Coming out of high school, you may be used to a grading system where your performance in class results in a letter grade. End of story. Many universities, however, have an additional part of the equation in which your final letter grade has a corresponding number. This number is VERY IMPORTANT because it can affect your graduation status, what programs you can get into after you graduate, and how employers evaluate your success at university. Unfortunately, in First Year, I had only a vague idea of how it worked and what kind of impact it would have. If you’re a little hazy on how GPA works, read on. This is what I wish I’d know in First Year about GPA…
In Alberta (as well as other parts of Canada and North America) we have a 4.0 scale GPA. At the U of L, the highest GPA you can have is a 4.0. At the end of the semester, your professors will give you a final letter grade. Each letter grade has a number attached to it, and the average of all those numbers is your current GPA. Here’s a quick run-down on what each letter grade is worth: A+ and A (4), A- (3.7), B+ (3.3), B (3), B- (2.7), C+ (2.3), C (2), C- (1.7), D+ (1.3), D (1), and F (0).
After your first semester, you can look up your current GPA for yourself. On the U of L website, just go to The Bridge (http://www.uleth.ca/bridge) and log yourself in. Click “Registrar’s Office & Student Services,” then “Student Records,” then “Working Copy Transcript.”
Here are some examples of where GPA really matters. Most graduate schools require their applicants to have a minimum GPA (in my experience it’s often around 3.3). In order to get on the Dean’s Honour List, you need a 3.75. When you’re done your degree, you can graduate “With Distinction” if you get between a 3.5 and 3.74, and “With Great Distinction” if you get higher than 3.75.
I hope that helps! Throughout the year, I intend to write more “What I Wish I’d Known in First Year” posts that should give you a head-start on your post-secondary journey! Stay tuned.
 http://www.uleth.ca/education/sites/education/files/GPA%20chart%202010.pdf, note that the numbers change annually.