Is there a point to GPA?

During the times of holiday cheer in December, students experienced some extra glee or gloom. About a week after finals week, students were able to view their final grades through OASIS.

Letter grades are important in academic careers, but may or may not be important to future career goals.

To calculate the grade point average, the A-F scale is converted into grade points, which are added together and then divided by the total number of credit hours. A cumulative GPA is the mean average that provides an overall view of one’s progress in college.

Why is GPA important? High GPAs are essential for many students relying on financial aid to pay their tuition. For example, according to the USF Financial Aid handbook for 2005-2006, Bright Futures eligibility is based mostly on GPA and SAT/ACT scores.

A high GPA is also necessary if a student is interested in pursuing additional education after graduation, which should remain above the minimums of 3.0-3.3 for masters programs and 3.3-3.5 for Ph.D. programs, according to Your Guide to Graduate School by Tara Kuther.

Admission committees realize grades differ among universities because of professors’ standards and scales such as the plus/minus system. This is why admissions require additional comparisons among applicants. Tests such as the GRE, MCAT, LSAT and GMAT help to level the playing field. Committees also look at the context in which students’ GPAs were obtained.

According to, “In many cases, it’s better to have a lower GPA composed of solid challenging courses than a high GPA based on easy courses like Basket Weaving for Beginners and the like.”

The Web site describes a GPA as a long-term indicator of how well students perform academically, which is important for committees admitting new students. GPAs reflect motivation and the ability to do consistent good work through a variety of circumstances.

“Typically, the GPA is not considered the sole indicator of someone’s potential to be a viable employee,” said Drema Howard, director of the USF Career Center. “If a student has less than a stellar GPA and they worked to pay their way through school, have real world work experience and leadership in extracurricular activities, then employers will ‘weigh’ the import of the GPA within this framework.”

Often when a GPA is looked at, it is scrutinized from within. Committees as well as some employers look at the courses relevant to the program or job a student is applying for. For example, medical school admissions and the health fields would look at a student’s grade in math and science courses.

“Some of the recruiters, when they are setting up the schedules for on-campus interviews, request a certain GPA or higher. The higher, the better,” said Pam Mortenson, a program assistant at the Career Center.

Mortenson said throughout her experiences of setting up interviews for full-time, professional employment programs and internships, many companies won’t even think of interviewing a highly qualified student if his or her GPA does not meet the company’s standards.

However, some employers will not give a second glance at a GPA on a resume.

“A college diploma is considered a prerequisite for almost any white-collar job, but the degree is what counts, not the percentile you graduated in or the school you went to (as long as it is accredited),” according to Alison Blackman Dunham, life and career expert on “The emphasis by most employers is on what you have accomplished and what skills you bring to the job.”

Employers often require experience through internships and jobs for applicants to even be considered.

According to, good communication skills, integrity, teamwork and a sense of reality are qualities most employers look for.

“In some career paths, such as customer service or marketing, a 2.8 on a four-point scale in a difficult major won’t ruin your chances of being gainfully employed. In other fields, particularly in investment-banking trading, a low GPA is a near-impossible barrier to consideration,” according to Tim Luzader, director of Purdue University’s Center for Career Opportunities, on

“And the reality is – once a student has a couple of years of career-related full-time experience in the labor market then the GPA loses its importance and is typically not used as a screening measure,” Howard said.

It is important to set career goals and determine if grades or experience is more imperative to success. Academic advisers can help students succeed by referring them to internships or to lab help.

For details on how to calculate a GPA, see USF’s 2005-2006 Undergraduate Catalog, pages 40-43. It contains the grading scale and quality points for each grade.