I get a question like that all of the time. Fortunately, it is easy to answer. I have no idea.
There are two problems with the question that prevents anyone from answering the question. First, you need more than grades to get into a competitive college. I will be talking about that next time. But the real problem with the question is I have no idea what a 4.34 GPA means.
You see, there is no standard system for weighting grades in this country. Don’t know what weighted grades are? Take a minute to read about weighted grades. Because I work with students around the US I see all sorts of variations in how they weight grades.
Some high schools that I work with don’t weight grades at all. An AP or honors course has the same grade as metal shop. An “A” is worth 4 points. Period.
Many high schools give an extra .5 or an extra 1.0 for an AP or honors course. Some give a .5 for an honors course and a 1.0 for an AP course.
But some high schools give an extra 2.0 points for an AP class. Some give an extra 3.0 points for an AP class. Some even more than that.
Are you starting to see the problem? If you go to a high school that gives an extra .5 for an AP class you may have a GPA of 4.1 and have one of the top GPAs. But if your school gives an extra 6 points for an AP class, that 4.1 GPA may put you in the middle of your class.
Because of this problem with different high schools weighting grades differently, most colleges get rid of the problem by stripping out all weighting from your GPA. An “A” is worth 4 points, a “B” 3 and so on. That way, they can compare the school that doesn’t weight GPAs with the school that weights an AP as an extra 4 points.
Does that mean it doesn’t matter whether you take AP classes? Not at all. Because colleges look not just at your grades but also the classes you take to get those grades. If you aren’t taking challenging classes like AP’s, your 4.0 GPA won’t impress anyone.
Now, I said most colleges don’t use weighted grades but there is a major exception. The University of California system loves weighted grades and uses them all of the time. Since I work with many students from California this issue comes up all of the time. But you already know the problem don’t you? Students from high schools that have a heavily weighted GPA have an advantage at the UC’s while those from less weighted high schools are at a disadvantage. Fair? No, but college admissions isn’t always fair.
So next time you are wondering how competitive your GPA is, and the college you are looking at reports information about typical GPA’s, make sure you are looking at your unweighted GPA. It won’t completely answer your question about how competitive you are, but at least it will be a start.