It’s pretty easy to assume that you’ll get further with a higher grade point average (GPA). In fact, many people, students and graduates alike, probably think that the higher your GPA is, the better off you’ll be — in just about any situation.
While, in some ways, this is certainly true, it isn’t always the case. The truth is the importance of your GPA and its role throughout your career changes over time. It all depends on where you are in your academic career and your goals for when you finish your studies.
But, how much does GPA matter for grad school, exactly? Does grad school GPA matter at all?
Does GPA Matter for Grad School? The Answer is Yes
Your grade point average will matter — but it’s not the be-all and end-all. The importance of your GPA for grad school is a little bit more nuanced than you might think. The further you get into your academic career, the more your grades can lose priority.
Colleges will scrutinize your high school grades down to every minute detail. Grad schools will look closely at your undergrad transcripts to see whether they want to offer you admission. But, depending on your plans post-grad, your grad school GPA may not be as important as you thought. In some cases, your GPA may even be closer to an afterthought.
Of course, you’ll still have to meet the minimum GPA requirements to stay in your program.
Although the main goal of grad school is to help you develop an expert-level understanding of your field, you still have to hit the minimum requirements at your school. Most graduate schools will require you to keep a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) throughout your studies, up one whole point from the 2.0 requirement at undergrad schools. But, as long as you are hitting your minimums consistently, higher GPAs won’t always be the goal — as long as you’re attaining a master’s understanding of your chosen specialty.
Do grad schools care about GPA? Yes. But, that doesn’t mean you need a constant 4.0.
Even then, there are benefits to getting a high grad school GPA every grading period. For example, getting high GPAs can show a few things, such as your reasonable intelligence, work ethic, and interest in the subject matter. These are all attributes that make you a better candidate during the next step in your career.
Needless to say, higher GPAs can help make it easier for people like admissions officers, advisors, mentors, and potential employers to make a decision that involves you.
When Does Your GPA Matter?
We’ve already answered the question, “does graduate school GPA matter?”. Now, we can take a look at how your GPA can affect your graduate studies.
- Showing academic progress – Maintaining your GPA can help show your professors and mentors that you are learning the subject matter.
- Satisfies many requirements, such as for scholarships and financial assistance – If you’re trying to secure scholarships or financial aid one way or another, you’ll find that many of them will ask for your GPA as part of their requirements. Some scholarships have a minimum GPA requirement before you can even apply.
- Qualifying for fellowships – Often, there is a minimum GPA requirement to apply for a fellowship. Graduate and post-graduate students compete for fellowships, which can help cover the cost of tuition, fund other school-related activities and projects, and give students vital real-world experience in their specialty.
Related: Graduate School Scholarships: A Comprehensive Guide
What Can You Do Outside of Getting a High GPA?
Although your grade point average will play a pretty big role in your academic career, there are other ways in which you can show your work ethic and your aptitude. If you’d like to increase your chances of getting into postgraduate study programs or getting hired at your dream company, here are a few things you can do.
- Polish up your resume or curriculum vitae, and start drafting cover letters. As you get closer to graduating, you may want to put together your CV or your resume. Polish it up as best you can, and make sure you include relevant details and experience. You can even start writing drafts of your cover letters to make it easier to adapt them to your needed purpose later on. Your resume/CV and cover letters are important, regardless of whether you plan to look for work or get into post-grad after grad school.
- Finalize your research and gather all the evidence you’ve found. Aside from your GPA, any research work you did will also play a large part in your future career. The research you’ve done can help you become a professor, get into a doctorate program, or get hired for your dream job. As you’re going through grad school, it may be a good idea to keep an organized record of any publications, research collaborations, and presentations you’ve done, as this can help show your body of work.
- Practice your interview skills. One thing is for certain: once you’re done with grad school, you’ll need to go through interviews to either get hired or admitted into post-grad. It’s because of this that you’ll probably want to hone your interview skills ahead of time.
- Get relevant experience. Experience is something that all admissions officers and hiring managers look for in a candidate. If you can get relevant experience during your academic career, you may be better off in the future. Besides relevant experience, getting other certifications through short courses and seminars may also help.
How Your Grad School GPA Can Affect Your Job Search
Once you’re out of grad school and looking for a new job, your GPA may play a part in helping you get hired. Some companies and organizations look at your GPA to determine whether you’re skilled and knowledgeable enough to hire. But, just dropping all your GPAs won’t always work. In fact, mentioning your GPA in your interview or your cover letter might backfire on you.
Here are a few things that might help you when handling your GPA during your job search.
In Your Resume
As you apply for a job, including your GPA is not always a bad idea. However, if the below apply, you may want to avoid mentioning your average (unless it is specifically requested).
- Your GPA is less than 3.5. Represent your GPA with one decimal point, rounded properly. For example, if you have a 3.54, you can say it’s 3.5, while a 3.55 can be presented as a 3.6.
- You have been out of school for over three years. After this amount of time, your GPA may no longer be viewed as relevant by your potential employer.
- You generally don’t need to include your GPA for your undergrad degree.
You may want to offer a bit of context or additional information regarding your GPA. For example, you can share your GPA in your major or after your first year. You can also explain a dip in your GPA, such as being affected by an illness or a loss in the family.
In your resume, you can also mention any other honors and academic achievements.
In Your Cover Letter and Interview
It’s not always necessary to repeat your GPA in your interview or your cover letter. In fact, saying it outright may not be received well by your interviewer or the person reading your cover letter. A better way to handle it is by wording your letters or responses in a certain way, such as: “During my studies at ABC university, I’ve learned many qualities that have helped me become a strong student capable of XYZ. These are the qualities I can bring to your company.”
So, is GPA important for grad school? We’ve established that in many ways, it is. You’ll have to worry enough about your GPA to at least meet your school’s minimum requirements for you to stay in the program. Your grade point average is also very important if you want to apply for scholarships and fellowships that can help you not only pay for (part or all of) your grad school.
At the same time, you may want to keep your field in mind. If you’re in the arts and humanities, your GPA may not be under as much scrutiny as someone studying law or business.
It’s a good idea to remember that your GPA will play a role in your future, whether it’s for your admission to postgraduate studies or your future employment. But, in the end, a number is a number, and many other things you do during your academic career will also matter.
Related: How to Ace Your Graduate School Interview: Top Questions to Ask
Chriselle has been a passionate writer for over 10 years, but she's a geek at heart. When she isn't busy writing, she spends her time streaming video games and learning new skills.