Is there any Relationship Between Grades and Future Success

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If you don't get good grades, you'll never get a good job. Teachers and parents have been uttering this phrase to their children for eons. The question is, is it true? Do employers really care about a student’s grades? The answer is this: it depends. In some cases, grade point average is a huge factor. In other cases, it is considered, but only in balance with other factors. Finally, in a few circumstances, a high grade point average might be a liability. It is the students’ job to research potential employers and career paths to determine how much importance they should be placing on their GPAs, and how much importance they should be placing on other aspects of their college career. Here are a few guidelines students can use to help predict the importance grades will have on their future success.

When GPA is a Major Consideration

A high college GPA is a good indication that a student has developed several important skills. These include the ability to do research and analyze data, time management skills, critical thinking skills, and contribute to discussions in a valuable way. These skills are highly valued in a number of career fields, including the following:

  • Accounting and Auditing
  • Engineering
  • Field Science
  • Chemistry
  • Medicine
  • Finance
  • Actuarial Science

Essentially, this means that students who wish to pursue a career in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) related field, or in a field that requires crunching numbers and handling a lot of data should make a high GPA their top priority.

Here's one more thing students should consider. Many large companies do set a lower GPA limit (usually 3.5) when recruiting college students. This won't necessarily take a student out of consideration, after all, they are still free to apply on their own. However, it is something that should be kept in mind if a student wants to work for a major corporation.

When GPA is Considered Along With Other Factors

There are several career fields in which employers want to hire recent graduates with decent grades, but also a balance of life experience and soft skills. Let's use an example of two recent college graduates applying for a job as a Special Education Teacher. The first student has an overall GPA of 3.8. This is great, but, unfortunately, the student has done nothing in four years to obtain any experience working with children or educating others. The second student has a flat 3.0 GPA. However, in addition to her GPA, she has worked summers at a camp for disabled children, she completed her student teaching duties in a Special Education environment, and is an active member in a fraternal organization of Special Ed majors. Chances are, the second student is going to be considered the preferable candidate because she has combined a respectable GPA with a lot of career-related experiences. Students who are pursuing careers in Education, Psychotherapy, Interior Design, Purchasing etc. need both hard and soft skills. A GPA is a great indication of hard skills, but it needs to be balanced with internships, employment experience, and extra-curricular activities so that students can demonstrate that they also have soft skills.

Grade Point Average as a Liability?

Believe it or not, in some cases it is possible for a graduate to have a high GPA that is higher than a potential employer might prefer. Consider jobs in sales and direct marketing. Candidates for these positions will need to be outgoing, gregarious, and have an astute ability to read the emotions of others. These skills are developed by way of interaction with others and the development of self-confidence. When an employer comes across an applicant with a very high GPA, s/he may be concerned that the person is too cerebral for the position. In addition to this, many will also be worried that the applicant is looking for a job just to get by until there is an opening in a field that has greater appeal.

None of this is meant to indicate that students who are pursuing such careers should deliberately throw their grades to lower their grade point averages. There are dire consequences that one could face if s/he chooses to go that route. Instead, students should ensure that they are participating in activities that will help them develop interpersonal skills and self-confidence. These could include athletics, student government, and participation in service organizations. The college years are also a good time to get a bit of part time work experience in direct sales. All of this will balance out a GPA that may throw a potential employer off.

In the end, there is no good reason to put forth less than an excellent effort when it comes to school. Nobody's career prospects were ever ruined because they were a straight A student. The key is knowing the expectations potential employers in one's career field are going to have, and making an effort to become as well rounded a student as possible.

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