What’s the Big Deal About GPAs?

by Laura Merrill, Manager of Cooperative Education

When you start job hunting, you may find that getting by in class, being involved in extracurricular activities, and earning your degree isn’t enough for most employers. Just getting by” is always a bad idea. That’s especially true in the business school, where what you learn in class often applies directly to real work situations. Interviewers will know quickly when you don’t know what you should. Also, you must maintain a 2.5 GPA to remain in good standing. And if you’re on scholarship, you can lose funding or see it substantially reduced, according to Heather Boutell, U of L’s assistant director of scholarships.

Increasingly, companies are requiring minimum GPAs
Some, such as Colgate-Palmolive, interviewed only applicants with GPAs of 3.0 or higher at a recent U of L recruiting event. Other companies put the threshold at 3.5.

Target, by contrast, requires a 2.8. According to Dawn Towe, regional recruiting manager for Target Stores, “We don’t require [the GPA] to be higher. We are looking for students who have some work experience and have been involved in student activities. Students that involved don’t always have the highest GPAs.”

Warren Zoeller, human resources recruiter for UPS, says this of GPAs: “For co-ops, UPS has a preferred GPA of 3.0, but we definitely consider people with a lower GPA depending on their circumstances—for instance, if they are paying their way through college.”

How will the companies know your GPA?
Colgate-Palmolive requires transcripts as part of its background check. Omitting your GPA on your resume can send a red flag to companies; they assume you left it off because it was low. It’s an assumption companies can afford to make.

Professional Coach Eileen Davis, says, “If a student’s GPA is very close to 3.0 (2.85 or 2.9, for example), I would include it so employers don’t assume the GPA is very low.”

If the GPA for your general education requirements is below 3.0, you might want to include only your core business curriculum GPA, or the grade point average of the courses in your business major. If your core GPA is 3.0 or higher, that tells potential employers that you were taking your major coursework seriously, and they may overlook lower grades among your general education requirements.

If your GPA is between a 2.5 and 3.0, what can you do to get a company to take a closer look at you? Davis says, “Give company recruiters a good reason to consider you, one that may explain or soften the impact of a lackluster GPA. Are you in a very challenging academic program? Involved in competitive sports? Do or did you hold leadership positions in community, volunteer, or social organizations? Work full-time to finance school? Do you have work experience that is directly related to that of a potential company? Make these things very clear early on in the resume.”

Just remember: Your GPA is the first thing companies assess. It can immediately qualify or disqualify you when it comes to getting an interview or job offer.


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