gpa

Penn grads find that their GPAs don't take precedent in their job search. 

Photo: Guyrandy Jean-GIlles

Penn students had to have stellar GPAs to get accepted into the University, but how much does college GPA affect landing a job after graduation?

Penn alumni find that GPA wasn’t a main factor that employers considered.

Morgen Alden graduated from the College in 2012 with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in medical anthropology, and now works for a boutique investment bank. She said GPA was “definitely something I advertised on my resume, but it never came up in discussion during the interview process.” Her first job was working for a law firm as a paralegal, and she said there were other things that took the forefront when she was applying for that job.

“More important factors were what I studied in college and just personality on the phone and in person, and where my interest laid in terms of working for that company,” she said.

Similar factors — especially personality and internships — were among the things that Nadya Mason, a 2014 College graduate with a double major in Communications and Cinema Studies, emphasized were important in getting her job in Advertising at Nickelodeon.

“If you had internships, if you were able to come out of an internship with some solid skills, they want to see if you can apply those skills to the job,” she said.

But GPA was a different matter.

“I don’t even think it was on my application, no one ever asked me,” Mason said, but added “If I was applying for a job in finance it would be more relevant.”

But what about engineering jobs? According to GPA data from 2001, Engineering has the lowest GPA among the four undergraduate schools. Alex Zhang, who graduated in 2013 with a major in Computer Engineering and now works for Qualcomm, said it only matters “somewhat.”

“A lot of the top engineering companies care a bit more about what you’re capable of and not what you’ve been doing,” he said. “You can’t have a super low [GPA], but at least in engineering it matters less than in other fields.”

Barbara Hewitt, senior associate director of Career Services, said GPA “comes up a lot” when students come to get advice for applying to jobs.

“Almost always students have this idea that a GPA has to be so much higher than it does to actually be considered,” she said. “People will come in and say ‘I only have a 3.7’, and I’m like, I can’t think of any employer that would not consider you with a 3.7.”

And really, added Director of Career Services Patricia Rose, GPA primarily matters when companies have to screen so many applications that they don’t have time to look at them holistically.

“It’s not by industry as it is by market leaders — if you want to go to one of the handful of top banks or consulting firms or technology companies that are absolutely inundated with candidates,” she said.

The highest GPAs at Penn are not even found in the places one might expect. Hewitt said that students who go into consulting and banking do have high GPAs, but they’re beat out by students that go into the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps.

“People who are really passionate about what they’re doing doesn’t mean they’re not really smart too,” she said.

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