Average High School GPA

by Gail Flores

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The GPA (or Grade Point Average) reflects your mastery of a subject and influences college success. It also sheds light on the broader state of high school education. 

In this article, we’ll explore top statistics on the average GPA in the US. Specifically, we’ll look into:

  • GPA statistics overview
  • General average GPA statistics
  • Average GPA by course type
  • Average GPA in top universities
  • Top 10 states with the highest average GPAs
  • Average GPA by gender and ethnicity
  • Average GPA trends over time
  • How GPA affects college admissions and future earnings

Let’s dive in!

High School GPA Overview

GPA, or Grade Point Average, is the average of all final grades that a student earns during high school. It is used as an indicator of academic performance, class rank, and a factor in college admissions. 

The following chart shows how letter and percentage grades correspond to a 4.0 GPA scale.

Letter GradePercentage GradeGPA (4.0 Scale)
A+97-1004.0
A93-964.0
A-90-923.7
B+87-893.3
B83-863.0
B-80-822.7
C+77-792.3
C73-762.0
C-70-721.7
D+67-691.3
D65-661.0
FBelow 650.0
Source: College Board

Top average GPA statistics

  • The average GPA is 3.11, or a B+.
  • Average GPAs have been increasing steadily for the past 30 years, and the overall average GPA increased by 0.43 points from 1990 to 2019.
  •  The average GPA of female high school graduates is 3.23 and 3.0 for males.
  • Asians and Pacific Islanders have the highest GPAs among ethnic groups at 3.39.
  • The median GPA in more affluent schools is 3.0, while it can be as low as 2.59 in less affluent schools.
  • Academic courses (English, Literature, Math, and Sciences) have an average GPA of 2.98.
  • Non-academic and non-technical subjects like physical education have the highest average GPA of 3.56.
  • High school GPA may also impact long-term income, with a one-point increase leading to a 12% increase in earnings for men and a 14% increase for women.
  • South Carolina had the highest average GPA among high school students.
  • The minimum requirement GPA for many college scholarships is 3.0, though a GPA of 3.5 or higher gives a stronger advantage.

General average GPA statistics

1. The average high school GPA is 3.11. (National Assessment of Educational Progress [NAEP]).

2. A decade prior, the average high school GPA was around 3.0, or a B average in 2009. (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES]).

3. Among students attending more affluent schools, the median GPA was 3.0. (Fordham Institute).

4. In less affluent schools, the median GPA is below the national average, going as low as 2.59.

5. The minimum requirement GPA for many college scholarships is 3.0. (Best Colleges)

6. A GPA of 3.5 or higher may give a stronger advantage in applying to top colleges. 

7. When it comes to college admissions, colleges and universities assign “considerable importance” to a student’s GPA than to other factors. (National Association for College Admission Counseling).

8. High school GPA is often lower than a student’s GPA in first-year college, according to more than 392,000 students tested by the American College Test (ACT) from 289 colleges. (ACT).

Average GPA by course type

9. The average GPA varies by course type. When broken down by specific course type, the average GPA can go up to 40% of a point higher. (NAEP)

10. For academic courses or subjects that cover English and Literature, Mathematics, and the Sciences, the average GPA in the US is 2.98, or below the national average.

11. High school students attain the highest average GPA for non-academic and non-technical subjects such as physical education, with an average high school GPA of 3.56.

Breakdown of average high school GPA by course type

Course typeAverage
Academic2.98
Career/technical3.33
Other3.56
Source: National Assessment of Educational Progress

Average GPA by subject

12. In 2019, high school graduates achieved higher average GPAs in all academic subjects compared to graduates in all three decades prior (1990, 2000, and 2009). (NAEP)

13. Compared to 2009, the increase in GPAs in 2019 was 0.06 points for visual and performing arts courses.

14. The average GPA is 0.18 higher than in 2009 for world language and literature courses.

15. Students tend to have a lower GPA for mathematics courses than social sciences.

16. 2019 marked the first time graduates earned a GPA of 3.00 or greater in social sciences and history.

17. The average GPA for English Language and Literature is 2.97.

18. For Mathematics, the average GPA earned by graduates is 2.77.

19. The average high school GPA for Life and Physical Sciences is 2.85.

20. High school graduates earned an average GPA of 3.01 for Social Sciences and History.

21. For visual and performing arts, the average high school GPA is 3.48.

22. The average high school GPA for World Language and Literature is 3.07.

SubjectAverage High School GPA
English language and literature2.97
Mathematics2.77
Life and physical sciences2.85
Social sciences and history3.01
Visual and performing arts3/48
World language and literature3.07
Source: National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) High School Transcript Study

Average High School GPA in most competitive universities

23. Most Ivy League schools admit students with average high school GPAs close to 4.0. (Crimson Education).

24. When weighted, the average high school GPA of Ivy League students goes above 4.0.

UniversityAverage high school GPAs of admitted applicants
Princeton University4.14
Harvard University4.15
Columbia University4.14
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)4.15
Yale University4.10
Stanford University4.13
Cornell University4.05
University of Pennsylvania4.10
Brown University4.05
Dartmouth College4.07
Source: Crimson Education

Top 10 States with the Highest GPAs

25. Based on a sample set of 40,000 high school students, South Carolina had the highest average GPA. (Insurify).

StateAverage high school GPA
South Carolina3.48
West Virginia3.44
Mississippi3.42
North Carolina3.37
Virginia3.36
Illinois3.36
Massachusetts3.36
Texas3.35
Tennessee3.32
Florida3.32
Source: Insurify

Average GPA by gender and ethnicity

Average GPA by gender

26. Both male and female students have increased their average high school GPAs for a decade.

27. The average GPA of high school graduates who are female is 3.23.

28. The average GPA of male high school graduates is 3.0.

29. The female-male gap in overall GPA increased slightly in 2019 compared to 2009.

30. The average GPA of female high school students is 0.13 higher than in 2009 when they had an average GPA of 3.10

31. The average GPA of male students is 0.10 higher than in 2009, during which their average GPA is 2.90.

Course TypeFemaleMale
Academic3.132.84
Career/technical3.453.21
Other3.593.52
Source: National Assessment for Educational Progress

32. When broken down by course subjects, male students perform better in mathematics and science classes. (American College Test [ACT]).

33. Female students outperform male students in English and social sciences. (ACT).

Average GPA by ethnicity

34. GPAs among all races and ethnicities have increased since 1990. (NCES).

35. Asian/Pacific Islander graduates have the highest average GPA of all the reported student racial/ethnic groups, with an average high school GPA of 3.39. (NAEP)

Average High School GPAs by Race

RaceAverage High School GPA
White3.23
Black2.83
Hispanic2.95
Asian/Pacific Islander3.39
Source: National Center for Education Statistics

36. The average GPA among ethnicities also varies across course types, but the trends remain the same.

Average High School GPAs by Race and Course Type

RaceAverage GPA per course type
AcademicCareer/TechnicalOther
White3.113.463.65
Black2.683.033.36
Hispanic2.823.163.44
Asian/Pacific Islander3.313.583.74
Source: National Assessment for Educational Progress

37. In 2019, Black high school graduates improved their average GPAs in other courses by 0.2 points compared to 2009.

38. Hispanic graduates increased their other course GPAs by 0.14 points.

39. White graduates increased their other course GPAs by 0.12 points.

40. Asian/Pacific Islander graduates increased their other course GPAs by 0.10 points over a decade. (NAEP)

Average GPA trends over time

41. The average overall GPA increased by 0.43 points in 2019 compared to 1990. (NAEP)

42. The three-year period between 2018 and 2021 saw more grade inflation than in the preceding eight years, growing by 0.1 grade points. (K-12 Dive).

Average GPA by Decade

YearAverage GPA
19902.68
20002.94
20093.00
20193.11
Source: National Assessment of Educational Progress

How average GPA affects college admissions and future earnings

Impact of GPA on college admissions and performance

43. Multiple studies indicate that GPA is the strongest predictor of a student’s course performance in college (stronger than ACT or SAT). (University of Miami).

44. Academic performance may account for the strongest aspect of your college application depending on the university you apply to. (Crimson Education).

45. High school GPA has a substantial impact on college completion for both men and women.

46. A one-point increase in GPA doubles the probability of completing college from 21% to 42% for both genders. (University of Miami).

47. Based on a study of about 50,000 freshmen at the University of Texas at Austin, high school characteristics significantly impact college performance. (National Bureau of Economic Research [NBER]).

48. Insights on the impact of average GPA on college applications can be useful for policymakers, teachers, and school administrators in promoting academic achievement. (NBER).

49. 35% of students who don’t end up applying for college anyway have an average GPA of 3.0. (Crimson Education).

49. Factors that affect average GPA include district size, student socioeconomic status, and the percentage of students on free/reduced lunch programs. (NBER).

Impact of GPA on future earnings

50. Based on a study published in the Eastern Economic Journal, there may be a link between high school GPA and long-term income.

51. According to data from 10,000 males and females collected from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, high school performance affects the average income for both men and women ten years after high school graduation.

52. A one-point increase in GPA leads to a 12% increase in earnings for men. (University of Miami).

53. For women, a one-point increase in average GPA can increase incomes by 14%.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the average GPA?

The average GPA for high school students in the US is 3.11, or a B+.

How is high school GPA calculated?

High school GPA is calculated by averaging the grades earned in all courses taken. Each class is allotted a number from 1-4 based on the grade, and all of these numbers are then averaged together.

How important is high school GPA in the college admissions process?

A high GPA can help you become a strong candidate at top universities in the US. A good high school GPA for top US colleges is generally considered to be around 3.5-4.0.

Learn more about other college statistics

Sources

2019 National Assessment for Educational Progress High School Transcript Study (HSTS) Results

10-year study: GPAs, course rigor rising for high school grads | K-12 Dive 

American College Test – Comparing High School Grade Point Average (GPA) to First-Year College GPA | ACT

American College Test – Gender Gaps in High School GPA and ACT Scores 

ACT study finds grade inflation in high school GPAs over the past decade | K-12 Dive 

National Bureau of Economic Research – Long-Term Effects of a Student’s High School Experience | NBER

Crimson Education – What Is A Good High School GPA For Top US Colleges? – Crimson Education

What Is a Good GPA in College? In High School? | BestColleges 

Grade Inflation in High Schools (2005–2016) 

Jackie Cohen – Who’s Smartest? States with the Highest GPAs 

Your high school GPA could affect your income | ScienceDaily

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