by Catharine Aradi

One of the most common problems parents and players face during the recruiting process is how to understand a high school transcript.   This isn’t surprising.  It's easy to be confused by all the different ways a transcript can be interpreted.  But it is also 
very important that you know and understand your grades.  To help keep players and parents on top of the academic component of the recruiting game, here’s a quick guide to some of the different transcript terms you might hear.

Grade Point Average (GPA)   There are different GPA’s relative to recruiting.  But a basic GPA is calculated by adding up the point value of the classes concerned and dividing that total by the number of those classes.  At most schools, an A = 4 points, a B = 3 points, a C = 2 points, a D = 1 point, and an F = 0.  

Cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA)      This GPA is calculated by totaling the point value of each grade in every class you’ve taken in high school and dividing by the total number.  This is your overall high school GPA.   For example, if you have 30 classes on your transcript, and you got a B in 15 of them and an A in 15 of them, your cumulative GPA would be a 3.5.  (3x15 + 4x15= 105 divided by 30=3.5)

Semester Grade Point Average (GPA)     This average refers just to the classes you’ve taken just this semester (or grading period).  Report cards sent home to parents will usually list only the semester’s classes.  So, if you took six classes this semester and got 4 B’s and 2 C’s, your semester GPA would be 2.67.  (3x4 + 2x2=16 divided by 6=2.67)  (Note: if you’re on the trimester system, the process would be the same.)

College Prep or Academic Grade Point Average (GPA)     Most high schools will identify their courses that count as college prep classes.  These are classes all students must take to be eligible to attend college.  Generally, high schools in a given state will base their college prep classes on those required by that state's public universities.  But your high school may also offer classes that are not considered college prep.  Maybe you’ve taken a class in auto shop or business mathematics.  If these were not considered college prep classes, they would not count towards your college prep requirements, nor would their grades be factored into your college prep GPA.

NCAA CORE Grade Point Average (GPA)       The NCAA Div. I and II require college-bound athletes to take 16 specific classes to be eligible to compete at a Div. I or Div. II school.  (See my book or go to the NCAA’s Eligibility Center website for details.)

Note: Virtually all NCAA CORE classes will be College Prep classes, but not all College Prep classes will meet NCAA CORE class requirements. 

You can “guestimate” your NCAA CORE GPA by looking at your college prep GPA, but the two won't always be identical.  To figure out your NCAA CORE GPA, find out from your high school which classes meet NCAA CORE course requirements.  Once you know what these classes are, you can figure out your NCAA CORE GPA by adding up the grade point values and dividing by the total of those classes only.

There are other factors that can play into your grade point average, including pass/fail classes (for which the NCAA assumes the lowest point value) or honors or advanced placement classes that might have weighted values at your high school. 

(If you want to figure a weighted GPA, you can add one point value to a grade.  So, an A in an honors or AP class would equal 5 points; a B would be worth 4 points; and a C would be worth 3 points.  However, teachers don't like to give C's in AP/Honors classes because they will generally believe the student probably shouldn't be taking the AP class if she’s going to have to work very hard just to get a C.  When figuring a weighted GPA, if you got a B+ for example, I would count that as a 4.5 rather than the regular 3.5 it would normally be assessed at.)

It’s also important to keep in mind that colleges have different admissions standards. One might require three years of science, while another might require only two years of science as long as one is a lab science.  One college might require an art or music elective; another might not.  

What is critical for your college search is that you have accurate information to give to coaches.  You need to know both your cumulative and your NCAA CORE GPA’s. (You can visit the NCAA high school portal to determine your exact CORE GPA.)

Give that information to your travel and high school coaches as well.  When evaluating a prospect, one of the first things a coach will want to know is whether you are academically eligible and whether you’ve got the grades to get into his or her college.  And nothing is more frustrating to a college coach than to discover that a prospect he or she really likes actually has a GPA of 2.5 rather than the 3.4 listed on the player or the team’s informational handout.

Finally, if there is anything you don’t understand about your grades, calculating GPA’s, etc., talk to your high school counselor, the NCAA directly or any college admissions office.   Make sure you have your numbers and letters lined up correctly so you’re ready for any and all coaches!