What Is Cumulative GPA vs. Overall GPA? Are They the Same?

Cumulative GPA vs. Overall GPA
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You can hear so many terms when it comes to GPA, and people and schools can use the terms differently, which can make it confusing. Let’s look at some of those terms: cumulative GPA, overall GPA, and total GPA.

Cumulative GPA, overall GPA, or total GPA are often used interchangeably. Each term refers to the average of all of a student’s final grades, either from a specific college or university or from their whole academic career.

The time frame for cumulative or overall GPAs (whether it includes courses from all the colleges they attended or just their current/most college) varies depending on college or university.

Let’s explore if cumulative GPA, overall GPA, and total GPA are always used to mean the same thing, the variations in how schools calculate cumulative GPA, and what cumulative CPA is used for.

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Is overall GPA the same as cumulative GPA? Is cumulative GPA your total GPA?

In general, overall GPA, cumulative GPA, and total GPA are the same—the average of your final grades from all your college classes.

Sometimes overall GPA can mean the average of all grades, even from multiple colleges, while cumulative is from your current/most recent college (or one specific one).

However, some people or schools may refer to any of these terms as the average of all your final grades from a specific school or all your final grades from all your college classes taken anywhere.

It is important to use the context to understand which time frame they include or ask if it is unclear.

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Cumulative/overall/total GPA from one college

The most common time frame for cumulative/overall/total GPA is to consider all the classes taken at that college.

The formula for cumulative GPA is total grade points divided by total credit hours.

Total grade points overall divided by total credit hour overall equals cumulative GPA

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The two biggest areas of variation between schools are their policy on whether transfer credits are counted into the student’s cumulative GPA for that school and how they include retaken courses.

Transfer credits

In general, colleges do not count transfer credits toward the student’s cumulative GPA at that college.

For example, at the University of MinnesotaOpens in a new tab. (and many other colleges or universities), transfer credits are not counted in the student’s cumulative GPA for that school.

However, some colleges do count the grades for courses that they transfer in the student’s cumulative GPA for that school.

You can check their website, registrar’s office, or your academic advisor to find out if your school counts the grades of classes that transfer into your school’s cumulative GPA.

Retaking courses

Each college has its own policy on how retaken courses are counted toward the student’s cumulative GPA. The most common policy is to use the most recent grade, but some schools average the grades, other schools keep both grades, and occasionally a school will keep the higher grade.

Find out your school’s policy.

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Cumulative/overall/total GPA from all colleges

The terms cumulative, overall, or total GPA can all be used to mean the GPA of all college courses from all colleges. What classes are included in cumulative/overall GPA depends on the policy of who is calculating it.

As discussed above, some colleges include the final grades of the transferred credit in the student’s cumulative GPA at that school. However, this is not typical.

The most common time when cumulative or overall GPA includes classes from all colleges they have attended is during college admissions.

However, the idea that college or grad schools always calculate cumulative GPAs from all schools is not true. If you have earned a degree, your graduating GPA is most often what is looked at.

Learn more about How to Calculate Cumulative GPAOpens in a new tab. from multiple schools.

What is cumulative/overall/total GPA used for?

Cumulative GPA is used for college or grad school admissions, to determine honors eligibility, for scholarships, and as the graduation minimum GPA requirement.

Academic standing

A student’s academic standing is based on their cumulative GPA for that school. Most colleges and universities require at least a 2.0 cumulative GPA to avoid being put on academic probation.

Graduation requirements

Since students have to meet the minimum cumulative GPA requirements to stay in good academic standing, it makes sense that they also have to meet them to earn their degree and graduate.

Most colleges require at least a 2.0 cumulative GPA to graduate, but some colleges or degree programs may require higher.

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Scholarships and financial aid

Scholarships and financial aid often have a minimum GPA that students have to have. Cumulative GPA for their current school is what is looked at to determine if students meet the GPA requirement.

College admissions

College admissions look at cumulative GPA or overall GPA. College applications ask for a student’s cumulative GPA from their current school. However, colleges often recalculate students’ GPAs to standardize them using their own criteria and include all the schools they attended.

If you have earned a degree, your graduating GPA is most often what is looked at (which is your cumulative GPA for that school). However, some grad schools consider the GPA of each college they attended.

For grad schools that consider classes from multiple colleges, taking classes after you graduate with your degree can help raise your overall GPA (your GPA from all schools). Learn more about Is It Possible to Increase Your GPA After Graduation?Opens in a new tab.

While this tells you the overview of cumulative GPA vs. overall GPA, it is important to use your college’s or prospective college’s meaning of cumulative GPA or overall GPA.

Find out more about cumulative GPA and how it compares to different types of GPAOpens in a new tab..

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