Grades and GPA: Which One Matters More?

Is that class you’re struggling to pass worth all of the stress? Do you find yourself worrying about getting into graduate school or getting hired because of your “not-so-hot” GPA? Students often wonder what matters more to future employers: stellar grades or a high GPA? Well, depending on what path you choose to take after you complete your degree program, the answer can vary.

Certain industries prefer high GPAs because it serves as a performance indicator for them; maintaining a high GPA within a rigorous academic program shows an employer that you are able to continuously strive for success in high-stress environments. This is particularly the case in the finance and consulting industries, which often require employees to work very long hours. Some top-level graduate programs use GPAs (along with test scores) as a cut-off factor for prospective students.  This is particularly the case for doctoral, law, and medical programs.

However, some employers don’t really care about your cumulative GPA. Instead, they use grades to determine what subjects you excelled in, and to discover what topics interest you. Employers are better able to get a sense of your decision-making and thinking process by using grades to assess what you’re passionate about. Additionally, many employers and higher education institutions often factor in a student’s background, extracurricular activities, community involvement, and achievements to get a better sense of who they are.

Here’s what some leading publications shared on the matter: 

From Forbes: Do Employers Really Care About Your College Grades?

  • “New York University, Brandeis, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Purdue all agree: Employers do care about grades.”


  • “To be sure, many small employers won’t expect to see a GPA on a résumé, but most large companies will.”


  • “According to a survey of more than 200 employers conducted… by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 67% of companies said they screened candidates by their GPA.”


  • “I absolutely expect to see a GPA on a résumé…. Grades certainly do matter when we’re recruiting students” – Dan Black, the Director of Recruiting at Ernst & Young


  • “A GPA over 3.0, I recommend including on a résumé.” - Trudy Steinfeld, Head of Career Services at NYU


From Business Week: Do Grades Matter to MBA Employers? Yes and No

  • “Generally we don’t look at GPAs… It’s just one data point”- Erwin Chan, an MBA recruiter at Microsoft.


  • “Most business school administrators and recruiters say that consulting firms and investment banks are among the few to ask about grades. But even they say that grades won’t make or break an applicant.”


  • “GPA is one component that we’re looking at…If we don’t have GPA, we can glean from the résumé the kind of involvement the student has on campus.” -Chris Franck, Recruiting Leader for Deloitte Consulting


  • “General Electric recruiters want to see a minimum GPA threshold of 3.0” - Chris Thomas, global recruiting director at GE

As you can see, thoughts on the matter are very mixed. The best way to decide which factor may be more important for you is to research grade and GPA policies for prospective employers and institutions. Talk to admissions officers and employees of companies that you would like to be hired at; they can specifically offer constructive insight on your fit with the company based on your interests and overall profile. If you are particularly concerned about your academic performance, we recommend that you read these tips on how to boost your grades and GPA.

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