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To GPA or not to GPA

Students often wonder if they should put their GPA on their resume. Misconceptions abound with college students in regards to the GPA and if it belongs on their resume.

Just how important is your GPA to employers? As the job market tightened up over the last few years, use of the GPA as a screening tool has drastically increased. According to a 2008 Harris poll, 62% of employers required no minimum GPA, while only 31% required a minimum GPA of 3.0 GPA and 11% required a 3.5 GPA or higher. Data for 2011 shows a much different picture. Sixty five percent of employers reported a 3.0 GPA as the minimum cutoff.

If you don’t have the best GPA, this may be cause for concern. However, just because an employer does have a minimum GPA requirement does not mean you can’t land the job.

Here is some quick advice on the age old GPA conundrum:

  • Know your GPA. Not a ballpark. Not a guesstimate. Know your exact GPA. For that matter, review your transcripts and identify which classes you did well in and which classes you bombed. Look for patterns. Is your GPA within your major quite a bit higher than your overall GPA? Did you do considerably better in your upper level classes your senior year? If so, these things can work in your favor.

  • Don’t make excuses. Unless you plan on hacking in to your university’s registrar and changing your grades, your GPA is not going to change so own it. Were you homesick your freshmen year? Did you party too hard your the year you turned 21? Did you spread yourself too thin by joining too many organizations and not having enough time to study? Whatever the reason might be, be able to share with an employer that you made a mistake but that you learned from the experience.

  • Do some research. Perhaps your GPA really doesn’t measure up to your peers at your institution. However, if you attended a university with high academic rigor, your “low” GPA certainly outshines those at less rigorous institutions.

Even with a lower than average GPA, there are a few other ways you can attract employers as well:

  • Showcase your strengths. Make sure your resume demonstrates your skills, abilities and accomplishments in other ways besides your academic record. Employers seek candidates with several other skills: verbal and written communication skills, the ability to work in a team environment, and demonstrated problem-solving ability – just to name a few.

  • Take on leadership roles. For some employers, demonstrated leadership ability will outrank a GPA. Make sure your leadership roles are highlighted on your resume. This can be done successfully by creating a leadership section.

  • Last but not least, network! Don’t get caught in the habit of searching for a job or internship solely by applying on-line. Learn to use Linked In and informational interviews to build your network. Employers will be more likely to look past your GPA if you come recommended by an alumnus and current employee.

My advice is to put your GPA on your resume if it is a 3.0 or higher. If it is lower than a 3.0, you have a decision to make. If you leave your GPA off your resume, you should expect to be asked what your GPA is. If you chose this path, you should be very versed at discussing the reasons your grades don’t reflect your true ability. Having a less than stellar GPA should never hold you back in your job search. Learn how to address your GPA with potential employers and communicate the other reasons they should hire you.

Need help on how to discuss your GPA during an interview? Students can drop-in to the CCO in Young Hall 132 Monday through Friday from 10am to 4pm for one-on-one help with a CCO staff member.

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