Let’s Talk Numbers: Does Your GPA Actually Matter to Employers?

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Grads who have recently braved the hiring process have found that regardless of if an employer asks for your GPA or not, the focus was primarily on their prior experience. Now that college students are expected to be involved in a host of activities and also have relevant internships, it seems like it was much easier in the past to leave college without experience and get someone to trust that you could do a job based on your GPA.

“I never really focused on my GPA. I wasn’t flunking out of school, but I found that focusing on learning the skills I needed for what I wanted to do was more productive for me,” recent graduate of SUNY Albany Kiefer Campbell said. Recent college students are feeling a shift to prioritize experience over anything.

“Our company uses GPA to gauge where a student is in their academic career,” says Maria Dunn, director of people and culture at Baked by Melissa. “We don’t necessarily have an official scale, but when you look at a student’s GPA and their field of study, you can automatically assume something about them.” These assumptions include whether the student is dedicated and if he/she can ask for help when help is needed. Still Dunn, who has seen someone with a GPA close to 2 get hired, states that GPA is a part of a cocktail of smaller factors in the hiring process.

Letter and Sciences Career advisor at UW-Madison Molly Krochalk had something slightly different to say. “I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the GPA.” She finds that a lot of college students always think about ways to improve their GPA, but don’t necessarily put it on their resumes, regardless of how good it is. “Students are missing the connection between the GPA and employment,” Krochalk continued. While you GPA isn’t everything, it is a part of a larger package of information about you that can appeal to a company. This can often mean that a company will use GPAs to narrow its selection pool. Interviews, experience and many other factors (some arbitrary) will unlimitedly decide who will get the job.

So what exactly does a GPA mean? Adey Assefa, Assistant Director of the Office of Multicultural arts initiatives and Academic Advisor who also hires mentors for students, finds that your GPA says a lot more about you than you’d expect. Though as students we tend to think of our GPA as the cumulative representation of how many times we missed class, procrastinated on an important project or *gasp* how hard we worked, employers may see it in a drastically different way. “In a way, your GPA reflects how good you are at following the rules to get the job done, ” Assefa said. While this may sound a little odd, the implications are very real. Earning a certain grade means you did a list of things: you handed in your assignment in a timely fashion, you completed your task, you presented your completed task in the appropriate form, etc. It shows if you can follow the rules and succeed.

In some fields, your GPA may be indicative of your skill set. If you’re searching for a job that requires you to use calculus frequently as a math major, a low GPA could be a red flag for employers. In most cases, contrary to some collegiate fears, GPA is rarely ever the deciding factor for employment. Employers want to see it, but no one is saying that number should in any way define you. As a part of a larger personal profile, other factors like personality, your ability to multitask (work and go to school) and your communication skills are more important. But still, it can help an employer learn some important base knowledge about.

In the grand scheme of things, your GPA isn’t at all the most important element. For those who have a high GPA (3.5-4.0), it is a great resume booster. But if it falls lower on the spectrum, you can rely on skills and experiences to set you a part from the rest.

Maya is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in Communication Arts and African-American Studies. She’s obsessed with all things Vogue and is unhealthily attached to her home, New York City.

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