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February 08, 2011


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My own kids are onlyl middle school, but I spend a lot of time working with recent college grads who are just starting professional school.

Compared to when I was in high school, I think high school grades these days are considered more important by potential employers.

Also students are themselves more aware of their GPAs from high school and college--it's a number they all know. They also all apparently took steps while in school and college to keep that all important number "up". For example, dropping classes, or switching majors, it it looked like certain courses were going to ding their GPA. In contrast, I remember not even knowing what my GPA was until I finally got my transcripts during grad school applications. I was taught to just "do a good job", and "take challenging classes" and don't worry as long as you got a high B.

Grade inflation is also rampant these days at the HS & college level and as a recruiter I take that into account. If a student gets all B's in HS now, he would probably have been doing all C's a few decades ago.

Same thing in college--when I review grad school applications, a transcript that's all B's means that the student has significant problems with academic subjects. I know that even the students who have 3.5+ GPAs come here for grad school and can't write coherent arguments, read quickly, or do simple calculations--so I really worry about the academic preparation of those with lower GPAs.

Of course, I'm at a medical/biomedical technology grad school. Academics are essential for those students we recruit, or they won't make it through the doctoral program. If someone's going into business I could see how other skills might be more important.

I'm still going to make darn sure my kids' high school grades are very high, even if I have to bribe them. I don't want their future options to be limited by "low" grades. It's not like it's hard to get good grades in high school--maily just keeping track of what's expected and when.

Depends on the kid. If he works his fool tail off and gets a C then be happy. IF he does nothing and get s C then he needs encouragement. My brothers and sister were NHS and both my brothers were class valadictorians. No pressure here for an A,B close to C kid. But my mom and dad saw I was working my hardest.

Grades are important when being invited to scholarship competitions for $$. But that alone is not good enough. They are also looking for community involvement and giving back. NHS requires 12 hours of service to the school or community.

Act scores is another factor. The higher the ACT score the more scholarship oppotunities. Hire a coach on test taking skills if your kid is poor test taker. The difference between a 28 and 30 on the ACT could mean thousands of dollars in merit scholarships.

But most of all it after you get so far with grades and education is how you apply it. You have written so many articles of people getting useless degrees because " once they get the degree they do not know how or where to get a job that utilize that degree".I don't care how well you did in school but to not being able to get a job with your degree is just plain dumb.

It can't hurt a child to learn to work hard, study hard, and achieve a goal, as long as it's not an obsession for the parents, in my opinion. I understand that when studying self-made millionaires, you're going to find a significant portion of them who didn't go to college. But if you study prison populations, you'll find a large percentage of them didn't go to college, either. For a vast majority of folks solidly in the middle class, a good education and a good job will provide the finances needed for a satisfying life.

College marks, thankfully, didn't turn out to be as important in my situation as it was stressed they should be. I barely graduated (with a 2.0 in major) and yet a few years later I'm working in a senior level position.

I think other qualities (skill, outlook, personality, and such) generally overshadow school marks.

Grade are important to get the first job. After that they don't have much of an impact, IMHO.

Grades are important, but pale in comparison to maintaining the desire to learn. Maintaining a high level of curiosity and desire to understand certain subjects will take you much farther in any given career than a 4.0 on any transcript. Kinda funny, though that the "desire to understand" will often lead to good grades.

I posted a comment, and it said it posted, but yet I don't see it. FMF did I post something innapropriate?

I have 2 in high school right now. My oldest son likes to do the bare minimum, but he has a 3.7 gpa because he always seems to pull it off. My daughter is focused like none-other and has a 4.0. I often wonder if the extra .3 is worth all the stress my poor daughter goes through, but her goal in life is college scholarships. My son thinks things will magically happen.

In the end, I think my son is just a bit less mature and he will do fine in his own time. Not sure it is worth some of the fights we have had. (Those have been about missed assignments, no excuse for that.)

I got great grades but struggled early on in college because the high school I went to was horrible and I was very unprepared.

Overall, I think the most important things are to want to succeed in the workforce and to have some raw intelligence. Some people are totally content with making 50k a year and live quite comfortably that way. The key is making enough to live the lifestyle you are comfortable with (assuming the government isn't subsidizing you). Not everyone strives to be a millionaire and that is ok.

I think as a higher and higher percentage of the population has a college degree, differentiation based on grades happens a little more than it used to. I don't know how easy it is to get a good engineering job with a 2.6 GPA now, for example.

But I agree with everyone else that once you're a few years into your career there's not much impact. Good grades got my college paid for, and good grades there got me a great first job. I've since relocated twice to two different employers and I can't say if grades made any difference there (though both jobs were research/academic, so it may have).

I believe good work experience overwhelms average grades, though really good grades could still provide an edge if all else is equal. It is a reflection of potential if nothing else.

It depends on the person- their current position in life, their network, their desired career, etc. Unfortunately, there isn’t a firm rule that can be applied to everyone in every situation.

If the student wants to be an MD PhD, grades are going to matter. If the student wants to start the next Facebook, grades are irrelevant.

People often confuse good grades for learning and that is not the case. Learning often happens with an intelligent individual who makes mistakes. Taking risk, pushing the comfort zone, don’t happen without some failure. The regurgitation of known facts may result in a perfect grade, but does it result in a successful individual? One must take risk, attempt to make new connections, apply the knowledge gained- but that rarely results in straight A’s. Leaders make mistakes, they make decisions with imperfect information and the perfect A students follow them.

Grades are an easy way to cut the stack of applicants and therefore its important to get above a certain threshold. Once you are “in” life becomes far more subjective.

I don’t broadcast it, and most people in my life would be surprised, but I never excelled academically. My grades were all over the map- As in some classes Ds in others. The grade was never important to me (as long as I passed) the knowledge was important. Ive been successful. But that was my path, where my skills matched the trials of that path.

FMF- life goals are the most important. If you son wants to be a doctor, grades are going to be more important. If you want X you need to focus on Y. If you want to go to Yale, you need to do A,B and C. Knowing where you want to be, and then developing a rough plan to get there is what matters most. Why would you focus on grades if your son is a gifted baseball player whose efforts would be better spent developing that skill? (just an example where grades might not be a good use of limited effort.) Develop a goal and a plan. Focus on what accomplishes the goal.

His study emphsizes bussiness owners. I wonder if his finding would equally be true of those who make high incomes climbing the corprate ladder (as I understand was your path, FMF). Perhaps employers looking through a tall stack of resumes ted to "sort" by GPA, major, school, etc. ( and that leads you on a "path" that gives you more or fewer oppetunities for responsblity, oromotion, etc.) where business owners suceed more direcly on thier leadership/ mangement ablities.

As a recent graduate who earned decent grades through school, I will say that grades are one path and can open a lot of doors, but are by no means the deciding factor. Gaining the social experiences in and outside of school activities did far more to propel me forward than wasting time on a project trying to drag the grade up 5 more points. With that said, when I see a student with very high marks I become suspicious that they may not have the social skills that a B or C student may have simply because they have spent so much time raising those marks and ignoring the things you learn in extracurricular activities, internships, and even parties with friends. Also a number of friends who always did very good in a school environment struggle when adjusting to life and finding jobs. In the end it is about finding a balance.

I was brought up with the line of thinking introduced at the beginning. However, I was an A student and ended up as a stay-at-home mom. My husband was a C student, but he ended up starting his own business in high school, skipping college and earning a six figure salary by the time he was 25.

I guess my upbringing still sticks with me though, because I tend to think of my husband as the exception and not the rule.

It all depends upon the type of career.
My son was intelligent but wasn't very interested in high school. By the time of his senior year we decided to transfer him to a vocational high school where he started on the path to becoming an auto mechanic. Upon leaving school he did an apprenticeship at a Ford dealership. His gripe with auto dealerships is that they tell the customer that the Blue Book says a certain job will take 4 hours of labor but they tell the mechanic he had better get it done in 2 hours, or else.

He then switched to repairing very expensive, high precision vacuum pumps used in a variety of industries and after a few years became very proficient in that. After having back surgery and finding that working on very heavy pumps was too hard on his back he asked his employer if he could switch to selling their pumps. They agreed.

In 2010 he was named "Salesman of the year" for a Swiss/German company that produces the best pumps of its type that are used in many industries. What his customers like is that he understands the product he is selling and knows what's inside the box. Along the way he taught himself how to write good business letters and easily made the transition from a "Blue" to a "White" collar job. He is now making a base salary of $150K plus his sales bonuses.

Even as a kid I knew he had great "People" skills but it did surprise me to find out just how good his "Sales" skills were. He used them on us when he needed favors several times when we helped him with short term loans to consumate real estate transactions. He truly could sell refrigerators to eskimos.
Without ever taking a college class his net worth just went over the $1M mark by his 47th. birthday.

I really think grades have a much smaller impact than people think. I personally was one of those kids who got the 4.0's in high school and college. I was always told that it would get me a good job - first hand experience - it didn't. Grades help in getting internships and the interships help with getting a job. But grades aren't everything, and just like in the real world who you know can be an even bigger factor in the intership world too. I think the more important skill (like someone said above) is the desire to keep learning new information and skills and to keep building upon what you learn.

I work with someone who has the same degree as me from the same college and got good grades too. The difference between us is that I'm on the upper management path because I always looks for ways to learn more and do more and improve where I don't excel, while she prefers to just do and blame others when she doesn't know the answer.

Good grades are great and everything, but there has to be a balance. Some of my classmates in HS would cry when they didn't get an A on an assignment. That's not healthy and way too much pressure.

Financially speaking, a high ACT or SAT will probably get you more money when it comes to scholarships. A high ACT/SAT and GPA will get you even more. But you have to look at the trade offs. What are you giving up in order to get that 4.0?

You should of course encourage good grades. Good grades don't guarantee you'll be a millionaire nor are they required to be a CEO but they certainly don't hurt your career. Stanley seems to be talking about the 'Chinese Mother' style which is excessively harsh and overly demanding. Thats an extreme.

How much college GPA matters depends on the situation and the persons initiative. Again a low GPA doesn't make your life easier. My company won't even look at a resume with under 3.0 GPA for engineers. But a 2.x GPA doesn't doom you to failure of course.

Also a SAT 1211 score is pretty good considering those are old scores when they had only 2 tests and before they adjusted the scoring. Thats around top 10% level.

Another big point: Once you get a real job in the real world, nobody cares what your grades were.

Also, I think 'good' grades matter but 'perfect' grades don't matter as much. Theres a very significant difference between a 2.0 and a 3.5 You want to make sure you don't get that 2.0. But the difference between a 3.5 and a 4.0 is probably much less. I think its much more important to get >3.5 but killing yourself to get a 3.97 won't matter much compared to a 3.9 or 3.8.

This blog entry and this article focus on business owners and corporate execs. This is not the average "successful" person in this country. There are plenty of successful people who are not business owners or corporate execs. It would be interesting (and more instructive, IMHO) to look at that broader group and see if academic success correlated with their success, rather than just focusing on these two narrow groups.

I think that most A students work for some B students in companies owned by a few C students. So odds of you getting a decent salary then are greatest still if you'd be an A student. However, there will still be some B students that are your managers making more money. And, still yet, a handful of C students raking in the bucks well above that.

But income isn't everything. As far as saving, investing and living beneath their means, though, I wonder if they are all still equally ill-equipped.

It all depends on the career choice. I doubt any Medical school will accept an average B student. As a matter of fact, any research field. You want the best, brightest people. Now, if your career is business, that's very different. Not that you don't need to have an academic background, but it seems to me that some people are just skilled in business and making money. So, that's probably the reason behind the research results mentioned here.

I think a lot depends on why the student gets the grade. If they get B's and laze around, they need to be pushed. If they are working hard to do their best and getting B's, back off.

Grades can make a big difference for getting into the school of your choice, since many "top" schools get so many "A" applicants that if you don't have a 4.0 you won't be considered. On the other hand, if you are doing your best and getting a "B" in high school, this school of all "A" students probably wouldn't be a good fit for you anyway.

From what I have seen, employers look at grades if they have nothing else to base their evaluation on. If you have work experience as well as decent grades, the work experience will probably outweigh the class work.

There is more than one road to success. There are successful people who got all A's. Does that mean that you have to get all A's to be successful? There are successful people who flunked out of school. Does that mean that you have to flunk out of school to be successful?

That being said, good grades does show some measure of intelligence and/or determination to do well in school. It also shows the ability to learn new things and synthesize information. Those are things which shouldn't be poo-pooed so easily. However, they aren't the end-all and be-all. If you have a 4.0 GPA in high school and nothing else, you most definitely won't get into an elite school.

Graduated from college cum laude. Made absolutely no difference and I'm at poverty level now. I think the degree is important...mine was in Graphic Design, and I found out the hard way that is a worthless degree.

Now, going through college again for Accounting degree, getting straight A's so far. Will it make a difference? I'm not sure. Deep down inside, I doubt it.

Jobs always seem to be about "who you know". My little brother almost flunked out of college (I think he finally graduated with a 2.7), and now he's in Hawaii earning over 80,000/yr as a manager. Why? Because he's popular and knew people who got him an 'in'.

As many have noted, once again "Timing is Everything".
If you are attempting to get a job in a field where there is a great shortage of qualified and/or experienced applicants then grades don't matter very much. I was very fortunate that in 1960 when I received three immediate offers and three phone calls as a result of mailing out three resumes to Boeing in Seattle, Lockheed in Burbank, and Lockheed in Sunnyvale, it was primarily because the Cold War was going in earnest and the USA was drastically short of engineers to work in the defense industry. I didn't have a BS at the time, my British undergraduate qualification was basically a BS in engineering but with everything except Math, Science, and Engineering removed, but it included 5 years as an engineering apprentice with rotations through all of the engineering departments at a major British aircraft company. I never did get a BS after I arrived here, the Dean of Engineering at my local university recommended that I go straight on to an MS which I completed part time at company expense with a GPA of 3.7/4.0.
When I retired in 1992 my company had 35,000 workers, today it has less than 5,000 at the same location. Meanwhile a whole bunch of internet and computer related companies have sprung up to fill the void. It's all about being in the right place at the right time with the right qualifications and experience.

I am in the business owner / senior corporate executive category. I got a 2.93 GPA undergrad (exactly the same!) and a 1330 SAT score... I don't think grades matter with the following exceptions:

1. If you want to go on to grad / business school, they do matter. I went on to get a Master's degree with a full scholarship where I earned a 3.45 GPA. However it was very difficult to get scholarships with my poor grades, I had to rely on having published scientific papers as an undergrad.

2. If you want to go on to professional school (Law, Med school) grades do matter- you can be screened out of eligibility.

3. Getting your first job- A lot of big name companies do screen on GPA.

That being said, I have told younger relatives not to stress so much about grades, much to the dismay of their parents! Grades are important to not totally screw up, but they are not the end all- be all of things.


GPA, alone, is a worthless stat. I got into an elite college (~top 10), but failed out. I then transferred to another school (~top 75) and had no problems getting all As at the new school. Funny, I studied less and took more advanced courses.

If you disregard major and school, a GPA has very little meaning.

REB --

Not sure what happened...

In Junior High and High School, my parents challenged and encouraged myself and my brother and sister to get good grades. We were expected to work our hardest, and apply ourselves. I remember my dad offering me $50 from him every semester I would make the honor roll in High School. My dad has always said, your kids will end up about as good as you expect them to. My parents didn't expect perfect grades, but they did expect us to try our best, and work harder than most kids. Once I was in college, I was on my own. I was paying for my college education, and so if I wanted to waste it, that was my problem. Through college mom and dad were always supportive and caring, and they continually showed interest in what I was doing, but they didn't ride me about grades. Supportive, caring, and disciplined parents will help their kids find success at school, whether or not they get perfect A's.

By the way, in Jr. High, High School and College, if you "care" a little more than the kid sitting next to you, it will go a long ways. Do you get tutorial help from the teacher? Have you talked to the teacher about what you can do to get better grades in their class?

Good grades give you an edge in certain circumstances, and it's difficult to predict whether they'll come in handy. My grades in college were average at best, and it didn't seem to matter at the time because I wasn't going to academics and companies didn't care. Fast forward to today, and I have applied with foreign companies that DID care about grades, and even once applied for an academic position (never thought I'd ever do that!). So you try to convince them you're the real deal, in spite of your grades. Sometimes it will work and sometimes it will fail.

@DB: "who you know" is in your hands - it's called networking. A great attitude gets noticed, time and again. Combined with a little initiative it will get you instant job offers from people you've met minutes before. Likewise, a bitter attitude like yours (ok, I know you have all the reasons...), works against you. Be smart and let your attitude work FOR you, not against you.

In spite of what I wrote above, I'm not going to over-emphasize grades with my kids. For me it's not so much about grades as about demonstrating great work ethic, achieving goals, developing superior reasoning skills (math! latin!).

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