Understanding GPAs – How averages are calculated (and how they can affect students’ futures)

“What do I need to pass this class?”

Every professor has probably been asked that question at some point during a semester. And we’ve all seen those students breathe a sigh of relief when informed that, for most diploma and BBA courses, 50 percent is a passing grade. 

But what many don’t consider is that even a bare pass can still impact a student’s grade point average (GPA), possibly preventing them from moving on to the next milestone in their learning journey.

GPAs are weighted calculations based on grades received and the credit values of courses. They are calculated every semester. There are two in particular that students should monitor:

  • Program Term GPAs: the average of all courses taken within a program for a given term
  • Program Cumulative GPAs: the average of all courses taken within a program for all terms

Let’s look at two scenarios to illustrate the kinds of trouble in which students may find themselves.

Scenario One – Academic Probation

Harpinder earned a 62 percent in your BBA class and similar grades in other classes. At the end of the semester, his Program Term GPA is 2.1. Harpinder is now on Academic Probation and warned that his grades must improve in the next semester. If Harpinder doesn’t heed the warning and earns a Program Term GPA of less than 2.5 in the next semester, his status changes to Academic Suspension, meaning he cannot take BBA classes for the next two semesters.

Scenario Two – Why 50 sometimes isn’t enough

Monika earned a 55 percent in a diploma class. Her grades in other courses are similarly low. Monika paid attention to the emails about Academic Probation and has been working on improving her marks. Although her grades have not been low enough to warrant an Academic Suspension, she finishes all 24 courses with a Program Cumulative GPA of 1.9. Even though she has passed all her classes, Monika will still not be awarded her diploma. That’s because diploma students must have a Program Cumulative GPA of 2.0 (or an approximate 60 percent average across all courses) to graduate. BBA students must have a Program Cumulative GPA of 2.5 to graduate. That’s an approximate 65 percent average across all courses.

GPA is not just a simple average of percentages. When discussing grades with students, please point them towards this resource: https://myotr.sheridancollege.ca/grading_systems.html. And towards Student Advisement: https://central.sheridancollege.ca/student-advisement for assistance with GPA calculations and understanding Academic Probation.

What can PSB do to help students avoid GPA troubles?

The first intervention starts with faculty. When you hand out that 50 percent grade to a student, consider discussing GPA with them. The Office of the Registrar has compiled some GPA information at https://myotr.sheridancollege.ca/grading_systems.html.

The second intervention will be piloted this Spring by the First-Year Experience team. The program is called Stay on Track and its goals are to help students better understand academic probation, retain students at risk of suspension and strengthen partnership between PSB and students.

The initial targets of Stay on Track are students in the Business diploma program or the BBA programs who are moving into the second semester, but who earned a status of Academic Probation in the first semester. These students will be directed to:

  • Join a Stay on Track virtual community (diploma and BBA versions);
  • Complete interactive content modules to understand, reflect, connect and make a change to their Academic Probation status;
  • Identify key academic, career, personal, financial challenges; 
  • Customize a Stay on Track plan that links challenges with specific Sheridan supports;
  • Set due dates for completion of Sheridan resources and engagement with Sheridan supports; 
  • Meet with their Embedded Student Advisor to review and augment their customized plans;

The First-Year Experience team will closely monitor participation rates and grade achievement of all participants. We’ll report back in the Fall semester.

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