School adds weighted GPAs back to transcripts

Natasha Speiss and Chloe Park

The Faculty Academic Committee (FAC) voted to include weighted GPAs on student transcripts starting with the class of 2024, following a proposal from the Upper School Dean Team on Dec. 8. The school considered adding weighted GPAs to transcripts in September but decided to postpone the decision so it would not affect current seniors’ application process, as reported by The Chronicle on Sept. 28.

The school solely reported weighted GPAs until the class of 2021 but then decided to switch to reporting only unweighted GPAs for the classes of 2022 and 2023. However, the Upper School Dean Team decided it would be helpful to include both unweighted and weighted GPAs on student transcripts to measure rigor and academic achievement, according to Upper School Dean Sharon Cuseo.

Cuseo, who serves on the FAC, said having both GPA metrics on transcripts will encourage students to find a balance between taking difficult classes and earning high grades.

“I hope people decide to challenge themselves appropriately because no challenge is not the way to go,” Cuseo said. “If you are just paying attention to the unweighted GPA and get straight As but don’t challenge yourself, that’s not good. Nor should you take everything that you possibly can at the hardest level, so much so that it decreases your performance. I personally think that [this decision] will help people hit the sweet spot.”

While the school currently includes only unweighted GPAs on transcripts, students are able to access their weighted GPAs through the program College Kickstart. College Kickstart classifies how likely a student is to get accepted into a college based on their GPA and uses data specific to the school. Seniors also have the option to submit either their unweighted or weighted GPA through the Common App, an undergraduate college admission application that applicants may use to apply to over 1,000 member colleges and universities, regardless of what type of GPA the school transcript shows.

Upper School Dean Nia Kilgore said the Upper School Dean Team unanimously decided to draft the proposal to the FAC after they received feedback from certain college representatives that weighted GPAs would be beneficial.

“It will never be possible for us to please every college, so our thought was, ‘If there are a handful of colleges who are some of our most popular schools, or where the largest applicant groups are gonna be, then we should listen to them,’” Kilgore said. “It’s not as if we had a knee-jerk reaction. We were as thoughtful about bringing [the weighted GPA] back as we were about taking it off.”

Kilgore said colleges are still able to understand the rigor of an applicant’s course load, with or without a GPA metric.

“Colleges are not as beholden to a ‘GPA’ as we are as schools,” Kilgore said. “They will figure it out if it’s not there. We use [GPAs] because it’s an easily recognizable and understandable unit of measurement. But we thought, ‘Since we have the data, why not give it to them?’”

Science Department Head Melody Lee said the Upper School Dean Team added weighted GPAs so colleges could easily differentiate between students who took a demanding course load and those who didn’t.

“[The decision] did stem from deans, just because they are privy to what is being sent to colleges,” Lee said. “So, the idea behind it was to make it easier for colleges, which get so many applications, to be able to see a student who did take honors and AP classes versus a student who didn’t. Also, since now there’s an AP cap, it makes sense that the [inclusion of] weighted GPA shouldn’t be as big of a deal since everyone has the same ceiling and the gap won’t be as big. Bringing the weighted GPA back was basically a unanimous decision.”

Lee said she is slightly torn about the decision, as she wonders how having two GPA measures will impact how students talk about their grades at the school.

“Even if the weighted GPA isn’t listed on the transcript, I think people still talk about how many honors and AP courses they are taking,” Lee said. “There’s already a distinction amongst the school population. I personally think it places a bit too much emphasis on GPAs, and now I wonder now if students will throw around numbers even more. Yes, there already is a lot of comparison going on, but it might be more explicit now, which can make [the school] even more competitive.”

Elliot Lichtman ’23 said students at the school tend to overestimate the importance of how grades are reported.

“People put too much value on what is and is not on the transcript, but it’s going to be calculated anyways,” Lichtman said. “I trust the deans, and if the deans have talked with the colleges, and that is what the colleges want, then that is the end goal, and beyond that, we really don’t have more information one way or the other.”

Lichtman said sending weighted GPAs to colleges can make students feel more comfortable in the admissions process.

“I think that from a perspective of our lack of information and the fact that as students whose lives are based around numerical grades and number of activities, it’s nice to have a higher number [reported],” Lichtman said. “If [the deans] think that this is better, then I trust them that it’s better.”