Understanding The American GPA in South Africa

February 25, 2021

Studying in the USA can be confusing, daunting, and sometimes scary. This is especially true if you have to convert all your report cards and grades into the American GPA format. What does GPA mean? How it is calculated? How does it compare to the South African high school grading system? It can be difficult to understand GPA in South Africa, as the American system is almost - but not quite - the same as some aspects of the system here.

GPA stands for Grade Point Average. It is similar to the APS scores which are required by some South African Universities, and are displayed on your Matric certificate.

The 4-Point Scale

The GPA has a 4-point scale grading scale, whereas the APS score is calculated on a 7-point scale. When applying to South African universities, only your Grade 11 and Matric results are used to determine your admission. However, when applying to American universities, your entire high school career is included in your GPA calculation on your university application. The difference between the two high school systems is simple. In the USA, high school starts in Grade 9 and consists of 4 years. In South Africa, high school starts in Grade 8 and is 5 years long. Therefore, when converting your South African marks into an American GPA, you only need to include your results from Grades 9 to 12.

GPA Scoring
APS Score

How to calculate your GPA:

  1. Start with your Grade 9 year. Add up all your final subject marks according to the above scale.
  2. Divide that number by how many Grade 9 subjects you took.
  3. Repeat the above steps for your Grade 10 - 12 years.
  4. Add up the 4 totals from Grade 9 - Grade 12.
  5. Divide it by 4 and that is your GPA.​​

This method is per the NCAA guidelines. Although you might find other GPA calculators online, this is the method Aspire Atlantic uses for our student-athletes.

The Importance of GPA When Applying to Universities in the USA

Annual surveys by the National Association for College Admission Counselling (NACAC) show that most admissions officials put a high priority on grades, particularly High School grades. The GPA ranked fourth among important factors considered for university admission. This lies in stark comparison to South Africa, where your high school marks (or GPA) are the biggest factor in admissions decisions.

It is important to note that the GPA does not take the difficulty of a subject into account, but admission officers will consider how difficult your subjects were when reviewing your application. Therefore, you shouldn't stress if your GPA is not what you think it should be. The main attribute universities look for is a steady improvement in your grades over the years, and a consistent effort to improve your scores. Depending on the specific university’s admission requirements and standards, you may be eligible for scholarships to help pay for your tuition if you have a high enough GPA.

The Athletic Association GPA requirements:

As a student-athlete, in order for you to receive full NCAA academic eligibility and be eligible to compete in your freshman year, you must achieve at least a 2.3 GPA in your core courses for Division 1. For Division 2, the standard is a 2.2 GPA for high school to fulfil the NCAA GPA requirements.

For NAIA purposes, you must achieve a minimum overall high school GPA of 2.0 on a 4.0 scale. You can use the same GPA calculator as used in the NCAA guidelines above to calculate your overall GPA.

Bottom Line:

Your GPA is a good indicator of your academic performance over a number of years. Students need to make sure they understand the difference between South African and American university admissions requirements, and start putting in the hard work from Grade 9. A good GPA will definitely increase your chances of getting into a great university. This means that you cannot procrastinate for four years and only start to work hard in Matric. That is a recipe for more than a few unexpected tears. Understanding GPA when applying from South Africa will only help you get into the school of your dreams.

Remember, it's always the perfect time to begin your journey towards studying at the university of your dreams. Sign up here for a free consultation with one of our recruitment experts. You could join over 300 student-athletes already placed in the USA, competing at the highest level and earning a world-class degree!


And receive notifications when we post new videos and articles.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.




Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.


Horizontal Line