On the 4.0 scale, one unweighted 4.0 GPA way perfection. You require straight together in every class—not also one A- is allowed. In university applications, this dead a lot of weight. You"re basically telling the college, "High school classes space a cinch. I"ve bring away a tough course load, and I"m more than ready for what college needs to throw in ~ me."

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

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

While it"s flattering to say, "Well, Allen"s just a clever guy," in fact I relied a lot more on high-level strategy and effective scholastic habits. These were the very same strategies I used to mine undergraduate work at Harvard and also that led me come graduate summa cum laude v a 3.95 GPA. This is the guide I great I had actually my freshman year that high school.

Do girlfriend know just how to learn effectively? perform you plan your food sequence correctly? do you know how to structure your time therefore you obtain an A in the many efficient way possible? do you understand how your teacher thinks and how to provide your teacher what she wants?

Do girlfriend have great study actions so you"re no wasting hundreds of hours of examine time? do you have actually self-discipline and an inspiration to put in every the work forced to handle a daunting course load? execute you know exactly how to usage your inevitable failures to readjust course quickly and improve yourself to raise your grade?

Going deeply into these object is the subject of this guide. I think these high-level an abilities are the an important foundation to academic success—without good strategy, you could pound her head versus a wall surface and waste thousands of hours gaining nowhere.

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

This guide consists of all the advice ns wish i knew yet had to figure out myself the hard way. If friend earnestly use most the the ideas here, ns am certain that friend will have a much greater 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, through no exceptions. an A- is a 3.7 ~ above this scale, and also a single one will certainly knock you under from a perfect GPA. Commonly an A+ doesn"t count as a 4.3, so girlfriend can"t go over a 4.0.

Here"s my official high school transcript indigenous 2005:


Here room a few things to glean from my transcript:

I took a pretty advanced course load, yet it wasn"t the most excessive course fill possible. I took 10 AP classes in high college (I don"t counting my 2nd AP Comp scientific research course because this was done because that fun and also I already knew the material).

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

A"s and also A+"s space treated the very same in GPA calculations. I began high college with a lot an ext A+"s in freshman and sophomore year, and also ended with none small and senior year. I don"t think there"s much to read right into this other than the reality that junior/senior teachers didn"t give out A+"s. (I have a story around that A+ in AP biological below.)

Finally, below were my 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, i m sorry doesn"t exist anymore). This two additionally happened to it is in senior-year classes, meaning I was most likely hit through senioritis.

I recognize a perfect 4.0 record prefer this can be intimidating if you feel you"re not on track to replicating it. It shouldn"t be. Again, a 4.0 isn"t important for even top colleges prefer Harvard and also Stanford. You can take fifty percent the variety of these AP courses and still gain into an Ivy league school. I understand this because of my large experience with students and also from see a lot of resumes native Ivy league applicants when hiring for my company.

But I want a 4.0, for this reason I operated for it, and also I got it.

This ambition led to some stressful situations wherein i was deathly afraid of obtaining an A-, especially when the teacher"s grading was incomprehensible. I know this deserve to sound obsessive, and, as I"ll mention below, i recommend most students protect against feeling this obsessive. But I"m just being honest and reporting my very own experience for your benefit.

This guide consists of every necessary strategy I provided to maintain a perfect 4.0 GPA v a tough course load. ns strongly imply you check out through this entire guide. In ~ the very least, if you currently have a hard foundation, you"ll pick up some tips that might improve her coursework.

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

If you desire a 4.0, your transcript will have to look prefer this.

Important Disclaimers

Before we begin, I require to obtain a few things the end of the way. Bear through me due to the fact that I"m going come anticipate usual objections you could have that can impact how you analyze my advice.

If you"re looking for shortcuts or the academic equivalent that a "get rich quick" scheme, friend won"t discover it here. i won"t sugarcoat it—taking an advanced course load and also getting an excellent grades will certainly take a lot of of hard work. I don"t know any kind of legitimate tricks that space going to acquire you the same results while reducing her workload through 90%, and I"d be suspicious of anyone that promised such secrets.

But that is an important that you perform the following:

Develop the perspective and an inspiration to job-related hardSpend your restricted time as effectively as possible to obtain the finest results

That"s what this guide is about.

I"m a an extremely straightforward person, and I speak mine mind. This method that some advice might rub friend the not correct way. If that"s the case, shot to emphasis on the bigger photo and ~ above the advice you execute like. Ns don"t desire you to throw the infant out v the bathwater just since you think I"m a jerk. My focus is on help you execute better, and also one of the finest ways is come share my experience honestly, warts and all.

I did undoubtedly go through a most stress in high school and put in a ton of effort. I think i was obsessive about achievement and have a high volume for mental pain, and I happen to love working hard. Ns don"t think it"s optimal for many students to perform what ns did and also feel what i felt, and also I"ll explicitly point this the end at places. So just since I describe my suffer doesn"t mean I always condone it because that everyone.

If you"re aiming because that a 4.0 GPA, I"m guessing you likewise want to gain into optimal schools in the country, for this reason I"ll orient this overview toward both goals. That said, I want to stress that a 4.0 is not required to get into optimal schools like Harvard and Princeton. You execute not need perfect grades and test scores to gain into the Ivy League. In fact, the mean unweighted self-reported GPA of just arrived students in ~ Harvard is 3.95. Thus, a 4.0 is really no that various from a 3.9 indigenous the eyes of the college.

Do no freak out if you have high college goals and also don"t currently have a perfect GPA. It"s nowhere close to the finish of the world. Ns explain more about why in my overview to gaining into Harvard.

The 4.0 number is no all you should aim for—the rigor of your coursework renders a huge difference (this is where the concept of the load GPA come in). Ideally, you"ll take challenging courses and excel in them. However if you need to make a tradeoff, I"d lean towards the more challenging courses; a letter grade of a B in an AP class is much better than an A in a consistent class.


Despite the title of this guide, the principles are extensively applicable to GPAs in all ranges. also if you"re not aiming strictly for a 4.0, using the advice here will obtain you closer to a 3.8 GPA or a 3.0 GPA or wherever you"re aiming. You can use every the strategies right here to enhance your grades and raise your GPA. This is geared towards high college students, however for readers at this time in college, the concepts use equally come you and also often even an ext so because you don"t have as lot parental framework over her work.

This guide targets high-achieving student who desire to target for academic success and also push us to it is in better. As weird together it sounds, this is not the stance everyone have to take. Yes, ns know how stressed the end students room these days about getting into college. No, ns don"t think everyone need to feel as though they need to obtain into Stanford. Everyone has actually different scholastic goals, and also this guide isn"t because that everyone.

I don"t think everyone must aim for the toughest food load and perfect grades. Not sufficient students and families do decisions for personal happiness and are in a state of constant stress, particularly if they constantly feel as if they"re not doing enough. This can have poor long-term consequences. (In fact, using the advice listed below should actually make your scholastic life easier because you"re spending your time an ext effectively.)

That said, I do think there are large benefits to academic success. Not only does it command to apparent benefits like far better colleges and also more lucrative careers, but it also trains fundamental skills that are applicable to improving the remainder of your life.

When I was in high school, i knew I wanted to obtain into a peak school choose Harvard, and also I knew ns was ready to endure the sacrifices and also pain to get there. Ns cared deeply about my scholastic success and also I constantly moved myself to obtain better. If this sounds prefer you and also you honestly want to acquire a 4.0 for great reasons, climate you"ll vibe strongly with my advice.

Yes, I recognize there are various other things in life the are more important than gaining into the finest college. However I also know it"s a valuable goal for countless of you, therefore I"m orienting this guide toward that. Once you hear me say, "Do this to improve your college application," you must read this as, "Do this if college admissions is crucial goal come you."

Finally, I co-founded a company called trident-gaming.net. We develop online SAT/ACT prep programs that it is adapted to you and also your strengths and also weaknesses. While you carry out not must buy a full prep program to get a an excellent score, I believe trident-gaming.net is the ideal SAT program easily accessible right now, particularly if you find it hard to organize your prep and also don"t know what to study. In any kind of case, the truth that I run a test-prep firm doesn"t really affect my advice below.

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


What Roles carry out Coursework and also GPA pat in university Admissions?

To understand exactly how colleges think, it"s necessary to put yourself in their shoes. I describe this in more detail in my overview on getting into Harvard and the Ivy League. In short, colleges want to recognize students who are going to change the world.

But exactly how do friend predict who"s walk to adjust the human being when applicants are simply 17-18 year old? By using their past achievement as a predictor that future achievement.

Admissions offices at colleges execute a most research top top what varieties of students lock admit and also how to predict which students room going to be many successful. Often in this studies, high college coursework has one of the the strongest correlations with college grades.

The Dean the Admissions in ~ Harvard has proclaimed the following about the admissions process:

"We have found that the best predictors at Harvard are advanced Placement tests and International Baccalaureate Exams, carefully followed by the college Board subject tests. High school grades are next in predictive power, complied with by the SAT and also ACT."

The Dean that Admissions in ~ Lawrence University, too, has actually commented on the prestige of GPA in college admissions:

"In the bulk of studies, high school grades have the the strongest correlation through college grades. The SAT and also ACT have the following strongest correlation, however this too is not surprising due to the fact that they have actually a strong correlation through high institution grades."

This isn"t very surprising. It takes a many skill and effort to excel through a demanding high college course load. The qualities that carry success in high school—curiosity, motivation, tough work, good planning, time management, manage of your very own psychology—are likely to cause success in both college and your career. These space all qualities I"m going to cover in this guide.

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

Learning is her job. But instead of structure a house, you"re structure your future.

Finally, just to to win a dead horse, here are snippets indigenous admissions offices at top colleges top top the importance of coursework in university applications:


"The high institution transcript is practically always the most important document in a student"s application. However it is hard to develop of a situation in which the appearance (or absence) of any one certain class ~ above a transcript would determine the applicant"s outcome ... As soon as the admissions committee looks at your transcript, it will certainly not emphasis on whether you have actually taken any details course. It will certainly be far much more interested to check out that girlfriend have tested yourself with an overwhelming coursework, and also have done well."


"There is no solitary academic course we mean all students come follow, yet the the strongest applicants take it the most rigorous an additional school curricula available to them. ... Back schools carry out different opportunities, students should pursue the many demanding college-preparatory program available, continual with each student"s readiness for particular fields that study."


"We give the best weight come your scholastic transcript. The rigor the the courses you"ve taken, the quality of her grades and also the consistency with which you"ve worked over four years offer us the clearest indication of how well you will perform at Amherst."

Claremont McKenna

"While there is no minimum GPA requirement, vain candidates for admission seek the most demanding coursework possible and receive solid grades. Us strongly introduce taking benefit of honors and progressed placement coursework when available. Many competitive applicants regularly go beyond the minimum recommended program."

Once again, don"t obtain the wrong idea. "Most rigorous second school curricula" does not average "take every AP course under the sun, at the expense of sleep and also your sanity."

Says Stanford top top this subject,

"The students who prosper at Stanford space those who space genuinely excited about learning, not necessarily those who take every single AP or IB, Honors or increased class just since it has that designation."

In essence, colleges by no way want to encourage unhealthy obsession over racking increase AP courses, specifically if you"re no interested in the material.

However, if you can ace the most progressed course load accessible to friend and construct a solid application, you"re in ~ the level the the ideal colleges space looking for.

Harvard University

What This 4.0 GPA guide Is all About

As I mentioned at the beginning, this is no a guide in which i teach friend actual math or writing content. This is a high-level strategy and also planning guide meant to offer you the ideal mindset and also practices because that achieving academic success.

I see this together the foundation on i beg your pardon you develop your high institution career. Similar to in construction, if you have actually a weak foundation, your building will crumble, no matter just how much effort you put right into it. Develop on a strong foundation, and also you"ll uncover studying far much easier and much more effective.

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I"ve functioned with a most students that see academic success purely together a content-mastery-and-brute-force problem—try hard sufficient to understand the content and put in sufficient hours, and you"ll carry out better. Unfortunately, if they"re finding out the wrong means or security time on ingredient that"s no actually effective, they"ll see quickly that their hard work is being wasted.

Here"s what we"ll covering in large strokes. Every layer builds on the next and we"ll walk from high to low level: