Weighted GPAs: Helpful or Harmful?

By Meilan Solly
LEESBURG, VAIf you happen to have an F on your report card, just tell your parents that a 67% means “good.” (At least it does in Poland.) Or, if you have an F in an AP class, remind dear old mom and dad that AP classes are weighted, so your GPA will receive a 1.0 GPA bump. As long as they don’t read the Student Handbook, they won’t know students actually have to pass the course to get the bump. In Loudoun County, some classes are weighted, meaning students taking these classes receive GPA bumps. The following courses are weighted as follows: honors classes (0.5), AP classes (1.0), Academy of Science (0.5), and dual enrollment (0.5). Weighted GPAs affect students in terms of class rank, but otherwise they don’t actually count for very much. Some people may believe colleges look at weighted GPAs, but in reality most don’t. So then, what is the whole point of GPAs, and what do they really do?
At the end of junior year and each semester of senior year, senior class rank is calculated. Many factors affect GPAs, and subsequently rank, but the choice of taking honors classes is the most important. One GPA bump that has become the subject of slight controversy is the AOS GPA bump. Many people have differing opinions on this bump. Interestingly, AOS itself was not in favor of the bump because they do not want students to go to AOS just for the GPA boost. An anonymous user commented on the Loudoun Schools blog saying, “AOS grade weighting has had a significant effect on class ranking. If your son or daughter is competing for a ranking in the top 10 and they do not attend AOS, they need to have the maximum number of honors classes, AP classes, and get an A+ in almost every class just to make [it.]” Mrs. Connell, a guidance counselor at Tuscarora stated quite the opposite: “The only advantage [AOS students have] is in freshman and sophomore year… [otherwise there is] not much of an advantage.” She shared the fact that 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places of the senior class rank are not held by AOS students; one must take into account, however, the fact that only one Tuscarora senior attends AOS.
Adam Kight, a junior who attends AOS, believes the bump helps students not feel stressed. They know if they mess up in one quarter, their GPA will not be greatly affected. He says the AOS bump is fair because classes there are “more college based. They involve self teaching and study [and] delve deeper into subjects.” Freshman Jacqueline Callejas agrees that AOS students work hard so they deserve the bump. She does point out, however, that the AOS bump “sucks for [non-AOS students.] We don’t have a chance to get that bump.”
One worry most students share is fear of college. To be considered for the best colleges, students must have stellar grades and an abundance of extracurricular activities. Some see their GPAs as indicators of their capacity to get into college. Mrs. Connell explains, however, that while Tuscarora sends weighted GPAs to colleges, colleges convert them back to unweighted GPAs. She says college admission officers glance at weighted GPAs but use unweighted ones so applicants are at an equal level. As for the real purpose of weighted GPAs, Mrs. Connell says, “We debate that all the time.”