If you are just starting off grad school, this might be one of the questions that you may be asking yourself or others. I guarantee that you will either get a yes or no answer and it will be fairly split among your colleges. I have spent a ton of time in grad school and have asked many individuals if they think GPA is important in there graduate studies. This is my opinion, so many people may have differing opinions, but I don’t think GPA is important.
GPA Does Matter in Grad School. Here’s Why
In grad school, your main focus is on research. Spending all of your time focusing on classwork takes valuable time away from what they are paying (PhD) you to do. I have heard of stories where advisers have actually told their students that they need to spend less time studying for exams and more time working in the lab. The adviser would say that the effort that was put forth to receive an A in a class could have gone to publishing a paper, or running another experiment, Things that are much more important.
Grad school is about learning how to do research. The classwork is there to teach you hard concepts and give you tools to help you succeed in whatever research you are doing. You will take many classes that will cover a ton of topics that just don’t really matter in your research. Focus only on the stuff that will help you and less on the stuff that doesn’t matter. You need these tools to to help you learn how to be a researcher, which is the overall main focus of grad school. If you focus primarily on passing a class, you will lose out on why you are even in grad school in the first place.
It is more important in undergrad
GPA is important if you in undergrad. You can still have a bad GPA and get an amazing job, but you may need to work a bit harder. In undergrad, you are probably fairly focused on getting a job. One way to get a job and stand out is to show that you did fairly well in school. Many internships and entry level jobs had “Overall GPA” in their application. The companies are trying to weed people out at this point, especially for large corporations that receive hundred of applications for positions.
Also, if you are wanting to go into a graduate program, GPA is very important. I know law school, medical school, PhDs, and MBA programs all require a higher than average GPA. For many top schools, they want the top students. This is understandable, but once you get into the program, GPA won’t really matter. Just stay above the minimum requirement and you are good to go.
One reason why I don’t think GPA matters in grad school is because not a single recruiter that I have talked to has asked me what my graduate GPA is. They only ask about my research, publications (now I have one!!! WOOOOO), as well as my job experience. In grad school, you are less of a student and more of an apprentice. You are learning how to do the work and think like a professional rather than just taking tests and partying every night.
Also, and this comes from talking to many grad students, getting higher than a B is extremely easy. Getting an A can be a bit more work but you will probably never see below a B in your whole time in grad school. They want the students to focus on research and less of the class work. The only time I would really suggest putting a ton of effort into classwork is when it pertains to the project that you are working on. Make sure you master that class and get an A.
To Wrap It all Up. Does GPA Really Matter?
Overall, go into grad school with the thought that GPA won’t matter. Pass your classes of course but focus extensively on your research. You can be extremely book smart but a terrible researcher. There are many skills that you need to learn to be a researcher and that is what you should focus on. I will have a blog about those skills soon.
When going into a grad school program, the main focus will be your research. If you get so caught up in research that you forget to do an assignment, then that is totally fine. Don’t stress yourself too much because you are trying to pass a class on ecological studies of marine estuaries when your focus is on air contaminants. Get the bare minimum grade in the class, take whatever tool you need from that class to move on in your research and continue on the academic journey. The further you get into it, the less you will care about your GPA, I promise.
Anyway, let me know if you think GPA is important or not. I would love to know other’s opinions based on their experiences. Also, if you haven’t already, check out my blog about grad school hacks(found here). I do want to emphasize that I have not been asked once about my GPA while applying to jobs with a graduate degree. Not many people have a Master’s or a doctorate, which is the really reason you will stand out. When applying for academic jobs, I found that the research you have done is the deciding factor on whether you will get the job or not, not your GPA.
I hope this post was clear enough. If you are worried about getting good grades in grad school then you are missing the point of grad school. It is not like undergrad. In some cases, like law school, getting high grades may benefit you. In degrees such as a PhD, grades do not matter. As long as you are above a 3.0 GPA (which is fairly easy) then you will be fine. Anyway, I hope you all have an awesome week and an awesome day. I’ll see you in the next post.