Core GPA vs. Cumulative
When a college asks for a GPA do they prefer a CORE GPA value or a cumulative GPA value and does this differentiation matter?
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When applying using the Common App or Coalition App or their own App, you always put down your Cumulative Unweighted GPA, not your Core GPA. Some schools recalculate their own version of a Core GPA or have their own GPA formula like Stanford that only counts the 10th and 11th-grade marks and throws out the 9th-grade ones. And I believe UC schools make their own Core GPA calculations based on your submitted grades and transcript from your HS counselor.
At Stanford, your GPA is recalculated based on the following formula:
Grades from 10th and 11th grade only (no freshman grades)
Academic courses only (no physical education, typing, band, orchestra)
Flat grading where an “A-” becomes an “A” (great if you have an “A-”) and where a “B+” becomes a “B” (bad if you have a “B+”)
For UC Schools:
The standard practice that is used on sites like the Common and Coalition Application is your unweighted cumulative GPA, on a 4.0 scale.
In most cases, colleges will also receive your Secondary School Report, which is a packet from your school counselor that includes your complete transcript. So even though you're putting down only one form of your GPA, colleges will see your school's recalculations, such as if they use a different scale or also include weighted GPA.
Some colleges, such as the UCs, will also recalculate your GPA based on their own custom formulas. These calculations can exclude some of your high school years (usually freshman), or give different weightings to certain class types, like honors and AP/IB coursework.
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