What’s the Average GPA for a Freshman in College?

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As you transition from high school into college, things might look a little intimidating. The adjustment takes a while, and making friends can be difficult at first. However, things might be looking even more challenging for those who choose to maintain their academic aspect of life.

Many students start looking for the average GPA for a first-year college student. Maybe you feel like you haven’t performed as well as others or simply want to keep yourself in check. This article dives into everything you need to know, from average GPA by major to whether you can recover from a below-average GPA.

What is Considered a Good GPA for College?What is Considered a Good GPA for College?

What is a good GPA in university? Well, answering this question is quite tricky. Not only can it be subjective, but it ranges from one institution to another. A “good” GPA in college will vary depending on several factors, which include personal goals, the major, and the level of academic rigor. Below is a deeper analysis of what is generally determined to be a “good” GPA:

  • Subjectivity and minimum requirements. The concept of a good GPA ranges widely. For example, most colleges require a minimum GPA of 2.0 for graduation. Thus, anything above 2.0 can be considered good if the goal is simply to graduate.
  • Typical range on a 4.0 scale. For employees who look at GPA as a metric, the cutoff is approximately3.0 according to a conducted research. Hence, the standard has been seen to be between 3.0 and 4.0, which is a grade range between B and A+.
  • Expectations for university admissions. According to Forbes, for a four-year school, a GPA higher than 3.0 is perfect. According to the University of Kentucky, the minimum GPA you must have to apply is 3.0.
  • Variation by major and institution. A good GPA will largely depend on the context. For example, the requirements for graduate programs usually range between 3.0 and 3.5, prompting students to aim for a GPA of 3.0.
  • National average and trends. The average GPA in the U.S. has risen over time due to grade inflation. Hence, the expectations will differ from year to year, depending on how you compare to other candidates.

While defining a good GPA is somewhat tricky, the consensus seems to point to a GPA range between 3.0 and 4.0. However, remember that the higher your GPA, the more opportunities you can access.

What is the Average GPA for First Year College Students?

What is the Average GPA for First Year College Students?

According to the NCES, the National Center for Education Statistics, the average GPA in the first year was 2.6. So, what’s the average GPA for a freshman in college? One can easily estimate that it would be around 2.6. However, this does not consider grade inflation, as this study was conducted for a high school class in 2013.

According to Grade Inflation, the grades in the U.S. rose by 0.1 points per decade. Hence, it is difficult to pinpoint the average GPA for first-year college students nowadays.

According to the University of Illinois, the GPA you obtain in your first year in college is an excellent predictor of your college success. It has been proven to be better at predicting your success rate when compared to the ACT score.

That said, it is safe to assume that the average GPA for a freshman student is around 2.6. But what is a good freshman GPA in college? You might think it is about 2.6. While it is a solid starting point, it is not enough for graduate schools, jobs requiring GPA scores, and other requirements. Hence, we urge you to aim higher and focus on recovering from a low first-year GPA, which will be discussed in the sections below.

What is the Average College GPA by Major?

What is the Average College GPA by Major?

Finding the average college GPA by major is also not an easy fete. It ranges from one institution to the other. However, prevalent research has been conducted in 2010 by Dr. Kevin Rask. It illustrates the average GPA for a few majors. We will list them below. However, keep in mind that the study is more than a decade old, so it does not consider factors like grade inflation and changes to the curriculum.

Dr. Kevin Rask: Average GPA Per Major



Foreign Language












Computer Science


Political Science




















Now, we will list the average GPA for some majors according to 2016 statistics from the University of California, Sand Diego:

University of California San Diego: Average GPA Per Major











Social Sciences


However, do not take those statistics literally. It is challenging to pinpoint the exact average nationwide, mainly due to the different characteristics of each institution. For example, Harvard is a much more difficult university with higher standards than the University of California. Hence, its students are expected to score better grades and perform better overall.

What is the Average College GPA from Top Schools?

What is the Average College GPA from Top Schools?

The average college GPA at top schools, especially Ivy League, tends to be incredibly high. According to a report by RippleMatch, which includes data from tens of thousands of students, certain Ivy League schools have the highest average GPAs. This partially reflects the grade inflation prevalent at those institutions. The top 20 institutions with their average GPAs are:

  • Brown University – 3.71
  • Stanford University – 3.66
  • Harvard University – 3.64
  • Yale University – 3.62
  • Columbia University – 3.59
  • Vanderbilt University – 3.57
  • Duke University – 3.56
  • Baylor University – 3.56
  • Northeastern University – 3.55
  • Dartmouth College – 3.54
  • Barnard College – 3.54
  • Amherst College – 3.53
  • Rice University – 3.53
  • The University of Pennsylvania – 3.53
  • Washington University – 3.52
  • Northwestern University – 3.52
  • Johns Hopkins University – 3.52
  • Stevens Institute of Technology – 5.51
  • Cornell University – 3.5
  • University of Notre Dame – 3.5

These universities will want the best of the best. Hence, even their average GPA for college acceptance would be pretty high. Since students obtain slightly better averages in high school, you should aim for excellent grades to get into one of those top institutions. You can refer to the list above for an estimate of top colleges’ average high school GPA.

What Does Having an Average GPA Mean for You?

What Does Having an Average GPA Mean for You?

There are different aspects to this question, and the answer depends on your goals and the different perspectives considered below:

  • Academic evaluation. Well, GPA requirements for college are everything. According to your GPA, they get you into the best colleges or the worst. Hence, having an average GPA groups you in with numerous people achieving good academic standards.
  • Opportunity and career. Having an average GPA might open up various aspects. However, if you are applying for competitive positions for grad schools or job applications, you might lose to others with higher GPAs.
  • Debate of GPA relevance. Does GPA matter? Many argue there is a thin line between when it does and when it doesn’t. For example, many would argue that it doesn’t reflect intelligence. Instead, it shows how one can survive within a specific academic system.

In the end, there are various factors to consider. An average GPA is important and can open multiple academic and career opportunities. However, it is one of many factors that contribute to student success.

Can You Recover from a Low First-Year GPA?

Can You Recover from a Low First-Year GPA?

Of course, you can. While recovering from a low GPA might not be easy, it is entirely plausible. After a bad first year, it’s time to put a plan in motion and focus on what you need to accomplish. Here is what you can do:

  • While you might not be able to restart your first year, you can undoubtedly consider retaking courses you did not perform well on.
  • Focus on improving your time management and study habits. For example, use this as a rule of thumb: for every credit hour of class, you need two hours of individual study time.
  • Engage more proactively with your professors and discuss your weak points. More often than not, they’re your best sources of help.
  • Sometimes, the stress might be too much. If that is the case, consider lightening your course load to manage your time more efficiently.

Wrapping Things Up: What’s the Average GPA for a Freshman in College?

Ultimately, what GPA do you need to succeed? Again, a “good” GPA varies by individual, goals, and major. However, a good GPA should be something in the range of 3.0 to 4.0. First-year college students often average around a GPA of 2.6, but this is subject to grade inflation and differences between institutions.

However, you should not give up hope if you struggle with an average GPA. Through our guide, we also provided some tips on recovering from a low GPA. So don’t worry! You can always retake courses, improve your study habits, or discuss your issues with advisors and professors to improve.

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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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