What is a good GPA? What to aim for?

During college, each major or even institution will have an associated degree of difficulty. But GPAs are supposed to standardize your grades and give anyone a good idea of your academic performance. In general, a GPA of over 3.0 will be looked as a good achievement by most employers or graduate schools. If you had a 3.0 of above, it means that you got at least a B average. If you want to be more competitive, then you could aim for a GPA higher than 3.5. When your GPA is closer to 4.0 it is a lot difficult to overcome a low grade, since the higher possible grade you can get to offset a bad performance is an A.

As a college student, my goal was to keep a GPA above 3.5. I was interested in graduate school and a 3.5 seemed to be a good starting point to show the schools I was competitive. But, generally, only some companies and institutions have rules regarding GPA performance. Obviously GPA is not the only factor for getting a job or entering grad school. Still, it is important to consider a broad number of what grades to aim for.

Job Openings

If you are interested in getting a job right after graduation, then you might be thinking of how to make your resume or application competitive. Your GPA performance is definitely a factor, but other sections of your resume might be more or as important as your GPA. If you are looking at private company jobs, then you will rarely encounter a GPA requirement. In many online applications, you might mark checkboxes to indicate where your GPA stands (for example 2.49 or below, 2.5-2.99, 3.0-3.49, 3.50 or above). My suggestion is to try to be competitive with a strong GPA. As I indicated in the introduction 3.0 or higher is usually a good sign.

Government jobs are slightly different in their requirements. Some government agencies have very strict GPA requirements. In some cases, they have GPA requirements for each level of education, for bachelors and masters for example. Unless you apply to a government job internally, your application will be sent to a first clean-up stage. If your resume falls below the basic requirements, then it might get tossed.

If you are ever called out in an interview about a low GPA, do not fear. Give a brief explanation of why your GPA might be lower than expected. If you showed improvement over the last few years, then highlight your improvements and how you learn to improve your testing skills, for example.

Graduate School

If you are interested in attending graduate school, I would suggest going over to their website and try to find some data about their GPA performance. Graduate schools are very interested in recruiting students that will obtain high grades, get involved with research, land impressive internships/jobs after graduation to build upon their prestige.

Some schools list the “incoming students profile” which might include GRE or GMAT score, GPAs, etc.  When researching, make sure you try to get the most accurate data you can. If possible try to find GPA averages of your same department, a similar major or even your same field of study (if possible).

Minimum Requirements

In rare cases, graduate schools will list a minimum GPA in their application (they might also list a minimum score for a standardized test). What to do if you fall below? Well, not all is lost. You still might have a chance, but you will have to put a lot more effort into your application.

First, consider taking summer classes or winter break classes right before graduation to boost your GPA. If you do not have enough time or credits to boost your GPA, then you can consider adding other highlights. A high GRE or GMAT score can be a great asset. Even if you have taken them already, you can always retake those tests and get a higher score. Just be careful in not overtaking those tests. The number of times you took the test is available to the public. But, if you took is once or twice and the second or third was a winner, then you shouldn’t have a problem. Anyone can get nervous or a little anxious and bust the first try.

Grad School Summary

Overall for graduate school GPA requirements, I would suggest to research first. Then try your best to accomplish a GPA on or above the average. If you do not have the minimum score, do not over stress. In most cases, grad schools do not throw applications just because of a lower GPA. But, you will definitely need some other highlight in your application: high GMAT/GRE scores, research work, interesting internships, recommendation letters, etc. Also, if you have doubts about getting into your favorite school, look at some alternatives. Do not put all your eggs in one basket. Some grad school prioritizes high GPA, other prioritize work experience or research experience. Apply to a variety of schools to have a better chance of being accepted. And always remember to include at least one back up option.

Your college GPA is not eveything, but might help you impress a recruiter or graduate school

Beyond the GPA

Regardless if you want to attend grad school, get a job or start a new business after graduation, your college GPA is not the deciding factor in your future success. Many other skills you obtain can be much more important than your GPA. If you are interested in a specific field of work or field of study I would suggest learning about the most important skills to be successful there. Consider hard and soft skills and try to pick the college courses that might help you accomplish that goal. Also, explore internships or research opportunities that give you practical expertise.