it

Did you know the GPA you submit on the CSU (California State University) and/or UC (University of California) freshman application is most likely different than the one you see on an academic transcript? It’s true.

Generally, the GPA that you find on the transcript is a cumulative GPA, which means it reflects all grades earned freshman year through the summer after junior year. CSU and UC, on the other hand, ask for  a more targeted GPA, which is based on grades earned for a-g courses, or UC approved college preparatory courses, completed between sophomore and junior years. This may sound like a minor detail; however, it’s important to note that not all courses are considered equal in the eyes of CSU and UC, and this special GPA can vary from your cumulative GPA, sometimes by a whole lot. If you’re a California resident, and you’re planning on submitting a CSU or UC freshman application this fall, It’s important to get your CSU/UC GPA calculated ASAP, so you can use it to identify suitable colleges and develop an admission strategy.

For Thought #14, I’ll break down the process of calculating your CSU/UC GPA into three simple steps and share some useful links along the way that’ll assist you with each step of the process and equip you with accurate and up-to-date admission information directly from the source.

Step #1: Identify a-g Courses

Getting your hands on a copy of your transcript can be tricky, so you want to plan ahead and contact your school counselor beforehand. Once you have your transcript, the first step in calculating your CSU/UC GPA is to figure out which courses are approved a-g courses and which are not.

Believe it or not, many of the courses required for high school graduation aren’t considered college preparatory courses. For example, physical and health education courses generally aren’t considered college preparatory; however, students must complete these courses to graduate. Many ESL (English as a Second Language) and ELD (English Language Development) aren’t a-g approved or have restrictions. The point is a-g course offerings vary from school to school, so it’s best to speak with a school counselor about a-g approved courses for your specific high school. If meeting with a counselor isn’t possible, you can find this information easily online for yourself.

The UC Office of President maintains a database of approved a-g courses for virtually all California high schools – use the Course List Search to identify approved a-g courses at your particular high school.

Step #2: Tally Grades

Once you’ve identified the a-g approved courses on your transcript, you have to tallying those grades up!

You want to count the number of As, Bs, Cs, Ds and Fs earned your sophomore and junior years; any grades received for a-g courses completed during summer breaks should be tallied as well. Since you’re applying to CSU and/or UC, I’m assuming you were at least a little bit of an overachiever and probably have a couple of AP (Advanced Placement) courses on your transcript as well. You’ll want to create a special tally to keep track of the number of grades, only Cs or better, that are honor-level because these grades will be given an extra grade point in GPA calculations and, trust me, every grade point matters.

Step #3: Calculate GPA

At this point in the process, you’ve identified the a-g  approved coursework on your transcript and tallied the grades earned sophomore and junior years, so now it’s time calculate your GPA.

Now, calculating your GPA is where things get complicated; you’re going to need two lead pencils, some scratch paper, a scientific calculator, and 45 minutes to complete this exercise – just joking! Calculating your GPA is actually quite simple with the right tool. My favorite and, arguablly, the most easy way to calculate your CSU/UC GPA is by transfering all the data you compiled, i.e. those tallies you created in step #2, directly into the GPA calculator on CSU Mentor then press “Calculate” – voua la! You just calculated yourself a CSU/UC GPA.

Some final comments: 3.0 is the magic number. To be eligible for UC admission, you must have a minimum 3.0 CSU/UC GPA in addition to strong SAT and/or ACT scores. If you have a minimum 3.0 CSU/UC GPA, and you’ve taken the SAT and/or ACT but scored  lower, CSU is a great option since they are not going to scrutinize test scores as much. There are other tips and tricks, too many to list in this Thought, so I’d love for you post a comment with specific questions. Moreover, for expert coaching through the UC Application and live Q&A, consider enrolling in my UC Application Boot Camp, which starts later this month.

If you enjoyed Thought #14, be sure to like and leave a comment – I’d love to hear from you! Also, please subscribe to Thoughts on my website to get notified of new posts.

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Author: Kyle Hill

Thoughts is the official blog of Critical Thinkers Consulting. Topics span school, work, and all other phenomena relating to the transition to adulthood.

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