When I started college, I knew that a Grade Point Average (GPA) was earned through completing college coursework and like many of you, I worked hard in classes to earn a good grade. What I didn’t understand completely was how GPAs are calculated and how much of an impact your GPA can have on your academic goals. 

Your GPA is a way of quickly understanding how well you have done in the classes you’ve completed at your college or university. It’s calculated using two numbers:

  1. The number of credits assigned to the course you’ve taken
  2. A number that is assigned to the grade you earn: At most colleges in the United States, a grade of A = 4 points, B = 3, C = 2, D = 1, and F = 0 points. You can also earn an A- = 3.66, B+ = 3.33, B - = 2.667, C+ = 2.333, C- = 1.667, or a D+ = 1.333. This is called a four-point scale because the maximum you can earn for a grade is four points.

To calculate your GPA for a single course, take the number of course credits and multiply by the points for the grade you earned, then divide by the number of course credits. Let’s say that you rocked a writing course and you earned an A. If it was a three-credit class, your GPA would look like this:

GPA equals 3 credits times 4.0, the number assigned to your grade, divided by 3 credits equals 12 divided by 3 equals 4.0


Here’s how you would do the calculation for two courses. Maybe you also took a Spanish course worth five credits, and you ended that class with a C+ (2.33). Now your GPA calculation would look like this:

GPA equals 3 times 4.0 plus 5 times 2.333 divided by 3 plus 5 equals 23.665 divided by 8 equals 2.958

As you earn University of Minnesota (U of M) credits, they are combined in order to calculate your cumulative U of M GPA. As you can see, your GPA can drop or go up pretty quickly with each class, especially if that class is worth a lot of credits.

Why does this matter? Because the grades you earn in U of M courses taken through College in the Schools (CIS) become a permanent part of your U of M transcript. If you attend the U of M after high school, those grades will be included in your U of M GPA. (If you attend another college or university, the grades on your U of M transcript may or may not affect your GPA at that institution. Each institution sets its own policies regarding transfer credits.)

In some situations, employers will consider GPA. For example, if you are applying for a teaching position, you may be asked to provide copies of your college transcripts. In addition, many scholarships depend on maintaining a high GPA, and graduate school programs take GPA into consideration for admittance.

It’s important to keep track of your GPA, but don’t obsess about it. Remember, when a C is awarded to a U of M student, it “represents achievement that meets the course requirements in every respect.”