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Does your GPA really matter?

CareerBuilder | September 24, 2007

Every teacher tells you grades are important, but how can they impact your career later in life?

Studies have shown college graduates earn up to 75 percent more than people with just a high school diploma. So students earn good grades, study for the SATs and rack up an impressive list of extracurriculars in their quest for that oh-so-important acceptance letter. But now that you're in, can you relax? Just how important are your college grades to future employers? Are those long hours at the library and those all-night study sessions really worth it?

Where it really counts
Keeping your grade point average (GPA) up can be vital to your academic success. Slacking off could land you on academic probation, or the university could yank your scholarship. Plus, according to the U.S. News and World Report, maintaining a high GPA is crucial to those who dream of attending top graduate schools like Harvard medical school (3.8 average GPA), Yale law (3.9) or Stanford business school (3.6).

The realities of the job market
Thankfully though, most employers don't enforce these same academic standards on their applicants. All other factors being equal, an employer is more likely to choose the candidate with stellar grades, but that doesn't mean a so-so student can't land a competitive job with a prestigious company. According to a study by the Black Collegian, almost half (46 percent) of employers did not expect to impose any minimum GPA requirements on applicants in 2000. Of the remaining companies, just 38 percent required a GPA greater than 3.0. Employers understand that students have different circumstances. Employers do take a university's reputation into consideration, but they also understand working to pay your way through school, extracurricular involvement and extenuating circumstances can lower your academic marks. Having relevant experience like internships is key to getting ahead in today's cutthroat job market. Luckily, a superior GPA from a top-ranked university isn't required to get an internship, according to the Princeton Review. Internship coordinators look for candidates with a go-getter attitude, something that can be expressed in a cover letter and interview - not a resume or transcript.

Don't be deceptive
Despite the fact that employers may not automatically cut you for your low grades, leaving it off of your resume completely may do you more harm than good. If you're a new grad and leave your GPA off your resume, you might find employers warily wondering how terrible your grades really are. One career adviser even said if there's no GPA on a resume, he automatically assumes it's under a 3.0. And it should go without saying that you should never lie and tell an employer you have better grades than you really do.

Resume remedies for mediocre students
If your GPA falls below your dream employer's minimum standards, you do have options. Again, leaving the figure out isn't wise, but you should emphasize your academic strengths as much as possible. Luckily, some business schools and other graduate programs pay closer attention to the grades you earned during your junior and senior years than to your overall transcript. This can really help out people who are struggling to raise their averages after a rough transition into college life. Another option is to list your major GPA, or your average grades for only the classes taken in your major. offers these tips for choosing which GPA to include: If your major GPA is higher than a 3.0, and your overall grades fall below that cutoff, only list your major average. If both averages are higher than a 3.0 and your major GPA is at least three tenths of a point higher than your overall average, feel free to list both. Always round to the nearest tenth of point. And remember what President George W. Bush told a group of graduates in 2001: "To all the C-students, I say, you too can be president of the United States."

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