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University officials say GPA isn’t a factor in job search

By , Reporter  |  Sunday, April 7, 2013 10:14 PM
Infographic by Creative Designer Jane Lee

Infographic by Creative Designer Jane Lee

Although it may be stressful for college students, university professionals said grade point average alone isn’t necessarily the answer to landing a job or summer internship.

Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Studies Michael Jordan said the particular importance will depend on each student’s plans.

“In employment, I would guess that (GPA) must vary depending on the particular kind of employment,” Jordan said. “For instance, if a student is applying to graduate or professional school after St. Thomas, it is very likely that the grade point average will carry some weight.”

Freshman Morgan Alexander also thinks GPA importance varies according to circumstance.

“I think GPA is important if you want to go to graduate school because they want to see that you did well. It’s not so much what you major in that matters,” Alexander said. “It’s more like if you were successful at it, and that shows also your interest level in it.”

Diane Crist, Career Development Center director, said the importance of a GPA is hard to judge because job fields and employer preference isn’t always concrete.

“I think in many fields it isn’t a real critical factor. I think employers want to hire the best person for the job and that isn’t always defined by GPA,” Crist said. “Sometimes it depends on internship experience, sometimes it depends on personality, or just specific skills.”

Senior Kristen Olson said GPA is important, but it does not necessarily outweigh levels of experience.

“I mean getting my first jobs, I definitely put my GPA on my resume, but I think it’s a lot of experience, too, is what most employers are looking for right now,” Olson said, “and not necessarily what grades you get.”

Jordan argued that GPA becomes less important once a person moves beyond their first job because his or her performance in the job market is a more direct measure of achievement. He also said GPA does not directly and inevitably correlate to success.

“It’s quite famous that there are very high achieving people in various walks of life who, it is known, did not flourish in college,” Jordan said.

Sophomore Kathleen Connolly said the more internship experience students have when they graduate outweighs GPA.

“I think it (GPA) is important to a certain degree, like if you have lower than a 2.5 that means you really didn’t try,” Connolly said. “I think experience is worth more.”

Jordan said GPA is a convenient way of assessing a large body of students at St. Thomas.

“If all I really had to say about a student after working with a student for a semester was to utter a single couple of syllables ‘B plus,’ I would be a rather inarticulate and poor judge of the students,” Jordan said.

Crist said anything above a 3.0 GPA is the most common benchmark for employers on a resume, but she warned that it may not always be safe to think of it as any kind of guarantee.

“If you do networking and get to know people, they’re probably going to be more willing to get to know you and understand your skills as an individual,” Crist said. “Whereas if you are applying all online and filling in job applications, GPA is a really easy screener.”

Jordan said students should take responsibility of their academic success, but taking ownership of one’s own learning experience is the most beneficial.

“Ultimately, I think that’s going to carry much more persuasive force in all areas of life than the record of academic achievement that exists in a letter grade,” Jordan said.

Crist’s advice for students is to do their homework, network and practice self-reflection.

“You need to kind of know who you are when you go out in the world of work. You need to know how you fit and what you’ve got to bring to the world of work,” Crist said. “Students need to do their own homework on GPA and about the fields they are going to go into.”

Zach Zumbusch can be reached at zumb8499@stthomas.edu.

This item was posted in News and has 1 comment so far.

1 Comment

  1. Renee Buhr
    Apr. 8, 2013 10:14 AM

    I read this article with great interest, since a key part of my job as a faculty member is to advise students on academic and career goals. I would like to add in some advice, though, from my own experience and that of my former students.
    I think that the article makes some useful points that undergraduate students should consider. It is true that experience (paid or unpaid, locally or abroad) has become more important to job applicants and interviewers than it was in the past, and getting one’s “dream job” often comes after one has gained a good amount of real world experience. Extracurricular activities are also important in so far as they provide useful skills or knowledge (not as an end in and of themselves – the student needs to know how to convey the skills/knowledge they gained in the extracurriculars to an employer.) That being said, this article pushes the message that “GPA doesn’t matter” too far. A strong GPA, combined with experience, is going to give a student the best chance to succeed in the job market. While a less-than-3.5 GPA does not necessarily prevent someone from succeeding, a higher GPA is still going to open more doors to a job candidate. This is particularly the case in fields of work that now require a Masters degree in order to rise through the ranks of a company or organization (most fields now do), which means that grad school admissions, and their focus on GPA, becomes relevant to many students in pursuing their career goals. My…

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