I wrote a few months about the importance of your grad school GPA and whether it was important enough to be worried about it. If you want to read that blog, here’s a link to it. Anyway, I don’t really think that post did justice to this controversial topic. Does GPA really matter in grad school? Should you focus on GPA or other things while in grad school? I will answer these questions in this post and dive deeper into whether you should really care about your grad school GPA
Grades do matter in grad school. Unfortunately, grades will matter all throughout grad school and into your doctoral research. Once there, grades don’t matter, luckily. But, does it really matter what our GPA is when we are in grad school? In situations where a GPA is needed, such as applying to a PhD program, or applying for scholarships, then yes, GPA is important. Other than that, your GPA is just another number.
When GPA Matters
I have found in the 5 years that I have been in grad school that GPA only mattered in two fields. 1) While I was applying for a grad school program and 2) while I was looking at scholarships. And, to be honest, both of these things actually focused primarily on my research experience and goals. Of course, I am in a research based field. Grades may matter even more when you are in a grad program that doesn’t do research.
Your undergrad GPA seems to be way more important than your grad school GPA, unless you are going from a masters to a PhD program. Then the GPA will matter. When you apply to a Grad school as an undergrad, your GPA will be used to determine whether or not you get into the program. There are other factors such as a statement of purpose, test scores, and previous research. But GPA does matter in this case. As you go up the academic latter, your GPA will mean far less.
If you are in law school, your GPA does matter. In fact, law school ranks you amoung your peers based on your GPA. Apparently, the higher the GPA, the more likely you are to land a good paying law job. So, this grad school experience, GPA does matter. For the vast majority of other grad programs, GPA matters very little, and here is why.
When GPA Doesn’t Matter
I found that your GPA, while in a master’s, really doesn’t matter. Yes, you want to keep above a 3.0 GPA so you don’t get on academic probation, but this is extremely easy to get. Most classes in grad school will make sure you don’t even come close to getting that low of a GPA. I know many students that had mid 2.0s for their undergrad GPAs and managed to have close to 4.0s in grad school. Of course, they worked their butts off, so I have to give them some credit.
GPA is basically non existent once you get to a PhD. Some students finish their master’s first then head to do research on their PhD. Usually they will take maybe one or two more classes for their doctorate and then it’s all research. The GPA really doesn’t matter at this point, only you finishing and getting publications. Students that are in a PhD program immediately after undergrad will need to make sure their GPA stays above a 3.0, though.
Does GPA Matter for Jobs?
From my experience, though it may be different for everyone, GPA did not matter when it came to applying for jobs. I have started the process of looking for careers after I graduate and not a single application asked for my transcripts or my GPA. They did, however, ask about publications and research experience. I was also applying for research positions so they cared deeply about this specifically. GPAs don’t determine how well you will be as an employee. Your experience in grad school will be a determinant of how well you do later, not your grades.
Another reason why jobs don’t care about your GPA is because they are placing you in a position where you might be competing with individuals that didn’t go to grad school but have ample experience in the industry. You won’t really be focusing on entry level jobs after college. This means that an employer needs to use another metric, other than GPA, to determine the right individual. So, they focus on experience. This is why getting relevant experience is so important.
What To Focus On in Grad School
There are some programs that just need you to take tests, pay them, and get out. I don’t really like these programs because I am going to grad school to learn information, develop my research skills, and contribute to the wellbeing of humanity. I feel that developing these skills is the most important part about gong to grad school, not just taking tests and passing classes. Yes, undergrad was about that, but grad school is much more than passing classes.
Overall, GPA only matters in very specific circumstances. For the most part your GPA in grad school, as long as it is above the minimum, really doesn’t matter. Some may argue based on their experiences, and I would love to know about those. (put them in the comments). I just don’t feel that you need to focus on a GPA. Focus on learning skills that will help you get through grad school and make you a skilled researcher. Some of the best researchers in the world were average students, but they focused all their effort on getting better at research. Do this!
I am curious, for those that went to grad school, what was your GPA? Also, what was your undergrad GPA? Did GPA matter in your program or was it just something that you needed to keep above a certain requirement? I am always curious as to what everyone’s grad school experience was. Each one is different so it is nice to see how it was for multiple people and compare.