Haverford’s GPA system emphasizes learning

A student calculates his GPA – Pierce Laveran ’24

“What’s my GPA?” is a question that all upper school students will ask at least once during their time in Wilson Hall.

GPA, or grade point average, is a number calculated by schools to determine a student’s average performance in their classes, typically on a scale from 1.0 to 4.0. However, many schools, including Haverford, calculate GPAs differently. 

Haverford uses an internal system to calculate GPA. A percentage grade corresponds to a certain letter grade, which corresponds to a certain number on Haverford’s GPA scale, which ranges from 0.0 – 4.5.  

At times, the school’s system can feel vague. Students across all forms often do not fully understand the school’s process of calculating GPA. 

“The calculation system itself is ambiguous and often feels confusing,” Sixth Former Ryan Brewington said

Still, there is a definitive system at work behind the scenes. According to the student handbook, an ‘A+’ (97%+) scales to an equivalent of 4.3. An ‘A’ (93% – 97%) is equivalent to a 4.0. The system goes down to a ‘C-’ (65% – 73%), which is equivalent to a 1.7. Interestingly, the school does not award grades lower than a ‘C-,’ instead choosing to skip straight to an ‘F,’ which is equivalent to 0.0.

Next, the system calculates a student’s “Quality Points” by multiplying the number scale equivalent by the number of credits the course is worth. The sum of the Quality Points is then divided by the number of total credits earned by the student to generate their GPA. 

Honors courses allow students to reach beyond a 4.3 GPA. Honors courses award an additional .2 to a course’s number scale, allowing them to reach a maximum GPA of 4.5. 

But Brewington thinks the system feels at odds with the principles of the school’s curriculum. 

“I know that an ‘A’ in a non-Honors class is valued more than an ‘A-’ in an Honors class,” Brewington said. “I don’t think that those numbers properly reflect what schools like Haverford truly value: rigorous course load, challenged students, and commitment to learning.” 

A student’s GPA is used for more than just college. The school uses GPA to inform school awards, recognitions such as the Hattersley Award, and commencement awards such as Phi Beta Kappa or the Newhall Award. 

Weighted GPA is also a primary determinant of admission into the school’s Cum Laude chapter, a national society for secondary schools that supports learning and sound scholarship. Only 10% of a class may be inducted to Cum Laude in their fifth form year, with an additional 10% in their sixth form year. However, weighted GPA is not the only factor. 

“A student’s disciplinary history and overall school citizenship are secondary considerations and may, in some cases, prevent election to Cum Laude,” Upper School Head Mr. Mark Fifer said.

“We want external audiences who are looking at our students to see them as more than a number.”

Upper School Head Mr. Mark Fifer

GPA is not the only thing Haverford does differently — valedictorians and class ranks are other methods schools use to determine a student’s performance during high school. Haverford does not use either of these systems.

“We want external audiences who are looking at our students to see them as more than a number,” Mr. Fifer said. “We want to ensure that the full scope of each student’s academic course of study is reviewed.” 

Brewington believes that this is better for the community. “I think [class rankings] create a strong tension between students to gain any competitive edge possible,” he said. 

Despite misconceptions about the GPA system, Brewington believes that the GPA system prioritizes students who take their academics seriously.

“I take Honors classes for the deeper engagement and extended course information, not because it will boost my GPA,” Brewington said. “I think this is how schools without ranking, like Haverford, should function, prioritizing challenging classes for the love of learning rather than a boost to their GPA.”