Making the Grade

Starting college can be a continuation of success or a fresh start, maybe even both. Students come to UNLV from all over the world with different backgrounds and varying academic achievements. Each student has their own individual dreams and career goals for the future, but not every student approaches them in the same way.

Some students are academically inclined with dreams of being attorneys, doctors, engineers, and more. These students prioritize their GPA above all else as they seek to compete with others for scholarships, acceptance into prestigious schools, and - let’s be honest - bragging rights. Many of these students can obsess over maintaining a near-perfect GPA. I should know - I’m one of them.

So, what’s all the fuss about getting a 4.0? Here are four things to know about obtaining this illusive GPA.

How are GPAs calculated?

In college, grades function similarly to high school and middle school. An A is worth four points, a B is worth three points, a C is worth two points and so on. Some courses use additional grade distinctions, like A- which is worth 3.7 points and B+ which is worth 3.3 points. The total letter grades and points that they represent are averaged together and result in your Grade Point Average. In order to maintain a 4.0 GPA, you must never get a letter grade below an A. No pressure.

How Common is a 4.0 GPA?

It’s extremely rare across all areas of study. At UNLV, the three main academic distinctions are cum laude, Magna cum laude, and Summa cum laude. These academic distinctions represent the top five, four and one percent of the graduating class in a given year. Graduating with a 4.0 would put you ahead of the top one percent in your class in almost every case. If you do finally encounter that class that lowers your GPA slightly, it’s not the end of the world.

Do You Need a 4.0?

No. Not convinced? I’ll explain. Having an unblemished GPA is impressive and definitely reflects well upon those that manage it. The reality is that higher institutions like law schools, graduate schools, and medical schools look at more than just your GPA. In fact, most schools have an average accepted GPA around 3.5 and top-tier schools have an average accepted GPA around 3.8. Your grades should be strong if you're pursuing a higher degree, but they don’t have to be perfect.

There’s More to College Than a GPA

There are a lot of things you can do while you're in college that will make you a more fulfilled and competitive student compared to only focusing on one metric. Consider volunteering your time to help your school and your community. Employers and graduate schools prefer students with strong extra-curricular activities. If you’re interested in fitness, explore our amazing gym and fitness classes. Studies show that physical exercise improves academic success.

If you’re anything like me, you’re still going to obsess over your GPA. Just keep in mind that you are more than just a number.


Kohl III, H. W., & Cook, H. D. (Eds.). (2013). Educating the student body: Taking physical activity and physical education to school. National Academies Press.

Registrar Latin Honors. (n.d.). Retrieved from