Does Your College GPA Matter?

Some students assume that the name on your degree matters more than how you did in school.

This kind of thinking can be dangerous.

Why Does GPA Matter?

For early career applicants, GPA is one of the few indicators companies have for narrowing down hundreds or thousands of applications. A strong GPA is used as an indicator for intellect and discipline so if your GPA is low, companies typically assume that you’re lacking in one or the other.

Many of the top companies have GPA cutoffs around 3.5, although this depends on your school. Ivy League students sometimes get the benefit of the doubt whereas someone from a less prestigious school will need a higher GPA or a special skill(think proven coding abilities) to land an interview.

In addition, a high GPA makes it easier for a hiring manager to justify their decision to other executives if something goes wrong. If a hire with a 3.9 GPA ends up not working out, the hiring manager’s methods will receive less scrutiny than if someone with a 3.1 ends up making the cut and failing. This might not be 100% fair, but it’s how large organizations work.

Should you include GPA on your resume?

As long as you have over a 3.0 you should generally put your GPA on your resume. The definition of a “good” GPA differs depending on your school and major. Some employers will curve your GPA based on these factors. For example Physics and Math are two majors that are notoriously hard to do well in. A 3.3 in these majors look a notch better than a 3.3 in something like economics, political science, or psychology.

How to Work Around a Bad GPA

If it’s too late to fix your college GPA here are some things you can do:

  1. Network Through Your Personal Connections

Sometimes it really can be who you know. If you didn’t earn a high college GPA, I hope it’s because you spent a lot of time making lasting, meaningful relationships with your classmates. This can be especially useful Freshman year since by the time you’re out of school those seniors who introduced you to college life might be in positions with leverage at their respective companies.

Does your low GPA stem from much time at your fraternity or sorority house? Greek institutions can be useful resources for finding employment after graduation. Try and make a good impression with representatives of the National Organization as they are often pretty well connected and might have connections that are looking for talent.

2. Pick Up a Hard Skill

I’ve seen a few individuals with low GPAs resuscitate their careers by picking up a hard skill like coding. This will require some research into the types of skills that are in demand. These days, companies are looking for strong engineers to pair with great communicators.

3. Take a Standardized Test

I’ve seen some students take a standardized test like the LSAT to help offset a low GPA. GPA is used as an indicator for smarts. If your GPA is low, a strong LSAT, GMAT, GRE, or MCAT score can help offset doubts related to your intellectual ceiling.

4. Lower Your Expectations

While this might sound depressing, it can be ok to take a less prestigious position and work your way up. Just make sure that whatever caused your low GPA won’t continue to hamper your success in the new role. Moving quickly through the ranks at a lesser-known company can demonstrate that you’re a better employee than you were a student.

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