We didn't have weighted Grade Point Averages (GPAs) when I was in high school. If we had advanced or honor classes, I don't remember them. The percentage of students from my town who planned to go on to college wasn't particularly high. Perhaps my high school didn't think it was economically defensible to fully support the College Prep track.
It was, therefore, a surprise when Daughter #1 went to a magnet high school offering lots of advanced/honors classes--and her weighted GPA became a thing we had to pay attention to.
The school pushed her to take their "harder" courses. You would think that meant a 4.0+ GPA is important for college admission, right? But it really isn't. Most colleges do not consider weighted GPAs in their admission decisions.
Daughter #1 was stunned when she found this out. She was visiting UNC Chapel Hill for a HS junior weekend. And the admissions counselor clearly stated that UNC did not consider weighted GPAs.
She took 3 advanced classes in her sophomore year, and never took another one. Instead, she completed several dual enrollment classes from the local community college. I had the opportunity to question the admissions counselor at a university she was applying to. When I asked about GPAs, the counselor basically said: Your daughter has great SAT scores and 9 college credits. We don't need to look at anything else.
I am not advocating that students take the easy path. They should always strive to challenge themselves, work hard, and think broadly. But we all need to be realistic about the benefits and trade-offs. Educate yourself about the expectations of the universities you are targeting. If they want an excellent weighted GPA, then pursue one. If they like to see advanced/honors courses on your transcript, take them.
However, your dream college might have an equal interest in seeing that you are well-rounded or that you have a passion that engages you. Maybe it's okay to take 3-D art instead of that advanced biology course. It doesn't make sense to stress yourself out over a GPA that the college you want to attend doesn't care about.
Both of my daughters graduated from our homeschool. I was allowed to give them whatever GPA I wanted. I reported an honest, unweighted GPA on their transcripts. They had good GPAs, but not stellar. And they were admitted to every college they applied to. (Granted, not top tier, but then we didn't want them to go to top tier.)
Bottom line: Know what your targeted colleges expect for GPA, so that your efforts are focused on what's important. If advanced classes or 4.0+ GPAs are essential to admission for those colleges, then that is what you should pursue. If not, consider a more balanced, well-rounded, less-stressful course load in high school.
Other posts in this series: