Understanding the Importance of GPA in College?

Your GPA's importance depends heavily on your future plans

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

While this may seem like a simple question, it doesn't have a straightforward answer. 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 can graduate.

Why Your GPA Matters in College

There are many reasons you will want to maintain a good GPA in college. Ultimately, you will need to pass your classes in order to get your degree, which is the point of going to 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 tell you what steps to take in order to recover from it. Along the same lines, you may need to keep it at or above a certain level to keep your scholarships, other financial awards or loan eligibility. Additionally, things like academic honors, research opportunities, internships, and some classes have GPA requirements. It's always a good idea to ask your academic adviser about any GPA requirements you should be aware of, so you don't find out you're in trouble after it's too late to fix it. 

Do College Grades Matter for Jobs?

Your GPA may or may not play an important role in your life after college—it depends on your post-graduate plans. For example, Graduate school admissions are very competitive, and you're required to put your GPA on an application. If you're interested in furthering your education but the damage to your GPA is already done, don't fret: Good scores on the GRE, GMAT, MCAT or LSAT could 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 more school, you should know some employers will ask you for your GPA when you apply for a job. In fact, there are companies— generally, large companies—who require applicants to meet the basic GPA requirement. 

Beyond the aforementioned situations, there's a good chance your GPA may never again come up after graduation. 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 resume.

The 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 a high GPA as you did in high school, there's no reason why you shouldn't work hard in your classes and succeed as best you can academically. You never know, after all, what jobs or graduate school programs you might end up applying for years after you graduate.