The comments came fast and furious yesterday as I expected after the GPA post, but they were surprisingly less vitriolic than they’ve been in the past. That must be Counselor Buddy’s soothing effect on you.
You brought up a lot more varied questions on the GPA topic, so I’m taking today to answer some of those specific concerns that you guys had. Great feedback, thank you! Here’s what some of you had to say:
I don’t know about this article. I’m a senior at a public university and received most of my funding this year through departmental scholarships. In order to even be eligible for those scholarships I had to have a 3.5 GPA. I also had to have a history of community service, good references, financial need, etc… but just to be considered I had to have a good GPA.
Sure. Listen, definitely do NOT take my earlier articles on GPA to mean that you should blow off your grades entirely and not try to get good ones, and that GPA is as useless as your inseam measurement. That’s not what I mean at all. I simply mean you shouldn’t obsess over your GPA to the point that it obscures your actual educational goal of learning things, acquiring knowledge, etc.
NOW — here’s an important point. Let’s say there’s an automatic scholarship in your state, or your college department, or whatever, for students with a 3.0 average or above. For example, Northern State University here in South Dakota has what’s called the Wolf Pact Scholarship that requires a 3.0 to renew it. If you’re right on the brink of being eligible for that scholarship, to the point where a B or a C would drop you below the threshhold, then no, I would not advise some killer advanced class that you don’t feel you can get an A in.
At all times, you have to look at the big picture. Is the $10,000 (or however much it is) that could you lose by slipping below your renewable-scholarship threshhold GPA worth whatever enrichment a certain course will give you? Eh, probably not. I’m guessing if you’re reading this site right now, then $10,000 is no small matter, and you want to protect that kind of money if you’ve got it coming your way.
But again, let’s get back to what started this whole discussion in the first place. If you’ve got a 3.85 GPA and you want to drop a challenging, advanced class because you might get a C and your GPA might then drop to 3.73 or something like that? That’s just silly.
If you are a pre-med college student, GPA is VERY IMPORTANT to get into medical school. In fact, the first thing that most medical school admissions departments do with an application is see if the student’s GPA (science and overall) and MCAT scores pass their threshold numbers (as well as making sure the student fulfilled all requirements) before moving on to considering other factors like what university the student attended, how difficult were the courses he took, what the student actually did outside of the classroom (like research, leadership roles, volunteering, jobs, etc.), and carry a certain weight with you into the interview and when the admission’s committee makes their decision. In addition, there are many scholarships for medical school based simply on gpa and maybe an essay requirement, but if the student does not have the GPA, then that opportunity is gone.
Yes, as I mentioned yesterday, graduate school is a different animal. If you’re going to grad school of any kind — any master’s or Ph.D program, MBA, med school, law school, dentistry school, etc. — then GPA is much more important than it is to students who are out the door into the job world once they graduate. I’ll say what I always say — GPA, for the most part, measures your ability to do homework, write papers and take tests. If there’s more of that in your future (e.g., grad school), then GPA’s going to matter more. If you’re looking for a paying job that involves no test-taking, paper-writing or textbook-reading, then GPA doesn’t mean much on its own.
I graduated from high school with a 2.8 GPA having gone through a very rigorous magnet curriculum. Went into college with 48 transfer credits and the opportunity to graduate in two years. I was denied by my first choice–fair enough, a 2.8 isn’t great–and went instead to my second choice. The difficult high school courses prepared me very well for college, where I found it much easier to get a high GPA (3.5+) than I had in HS.
Wow, 48 transfer credits and graduating in two years? Yeah, I’d say that’s rigorous. Too rigorous for most people’s blood, that’s for sure. Yeah, that’s an outstanding achievement, and I’m sure the difficulty of those courses — and taking so many of them at once that you graduated in two years — made college seem like a piece of cake. Well done!
I strongly disagree with the “go for the hard courses and take a hit on the GPA”, to get into college. I have a daughter who don’t test very well…but she’s a brilliant student. Because she took all honor courses during the crucial time during High School (junior year), her GPA took a really hard hit…”challenging courses”.
I don’t know your daughter personally, of course, so I’m having to speak generally here. But it sounds like the best move for her would be to work on improving her test-taking abilities, not to take a big step down in the rigor of her coursework to accommodate her test-taking weakness. College grades are going to come from tests just like high school grades have, and if she really is brilliant, then some improvement in her test-taking skills will allow her to put that intelligence on display via strong testing and the resultant good grades that come from it.
Which made it impossible to get scholarships for college and she was not able to get into the College of her choice, although she’s there now. She transferred after a years at another college. She’s quite an accomplished student, she’s a member of the Honor society at her present school.
Great! You know, you brought up another point that I haven’t yet thought to write about, and that’s the phenomenon of getting rejected by one’s chosen school straight out of high school, then transferring into that school a year or so later. I think this is one of the easiest yet most hidden ways to get to the school you want.
Sometimes you get rejected from your chosen school. Shit happens. Sometimes it’s your fault, sometimes it’s not. BUT…lots of states have policies where they take just about any transfer student from other state institutions, as long as the student’s GPA is over a 2.0 or 2.5 or something like that. So, even if you’re rejected by the school you want, lots of times you can just go to a school in the same system (or even state) that DID accept you, keep a minimal GPA, then after a year passes, transfer into the school you wanted to go to in the first place.
And it’s not just intra-state transfers that work that way — it’s a lot of schools. I mean, Harvard probably isn’t going to accept your cooking-class credits at Palookaville Community College toward a baccalaureate degree. But otherwise, generally speaking, credits transfer between institutions without a ton of hassle.
Yes, there are exceptions for specialized classes and the game definitely changes once you’re into upper-level coursework, but at the lower levels, it’s still relatively easy to transfer from one school to another. You see, as a freshman, if State U. rejects you, they’ve only pissed you off. Big deal, they don’t care. But if you go to another school for a year and they stopped you from transferring in, then they’d be pissing off an entire other college or university, and the governments and endowments that fund it. They’re a lot less likely to do that under normal circumstances.
So keep that in mind if at first you don’t succeed. Lots of times you can just walk around and go in the back door.
I wish I could agree that no one outside of school cares about GPA… but I have been to an interview that specifically asked for my college transcript to see my strengths and weaknesses. And I still think it is good to have your GPA as high as possible for if you ever do decide to go back to school. Most grad programs only admit students with a 3.0 and above.
I’m not sure what industry you were interviewing in, but that’s definitely a first for me — hearing of a potential employer wanting to see a college transcript. Was it an intern who was interviewing you? Without any other evidence or details of the situation, I’ll make the assumption that he was a lousy hiring manager.
And it’s true, grad-school cutoff is usually around 3.0. Grad schools figure that if you can’t break a 3.0 in undergrad school, then you’re probably going to fail out of grad school. I don’t really blame them for that. They’re going to be wrong sometimes, sure, but overall it seems like decent logic.
I never wanted to go to grad school and therefore enjoyed a heavy workload, worked part time on campus, joined a community service co-ed fraternity, and graduated from UC Davis in 3 years with a B.S. in Biology. Now I regret everything because I’m stuck not knowing what I want to do with my life and wishing that I took the time to do that in college.
Well, don’t beat yourself up over not knowing what you want to do with your life. I’m 36 and I still don’t really know. Lots of people older than I am are still trying to figure it out. Even though society has changed a lot in the last few decades, it still asks too much of young people in this area — knowing “what you want to be when you grow up.” It’s an evolving thing. I wrote about it last week in a blog post called “Everyone’s On Plan C” if you want to read it.
Terry’s back, and writes:
We had an admissions counselor from the Big Ten school in our community come and talk to parents. Sure enough, a parent asked the proverbial question, “Is it better for my student to take an AP class and not get an A or a regular class and get the better grade?” His answer was, “Take the AP class or most rigorous classes offered…and get an A!”
Perfect answer! 🙂
Obviously this didn’t quite directly answer the question, but reading between the lines the answer is there. You need to challenge yourself. An admissions counselor is going to look at your coursework, along with your GPA, volunteer work, participation in school activities, etc. They want to see a complete, well-rounded person.
Perfectly said. I have nothing to add!
GPA isn’t that important today. If you plan to go into grad school you need research experience to market yourself or you’re basically screwed.
Well, I wouldn’t go that far, although you may be referring to a specific field that I’m not aware of. Although that gives me an idea for a post that I’d like your feedback on.
As a guy who’s played just about every role that can be played in these discussions: undergrad student, grad student, job-seeker and now employer — I can now say with certainty that what employers look for in a job applicant isn’t really that complicated.
In fact, I think I can nail it down to four qualities that I look for, and that you should display if you want to get a job in this tough economy. Anybody interested in reading a post like that? If so, leave a comment below and let me know, and I’ll do it Thursday or Friday.
Second question: Is there anyone reading these posts who is a native speaker of a different language AND would like to translate them into your native language? I would love to add versions of the posts in other languages so that students who don’t speak English can learn them. There’s no pay involved, but you could translate them at your chosen pace and get yourself an easy resume entry and recommendation/reference from me if you do some of them. If you’re interested, email me at judgejosh (@) outlawstudent.com .
Thanks everyone — have a great rest of the week!