What does a high GPA tell you about a prospective candidate for a job? Some employers might consider a high GPA to be an indicator of a hard-working, intelligent candidate that excelled in their studies. While that thinking isn’t incorrect, employers should be wary of grade inflation when placing a heavy importance on grade point average during candidate evaluation as it can create an uneven playing field when comparing students across universities. Grade inflation occurs when institutions award students with higher grades than they might deserve, increasing the overall average grade received. That makes it more difficult to compare students from different universities on GPA alone – is a 3.9 GPA at a school with known grade inflation really better than a 3.7 GPA at a university without?
In May 2018, we explored this topic further when we published an article on the “Top 15 Universities With The Highest Average GPAs,” which included the composite data of tens of thousands of students on our platform and their self-reported GPAs. After another academic year, we decided to analyze the data from our platform once again and publish a new edition of the top universities with the highest average GPAs.
Similar to last year’s report, certain Ivy League schools remain the worst offenders of grade inflation – 4 out of the 5 universities with the top 5 average GPAs are Ivy League universities. Here are the universities that made it into the top 5:
Note: MIT students have an average GPA of 4.3, but are graded on a 5 point grading scale. Conversion to a 4 point grading scale makes the average GPA of MIT students lower than the following GPAs.
1. Brown University – 3.71
Brown University – which is known for its relaxed grading system – once again takes the top spot with an average GPA of 3.71. As reported last year, Brown’s grading system does not record failing grades and there’s no such grade as a “D”, leaving A’s, B’s, and C’s as the only grading option for students. According to Brown’s website, the de-emphasis on grades is intentional, and was implemented to encourage students to explore the academic curriculum widely.
2. Stanford University – 3.66
Similar to our 2018 report, Stanford ranks as No. 2 on our list with its average GPA of 3.66. The grading system remains unchanged from the previous year, which notably, gives students a shot at a 4.3 GPA if they receive an A+ in a class.
3. Harvard University – 3.64
Following closely behind Stanford University, the self-reported average GPA at Harvard University is 3.64, or hovering around A-. It seems that not much has changed since 2015, when a survey of graduating seniors published in the Harvard Crimson reported the average GPA at 3.64. That same survey found that, despite the frequency of high GPAs, 72% of students surveyed didn’t think grade inflation at Harvard was much of a problem at all.
4. Yale University – 3.62
According to a 2017 Yale News article, 92% of Yale faculty believe there is grade inflation at Yale. The article also points out that while Yale does not publicly release GPA data, Yale News estimated that around 30% of students graduated with an A- GPA or above based on the percentage of students that graduated Cum Laude. With an average GPA of 3.62 reported by the Yale students that use our platform, that sounds about right.
5. Columbia University – 3.59
Similar to Stanford University, an A+ at Columbia University gives students a 4.33 GPA, according to the grading policy listed on the university’s website. With Columbia University’s average GPA as a 3.59 for undergraduate students, the Ivy League made it into our top 5 despite steps taken by the university to address the high concentration of students that receive A’s.
With Ivy League universities making up 4 of the 5 universities with the highest average GPAs, it’s clear there’s an issue with grade inflation among some of America’s most elite institutions. The only Ivy League absent from our full top 20 list is Princeton University, which once had concrete policies in place to prevent grade inflation. Whether or not you use GPA as a way of evaluating entry-level candidates, it’s important to understand that every university has a different way of grading, and not all GPAs are created equal. Evaluating candidates holistically – think experience, skills, university AND GPA – will garner a better set of candidates than screening on GPA alone.
See the rest of the top 20 universities with the highest average GPAs below:
6. Vanderbilt University – 3.57
7. Duke University – 3.56
7. Baylor University – 3.56
9. Northeastern University – 3.55
10. Dartmouth College – 3.54
10. Barnard College – 3.54
12. Amherst College – 3.53
12. Rice University – 3.53
12. The University of Pennsylvania – 3.53
15. Washington University in St. Louis – 3.52
15. Northwestern University – 3.52
15. Johns Hopkins University – 3.52
18. Stevens Institute of Technology – 3.51
19. Cornell University – 3.5
19. University of Notre Dame – 3.5
Interested in rankings of more top schools? Download our 2019-2020 Campus Recruiting Guide for information on the top public schools, top HBCUs, top HSIs, top women’s colleges and top tribal colleges and universities here.
RippleMatch is an AI-powered recruitment platform that matches early-career candidates with high-quality jobs and internships. When students sign up for our platform, they are prompted to fill out a profile which requests several different points of information, including their GPA. We have over 50,000 active student users from over 500 universities and determine the average GPA of each university based on the composite data from our users at each university.