Grade point average, or GPA, is a score used by North American high schools, colleges, and universities to reflect students’ grades as a whole.
Typically assessed for advancement to higher levels of education and (sometimes) even future employment, an individual student’s GPA is considered by many to be extremely important.
High scores are therefore openly bragged about in the education world, but what about low scores?
The lowest GPA ever recorded is a 0.0, which may also be written as 0.00 or simply, 0. This score is uncommon, but it is believed to be reached by a small percentage of students across all education levels every year.
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A 0.0 is the lowest possible score on the GPA scale, but the highest possible score can differ based on how the particular school calculates it.
Depending on the institution, the highest possible score is either a 4.0 or a 5.0.
These varied scales (particularly those going up to 5.0) are more common in high schools than at colleges and universities.
The vast majority of higher education institutions, both public and private, rely on a standard 4.0 GPA scale.
In all cases, however, a 0.0 remains the lowest score.
While different schools may have slightly different methods of calculation, all GPA scores are still reflective of an individual student’s grades in their various classes.
The lower the score, the worse a student’s grades are. When correlated with the traditional letter scale from A to F, GPA ranges are determined as follows (shown on a 4.0 scale):
A = 4.0
B = 3.0
C = 2.0
D = 1.0
F = 0.0
Most GPA scores do appear as an exact “4.0” or “3.0,” etc., but as “3.9,” “3.5,” or 2.4.” This is because the student’s grades as a whole are added up and averaged, which may include a mix of letter or numerical scores.
Course levels are typically not taken into account when determining a GPA score.
As shown above, a 0.0 correlates to an F or failing grade point average. So, in order to achieve it, a student must receive failing grades in all of their classes.
This may be an average of scores under 60% or 50% on a numerical score basis, but the exact failing scores that result in a 0.0 GPA will depend on the particular institution’s calculation methods.
If a student ends their senior year of high school with a 0.0 GPA, they technically did not pass high school due to failing most (or all) of their classes.
They may or may not be able to apply to more advanced schools in this case and will likely need to either repeat their senior year or enter a General Education Development (GED) program.
Similarly, a student cannot graduate from college or university with a 0.0 GPA. Upon ending a semester with this average, they will need to either repeat classes and achieve passing scores or drop out.
According to a variety of education prep resources, including College Raptor, Prep Scholar, and Management Study HQ, the average GPA in the United States is a 3.0, or a B average, for high school students.
The average GPA for college and university students is slightly higher, at 3.15 (still a B average).
Nevertheless, average GPAs vary greatly between individual schools. According to the Harvard Crimson, the average reported GPA for students at Harvard University is a 3.65.
According to Arizona State University’s figures, their students average a 3.54 GPA, while their honors students average a 4.29 GPA.
Students sometimes joke about failing so bad, they got a “negative GPA,” but it’s worth noting that this is not actually possible.
Because a 0.0 is the lowest possible score on the GPA scale, a student cannot get a negative score.
In fact, negative grades or averages on reports may indicate a falsified transcript.
While often required on college applications, GPA scores are not considered public information.
It is, therefore, up to the individual student to provide it to potential schools and future employers upon request, although not doing so could cause them to be dismissed from consideration.
Some people also choose to include their GPA on resumes and online work profiles, but this is again at their own discretion.
A third party can only request a student’s GPA or transcript from a school with written or signed permission from the student.
This is a common question among modern students, and much of the importance of GPA is based on opinion and public perception.
However, GPA scores have been well established as important factors for acceptance into college.
That said, the exact requirements vary from school to school, and there is no nationally-set standard.
Likewise, most employers do not require GPAs on their applications. However, many consider them (or may ask for them) when applicants are recent college graduates or are students applying for internships.
Most colleges and universities will automatically disqualify applicants that do not meet their minimum GPA requirements.
While the criteria here vary between different institutions, a 0.0 GPA is practically unheard of as an acceptable score.
The vast majority of schools, if not all, will consider it a dealbreaker as it indicates the student did not actually pass their high school classes.
It’s also worth noting that most colleges require their accepted students to maintain a minimum GPA level while enrolled.
For example, a school may expel a student for achieving anything under a 2.0 GPA, especially if this score remains unchanged (or has worsened) over consecutive semesters or a designated grace period.
Colleges of lower esteem and nationally-ranked academic standing are more likely to accept applicants with lower GPA scores.
According to Education Connection, six schools that have reputations for accepting below-average GPAs are those with predominantly online programs: Southern New Hampshire University, Strayer University, Colorado State University (Global Campus), Purdue University Global, Western Governors University, and Argosy University.
The only way to improve a 0.0 GPA is to repeat the failed classes and earn higher scores. The most recent score will automatically replace previous grades.
However, the number of classes that were failed must be taken into account in order to determine how much time it will take to improve a student’s GPA.
Someone in their fourth year of college with a 0.0 GPA will have far more classes they will need to retake compared to a freshman who just ended their first semester with a 0.0.
This is important in considering whether or not working to improve one’s GPA is worth the effort at a particular school.
While a 0.0 GPA can feasibly be improved, there are cases where a student (particularly if they are a junior or senior) risks being expelled before they have time to improve their grade point average to a passing score.
Because individual GPAs are not publicly accessible information, it is unclear whether or not an Ivy League institution has ever accepted an applicant with a 0.0 GPA.
If the extremely rare chance they have, however, the applicant was likely a transfer student from another college, as a 0.0 GPA out of high school indicates the student did not receive their high school diploma.
GPAs are well established in the United States and Canada, which use almost identical scales.
Mexico also uses a similar GPA system for its colleges and universities, but high schools tend to rely on a decimal system from 0.0 to 10.0.
Countries around the world have their own GPA systems that vary from region to region (and from school to school), but fortunately for international students, nearly all can be easily converted (and vice versa) to the U.S. GPA scale.
In all countries that use a decimal or percentage grading system, a 0 score is considered failing.
Stories of intelligent, successful people like Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, and Steve Jobs receiving poor grades and/or failing out of school are commonly used to express that GPA scores are not that important.
However, their exact grades are unknown, as are those of most famous people. It is very possible that there are famous individuals who received a 0.0 GPA at some point during their lives, but there are no current public records of it.