How Important is a College GPA?

Does your college grade point average really matter? It depends...

University students taking exam
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In high school, you likely focused on getting good grades—and, consequently, having a solid grade point average (GPA)—because you wanted to get into a good college. But now that you're in college, you may be wondering, "Does my GPA really matter any more?"

While that may seem like a simple question, there isn't a single, straightforward answer for it. In some situations, your college GPA can matter quite a bit; on the other hand, a GPA can mean nothing beyond whether or not you'll be able to graduate.

Reasons Why Your GPA Matters in College

Actually, there are a lot of reasons to maintain a good GPA in college. Ultimately, you need to pass your classes in order to earn your degree—which is one of the main points of attending college in the first place. From that perspective, the answer is clear: Your GPA matters.

If your GPA drops below a certain threshold, your school will send you a notice you've been placed on academic probation and inform you of what steps to take in order to recover from it. Along similar lines, you may need to keep your GPA at or above a certain level in order to keep any scholarships, other financial awards, or loan eligibility you have.

Additionally, things such as academic honors, research opportunities, internships, and some advanced classes may have GPA requirements. If you're interested in participating in such a program or class, it's always a good idea to check with your academic advisor about any GPA or other requirements beforehand so you can keep on track to pursue your goals.

Do College Grades Matter After You Get Your Degree?

Whether your college GPA will play an important role in your life after you graduate depends on your plans. For example, graduate school admissions are very competitive. Your GPA information will certainly be taken into consideration as part of the application process.

If you're interested in furthering your education but the damage to your GPA is already done, you're not necessarily sunk: Good scores on the GRE, GMAT, MCAT or LSAT can sometimes make up for a sub-par GPA. (Of course, getting into grad school will be a lot easier if you focus on maintaining a good GPA from the start of college.)

Even if you're not thinking about further schooling, you should know some employers will ask you for your GPA when you apply for a job. In fact, there are some companies—generally, large corporations—who require that applicants meet a minimum GPA requirement. 

When a College GPA Isn't An Issue

That said, if grad school isn't in your future and the corporate world isn't on your agenda, there's a good chance your GPA may never again come up after you grab your diploma. In general, employers focus more on your level of education, not the grades that got you there, and there's no rule that says you need to put your GPA on your resumé.

Bottom line: Your college GPA is only as important as it is for your future plans. While you may not feel pressure to focus on maintaining as high a GPA as you did in high school, there's no reason why you shouldn't work hard in your college classes and succeed as best you can academically. After all, you never know what jobs or graduate school programs you might end up applying for years after you graduate.