What GPA Do You Need to Graduate College?

A graduation cap with the words "Required GPA to graduate"
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One of the biggest requirements for graduating college is meeting the minimum GPA.

Most colleges or universities require a minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) of at least 2.0 (a C average) for students to graduate. Many colleges also require a 2.0 GPA for the courses taken in the major. However, some colleges require a minimum 2.5 GPA to graduate.

Keep in mind that most transferred credits do not count toward your GPA. However, some colleges count a course toward your GPA if they allow it to be counted as a residential credit.

Some specific majors, colleges, or graduate programs can have higher GPA requirements (such as 3.0). The GPA requirement will be on the school’s website, and it is something you should know in advance and talk to your academic advisor about.

You can also ask your advisor how to access your DARS (Degree Audit Reporting System), which will show your GPA.

If you do not know your GPA, learn How to Find Out Your GPAOpens in a new tab..

Let’s look at what GPA you need to graduate with honors and what happens if your GPA is too low to graduate.

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What GPA do most college students graduate with?

The average student GPA differs for each college and each major. Therefore, it is difficult to give a definitive average GPA. However, a study that looked at the 2013 GPA average of over 400 schools found an average GPA of 3.15 GPA.

You can read more about the rising GPA average at gradeinflation.comOpens in a new tab..

What GPA do you need to graduate college with honors?

The requirements for graduating with honors vary depending on the college. Graduating cum laude means “with praise” and requires a 3.5-3.7 GPA, magna cum laude means “with great honor” and requires a 3.8-3.9 GPA, and summa cum laude means “with highest honor” and requires a 4.0.

HonorsGPA requirement
Cum laude3.5-3.7 GPA
Magna cum laude3.8-3.9 GPA
Summa cum laude4.0 GPA

To find out about the types of honors and specific requirements at your college, ask your academic advisor.

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What happens if your GPA is too low to graduate?

If a student’s GPA is too low to graduate, they can try for grade forgiveness (or grade replacement) to retake courses to get a passing grade. If they are passing the courses required to graduate, but their GPA is too low, they may also take additional classes to raise their GPA.

When your GPA is below the required level (generally 2.0), you are placed on academic probation. Typically this includes meeting with your academic advisor and tutoring.

If you complete all of your required courses but have a GPA below 2.0, you will not graduate, but some colleges may offer you a letter of program completion.

However, it would be difficult to obtain the required credits for the degree program because colleges usually will not give credit for classes where you do not earn a passing grade. By failing courses required for your major, you are not meeting the requirements for graduation.

Most colleges will allow for grade forgiveness (otherwise referred to as grade replacement). This allows you to retake a limited number of courses and replace the bad grade with a passing grade.

Depending on the college, you may be required to submit an academic appeal or petition to be able to stay for an extra semester (or longer) to complete the necessary classes to raise your GPA and meet the requirements for your major.

How to improve your GPA

If your GPA is too low to graduate, then you will need to improve your GPA.

Determine why your GPA is low

The first thing you need to do is determine why your GPA is low:

  • Did you not go to class or do all the assignments? Doing the work is always the most important step to doing well.
  • Is it extenuating circumstances, such as disability, mental health struggles or addiction, family obligations, full-time job, etc…? If so, talk to your family, boss, or healthcare team.
  • Do you lack motivation, discipline, or time management skills? Focus on improving those skills.
  • Do you have poor study skills? Learn more about note-takingOpens in a new tab., studying, and test-taking.

Determine what the issues are so that you can address them. 

Retake classes or take more classes

To raise your GPA, take advantage of your college’s grade forgiveness policy and retake classes that you did poorly in.

Learn more about Retaking College ClassesOpens in a new tab..

You can also take new courses to raise your GPA.

Practice good study skills

  • Go to class.
  • Read the required material.
  • Do your assignments and spend extra time on those worth the biggest portion of your grade.
  • Create a schedule to stay organized and track due dates.
  • Take notes. 
  • Study for exams (a little every day instead of cramming before the exam).

Get help

You can get help by talking to your professor, getting tutoring, or joining a study group.

What to do if you graduate with a bad GPA?

If you graduate with a bad GPA, don’t list your GPA on your resume. If the employer asks, be honest about why you struggled and how what you learned will help you succeed at the job. If trying to go to grad school, use the essay to explain, get a high score on entrance exams, and be involved in your field.

Learn more about the next steps to take if you graduate with a bad GPAOpens in a new tab..

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