On the 4.0 scale, an unweighted 4.0 GPA way perfection. You need straight as in every class—not also one A- is allowed. In university applications, this carries a many weight. You"re essentially telling the college, "High school classes room a cinch. I"ve taken a hard course load, and I"m much more than ready for what college has to throw at me."

In high school, I acquired a 4.0 GPA v a course load featuring 10 AP courses.

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I obtained straight As and 12 A+"s. This strong course load, along with a solid application, obtained me right into Harvard and every university I used to.

While it"s flattering come say, "Well, Allen"s simply a smart guy," in fact I relied a lot an ext on high-level strategy and effective scholastic habits. These were the very same strategies I used to my undergraduate job-related at Harvard and also that led me to graduate summa cum laude with a 3.95 GPA. This is the overview I great I had my student in the first year year of high school.

Do girlfriend know exactly how to discover effectively? carry out you plan your course sequence correctly? carry out you know how to framework your time therefore you gain an A in the many efficient method possible? do you understand just how your teacher thinks and also how to give your teacher what she wants?

Do friend have great study actions so you"re no wasting hundreds of hrs of examine time? carry out you have self-discipline and motivation to put in all the work compelled to manage a difficult course load? execute you know exactly how to use your inevitable failures to adjust course quickly and also improve yourself to raise her grade?

Going deeply right into these object is the topic of this guide. I believe these high-level an abilities are the an important foundation to scholastic success—without good strategy, you might pound her head versus a wall surface and waste countless hours acquiring nowhere.

Tragically, these strategies are seldom taught in school. Teacher will collectively spend thousands of hours teaching friend from your curricula however rarely will certainly they present you just how to strategize her coursework and get much better grades.

This guide consists of all the advice ns wish ns knew however had to number out myself the hard way. If friend earnestly use most the the ideas here, i am certain that girlfriend will have a much higher chance of scholastic success.

What Is a 4.0 GPA?

In this guide, the 4.0 I"m talking about is a 4.0 unweighted GPA. A 4.0 method an A or A+ in every class, v no exceptions. one A- is a 3.7 top top this scale, and also a single one will knock you down from a perfect GPA. Typically an A+ doesn"t count together a 4.3, so friend can"t go over a 4.0.

Here"s my main high institution transcript native 2005:


Here space a couple of things come glean from mine transcript:

I took a pretty advanced course load, but it wasn"t the most too much course pack possible. I took 10 AP great in high institution (I don"t counting my second AP Comp scientific research course since this to be done for fun and also I currently knew the material).

This is a high number, however it"s likewise not the max I could have taken, and also I know some students take it 12+ AP courses. I don"t think this is necessary, because you"ll do a lot far better in college admissions if you invest the extra time exploring your interests and developing deep extracurriculars.

A"s and A+"s are treated the exact same in GPA calculations. I began high institution with a lot more A+"s in freshman and also sophomore year, and ended with none junior and an elderly year. Ns don"t think there"s much to read right into this other than the reality that junior/senior teacher didn"t provide out A+"s. (I have actually a story about that A+ in AP biology below.)

Finally, here were mine AP scores in ~ the finish of high school, bring away from my Harvard student record:


In total, i took 14 AP tests and got 5s in all however two (Comparative Govt and also Comp Sci AB, which doesn"t exist anymore). These two additionally happened to it is in senior-year classes, an interpretation I was probably hit through senioritis.

I recognize a perfect 4.0 record choose this could be intimidating if you feeling you"re not on track to replicating it. It shouldn"t be. Again, a 4.0 isn"t crucial for also top colleges choose Harvard and Stanford. You can take half the variety of these AP courses and also still get into one Ivy organization school. I understand this due to the fact that of my vast experience v students and from seeing a lot of resumes indigenous Ivy league applicants once hiring for my company.

But I want a 4.0, therefore I functioned for it, and also I acquired it.

This ambition caused some stressful situations wherein i was deathly afraid of getting an A-, especially when the teacher"s grading to be incomprehensible. I know this deserve to sound obsessive, and, together I"ll cite below, i recommend most students protect against feeling this obsessive. Yet I"m just being honest and reporting my own experience for her benefit.

This guide contains every essential strategy I supplied to keep a perfect 4.0 GPA v a hard course load. i strongly indicate you read through this entire guide. At the very least, if you currently have a solid foundation, you"ll pick up some tips that could improve her coursework.

But I"m hoping the I"ll dramatically change how you check out your learning, how you"re spending your time every day, and how you"re playing the entire admissions game.

If you desire a 4.0, your transcript will should look like this.

Important Disclaimers

Before us begin, I need to gain a few things out of the way. Bear v me due to the fact that I"m going come anticipate usual objections you might have the can influence how you interpret my advice.

If you"re looking for shortcuts or the scholastic equivalent the a "get wealthy quick" scheme, you won"t find it here. ns won"t sugarcoat it—taking an advanced course load and getting an excellent grades will take a lot of of tough work. I don"t know any kind of legitimate tricks that room going to obtain you the same results while reducing your workload by 90%, and also I"d be suspiciously of anyone who promised together secrets.

But the is an essential that you perform the following:

Develop the attitude and motivation to work hardSpend your limited time as properly as feasible to acquire the best results

That"s what this guide is about.

I"m a an extremely straightforward person, and also I speak my mind. This method that some advice can rub you the not correct way. If that"s the case, shot to focus on the bigger picture and ~ above the advice you perform like. Ns don"t desire you to litter the infant out through the bathwater just due to the fact that you think I"m a jerk. My focus is on helping you execute better, and also one that the finest ways is come share my experience honestly, warts and all.

I did undoubtedly go v a many stress in high school and also put in a ton of effort. Ns think ns was obsessive about achievement and have a high capacity for mental pain, and I happen to love functioning hard. I don"t think it"s optimal for most students to carry out what ns did and feel what i felt, and I"ll explicitly allude this out at places. So just because I explain my experience doesn"t median I constantly condone it for everyone.

If you"re aiming for a 4.0 GPA, I"m guessing you likewise want to acquire into optimal schools in the country, so I"ll orient this guide toward both goals. The said, I want to tension that a 4.0 is not forced to get into height schools prefer Harvard and also Princeton. You carry out not require perfect grades and test scores to acquire into the Ivy League. In fact, the typical unweighted self-reported GPA of incoming students in ~ Harvard is 3.95. Thus, a 4.0 is really not that various from a 3.9 from the eye of the college.

Do no freak out if you have high university goals and also don"t already have a perfect GPA. It"s nowhere near the finish of the world. Ns explain an ext about why in my guide to getting into Harvard.

The 4.0 number is no all you have to aim for—the rigor of her coursework renders a big difference (this is where the concept of the weighted GPA comes in). Ideally, you"ll take daunting courses and excel in them. But if you need to make a tradeoff, I"d lean towards the more challenging courses; a letter grade of a B in one AP course is far better than an A in a regular class.


Despite the title of this guide, the concepts are extensively applicable to GPAs in every ranges. also if you"re not aiming strictly because that a 4.0, applying the advice below will acquire you closer come a 3.8 GPA or a 3.0 GPA or wherever you"re aiming. You deserve to use all the strategies right here to boost your grades and also raise your GPA. This is geared toward high institution students, but for readers right now in college, the concepts apply equally come you and often even much more so due to the fact that you don"t have as much parental framework over her work.

This guide targets high-achieving students who want to aim for scholastic success and also push us to it is in better. As weird as it sounds, this is no the stance everyone must take. Yes, ns know how stressed the end students room these days around getting right into college. No, i don"t think everyone have to feel as though they require to acquire into Stanford. Everyone has actually different scholastic goals, and also this guide isn"t because that everyone.

I don"t think everyone have to aim because that the toughest course load and perfect grades. Not sufficient students and also families make decisions for personal happiness and also are in a state of constant stress, especially if they constantly feel together if they"re not doing enough. This deserve to have negative long-term consequences. (In fact, using the advice listed below should in reality make your academic life easier because you"re spending her time much more effectively.)

That said, I do think there are large benefits to academic success. Not only does it command to evident benefits like much better colleges and also more profitable careers, however it also trains basic skills that room applicable to improving the rest of your life.

When I remained in high school, i knew I wanted to obtain into a top school like Harvard, and I knew ns was willing to endure the sacrifices and pain to obtain there. Ns cared deeply around my scholastic success and I constantly thrust myself to get better. If this sounds favor you and you honestly desire to obtain a 4.0 for an excellent reasons, then you"ll vibe strongly with my advice.

Yes, I know there are various other things in life the are much more important than getting into the ideal college. However I also know it"s a an useful goal for many of you, therefore I"m orienting this guide toward that. Once you hear me say, "Do this to enhance your university application," you should read this as, "Do this if college admissions is crucial goal come you."

Finally, I co-founded a agency called ubraintv-jp.com. We produce online SAT/ACT prep programs that it is adapted to you and also your strengths and weaknesses. If you do not should buy a complete prep routine to gain a good score, I believe ubraintv-jp.com is the best SAT program obtainable right now, specifically if you uncover it hard to organize her prep and don"t know what come study. In any kind of case, the truth that I run a test-prep company doesn"t really influence my advice below.

I expect you"re still v me and also that the above worked out some involves you had coming into this article. Now, let"s gain started.


What Roles execute Coursework and GPA beat in university Admissions?

To understand just how colleges think, it"s necessary to placed yourself in your shoes. I explain this in more detail in my guide on getting into Harvard and the Ivy League. In short, colleges want to recognize students who room going to change the world.

But exactly how do friend predict who"s going to readjust the civilization when applicants are simply 17-18 year old? By utilizing their past success as a predictor of future achievement.

Admissions workplaces at colleges do a lot of research ~ above what types of students castle admit and how come predict i beg your pardon students space going to be most successful. Regularly in this studies, high college coursework has actually one the the strongest correlations through college grades.

The Dean that Admissions at Harvard has declared the following about the admissions process:

"We have discovered that the ideal predictors in ~ Harvard are progressed Placement tests and also International Baccalaureate Exams, carefully followed through the university Board topic tests. High school qualities are next in predictive power, followed by the SAT and also ACT."

The Dean that Admissions in ~ Lawrence University, too, has commented ~ above the importance of GPA in college admissions:

"In the majority of studies, high school qualities have the strongest correlation v college grades. The SAT and ACT have actually the following strongest correlation, however this as well is no surprising because they have actually a solid correlation v high college grades."

This isn"t very surprising. That takes a the majority of skill and effort to excel with a demanding high institution course load. The attributes that bring success in high school—curiosity, motivation, tough work, good planning, time management, regulate of your very own psychology—are likely to result in success in both college and your career. These are all qualities I"m going to cover in this guide.

As you can see, your high institution coursework is just one of the most necessary pieces of your college application. In terms of time expenditure, it"s by far where you"ll be spending the most time: much more than 2,000 hrs per year in ~ 180 college days * (7 hours/day in school + 4 hrs of homework). This is indistinguishable to a full-time job!

Learning is your job. Yet instead of structure a house, you"re building your future.

Finally, simply to to win a dead horse, right here are snippets indigenous admissions workplaces at height colleges on the prestige of coursework in college applications:


"The high school transcript is nearly always the many important paper in a student"s application. Yet it is tough to develop of a case in which the appearance (or absence) of any type of one details class top top a transcript would determine the applicant"s result ... Once the admissions committee looks at your transcript, it will not emphasis on even if it is you have actually taken any details course. It will be far more interested to check out that friend have challenged yourself with challenging coursework, and also have done well."


"There is no single academic route we expect all students come follow, however the strongest applicants take it the many rigorous an additional school curricula obtainable to them. ... Back schools provide different opportunities, students should pursue the most demanding college-preparatory regime available, continual with each student"s readiness for particular fields of study."


"We provide the best weight to your scholastic transcript. The rigor the the process you"ve taken, the high quality of her grades and also the consistency with which you"ve worked over 4 years give us the clearest indication of exactly how well you will carry out at Amherst."

Claremont McKenna

"While over there is no minimum GPA requirement, compete candidates because that admission pursue the most demanding coursework feasible and receive strong grades. We strongly recommend taking advantage of honors and progressed placement coursework as soon as available. Many competitive applicants regularly go past the minimum encourage program."

Once again, don"t gain the not correct idea. "Most rigorous second school curricula" does not median "take every AP class under the sun, in ~ the expense of sleep and your sanity."

Says Stanford ~ above this subject,

"The students who grow at Stanford space those who space genuinely excited around learning, no necessarily those that take every solitary AP or IB, Honors or increased class just due to the fact that it has actually that designation."

In essence, colleges through no way want to encourage unhealthy obsession end racking up AP courses, specifically if you"re not interested in the material.

However, if you have the right to ace the most progressed course load available to you and construct a solid application, you"re at the level that the finest colleges are looking for.

Harvard University

What This 4.0 GPA guide Is all About

As I mentioned at the beginning, this is not a guide in which ns teach you actual mathematics or writing content. This is a high-level strategy and also planning overview meant to offer you the right mindset and also practices for achieving academic success.

I check out this together the foundation on i beg your pardon you construct your high school career. As with in construction, if you have actually a weak foundation, your building will crumble, no matter how much initiative you put into it. Construct on a strong foundation, and also you"ll find studying far easier and much more effective.

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I"ve functioned with a most students who see academic success purely as a content-mastery-and-brute-force problem—try hard enough to master the content and put in sufficient hours, and also you"ll perform better. Unfortunately, if they"re learning the wrong method or safety time on stuff that"s not actually effective, they"ll see conveniently that their difficult work is gift wasted.

Here"s what we"ll sheathe in large strokes. Each layer build on the next and we"ll walk from high to low level: