Grades Don’t Matter!

For all those who didn’t perform well in college, don’t want to perform well in college, aren’t willing to go back to grad school to give yourself a second chance, and like to make excuses for not trying harder, you’re in for a real treat!  It’s clear from the comments in my article “Examples of Good Resumes That Get Jobs,” that your GPA doesn’t matter.  As someone who has participated in the hiring of dozens of individuals all these years, I’ve got it all wrong and I’m glad you called me out on it.

I’d like to think of myself as a very flexible person who sees both sides of the equation.  Hence, in this post, I want to highlight why your GPA doesn’t matter at all, and why you should feel confident in never putting your GPA on your resume.  Working hard is overrated and employers are certainly looking for as many C and B students out there as they are A students.

WHY GRADES DON’T MATTER

1) You are special. You have done many award winning things that have brought you accolade.  You started a game changing business or are a virtuoso violinist.  In the world of millions, you do not believe there are also people with great grades that can also do great things.  People need to recognize you for who you are.  You are unwilling to conform by getting good grades.

2) You learn for the love of learning. What’s most important is that you absorb the material you are learning and put it to good use.  You don’t feel you have to justify your learning by getting good grades.  You do not believe it is possible to learn for the love of learning and also get good grades.

3) You believe experience matters most. College is a great time to experiment new things and meet new people.  You believe people who get good grades are incapable of experiencing college in its “purest” form.

4) You believe grades are not a barometer for success. Once you get into the school of your choice after high school, that’s all that matters.  Once you have that good school on your resume, you believe your employer will not use grades to differentiate you from your thousands of other classmates.

5) You believe life is too short to get good grades. Why bother studying hard and standing above your competition when there are great shows to watch and places to see? Life is too short to work hard and give yourself the best chance possible to pursue what you want to do.

6) You believe there will be people out there in great positions who will empathize with you. After all, people stick together and look out for their own.  There will be people in charge of hiring who did poorly in college.  You don’t want to risk hurting this potential bond by doing well yourself.

7) You believe in equality. It doesn’t matter if someone got a 4.0 GPA, attended 6 more years in medical school, and works 80 hour daily shifts.  You believe you also deserve to make $500,000 a year, provide a luxurious life for your family, and receive the same accolades.  Both of you are human and deserve to be treated equally.

8) You are not American. Apparently, it is very rare for other countries except for the United States (questionable too, hence this post) who use grades as one determinant of whether you will be a hard working, good hire or not.

9) You are already very wealthy. Grades mean nothing because you can always work for your parents company, live off your trust fund, or live off your spouse.

10) You believe that only the best organizations care about high performers. If your organization isn’t one of the “top 10%”, then your company must not care about choosing the best people for the job.

12) You believe there is no correlation with good grades, effort and quality of life. You believe most of the cool kids in school who got poor grades will do great.  You have example after example of very successful people who did poorly in school.  You don’t believe there is a correlation between education and a good life.  Undoubtedly, most of the successful people you see in this world didn’t have good grades.

13) You believe as a student looking for a job, you know more than the person who is looking to hire you. As you a student, you have years of experience hiring, firing, and building a team.  As a result, your beliefs about the unimportance of grades trumps the hiring manager’s beliefs of the importance of grades.  After all, you are special.

14) You believe it is easier to re-invent the wheel than accepting one of many variables that indicate performance. You’d rather make your own tennis racquet than buy one from the store, or program your own website than use one of the thousands of customizable templates.

15) You don’t care if your doctor did poorly at a no-name med school. All doctors are the same when it comes to performing life saving surgery, so long as they passed the medical exam.  Besides, he’s a nice guy.

16) Since grades don’t matter, you don’t believe where you went to school matters either. You don’t believe there is a correlation with some of the most successful people in the world and the schools they attended.  If you had a choice, you’d rather go to Chico State than Harvard because grades don’t matter getting into school, and therefore schools don’t matter.

17) You believe posting your GPA takes up too much space on your resume. 3.3/4.0 takes up seven spaces, which is crucial real estate where you could be writing how great you are.

18) You believe the best way to achieve economic progress is through Socialism. Socialism is when there is no personal responsibility and no reward for hard work.  You are willing to help your 2.0 GPA classmate who parties all night by giving her 1.0 of your 4.0 GPA so both of you can have a chance with your 3.0s.  As a result, everybody will eventually stop working hard in order to gain benefits from others, and tremendous progress will be made.

19) The economy is so hot all you need is a pulse and you can get a job. The situation is exactly like the housing boom where anybody who could sign their name could get a loan.   Good credit is meaningless for banks since they’ve done so well these past three years, just like good grades are meaningless for employers.

LET’S CHANGE PERCEPTION!

After listing all the things which support the fact that grades don’t matter when choosing someone to hire, let’s start a movement and change perception!  It is much easier to change the perception of the thousands of firms, than focus on improving ourselves.  Forget about studying hard or going back to grad school to give ourselves a second chance.  We are special and the world must see who we are!

Readers, please share with us more reasons why grades don’t matter.  If grades don’t matter, are colleges being totally moronic for giving grades?  What’s the point then?  Is it logical to conclude that since most students aren’t A students, most people will concur that grades don’t matter?

LIGHT BULB IDEA!: What about starting a firm that is strictly only allowed to hire C+ or worse students.  Furthermore, the company will pay everybody the same, regardless of performance.  Surely, this will be the best organization in the world, yes?

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You may have screwed up your grades, but don’t screw up your finances as well! Here’s to an A+ on your financial well being.

Best,

Sam

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. Mike Hunt says

    Grades matter when applying for Graduate or Professional school. They also matter with some top firms / companies. Otherwise, they don’t matter.

    In short they matter and they don’t.

    I’m an example of someone who graduated with a 2.93 undergrad GPA in Engineering, then was lucky enough to get a scholarship for a Masters degree because I had published a few research papers as an undergrad. Never put my GPA on my resume but landed a Fortune 50 employer position out of school plus some other offers.

    10 years after graduating I was running a company of 600 people.

    My sisters boyfriend had top grades from U Penn but he has been unemployed for 5 years now after taking on a string of very different but interesting jobs. Now he can’t catch a break and finds it hard to spin a career story.

    So these are 2 cases where grades don’t matter.

    I would tell the grade obsessed people to lighten up. Nothing wrong with working hard to learn something but there is more to life than grades. How many times do you see a GPA on a tombstone or obituary?

    -Mike

    • Financial Samurai says

      I agree. If you’re not a top firm, you won’t care about who you hire.

      Your kids will be happy that you are fine you only expect a 2.9 GPA out of them.

      Glad you gave yourself a second chance with you master’s.

      • Mike Hunt says

        I do detect some tongue in cheek with your reply.

        I got a 3.45 GPA for my Masters, that certainly helped me get multiple job offers.

        In hindsight from now I don’t think getting better grades would have changed my path so much.

        If we have kids I will push them to learn. They should try for good grades, but not get so stressed if they don’t achieve them. A 2.9 GPA out of a tough Engineering program would be ok by me. Not for liberal arts mind you.

        -Mike

        • Mike Hunt says

          Oh and any firm cares about who they hire. But experience trumps GPA.

          I always hire for attitude, aptitude and relevant experience.

          GPA may relate to the first two but not always. I’d say get the story first, then judge.

        • Financial Samurai says

          No tongue and cheek at all. I hope more parrents are more lenient to let kids get medicore grades so long as they are having fun, learning, and grow their self esteem.

          I would venture to guess though that if you did not go to grad school, you would have had a much more difficult time getting ahead with just a 2.9 since that’s all they would look at in the beginning. Grad school buffered you from your poor grades, which is what I recommend people to do!

    • John says

      Grades? My ex-wife had a 4.0 GPA and high school and college and was recruited by P&G. Now she has a child she never sees and probably still doesn’t know the difference between a roast and slab of ground beef. I don’t consider her a success story by a long shot, but she is an example of someone who has high grades being recruited straight out of college with a big company…you see they like people like her, who can be easily molded into exactly what they want. I tend to see this an an empty path…remember no amount of money can buy you absolute happiness.

      I’ve seen plenty of what I can only call as BSers with little to no skills (technical, business, personal), go very far in organizations while other, seemingly MUCH smarter and more respected people go nowhere. Grades clearly don’t matter here because in the vast majority of the US workforce, lying, manipulation, cheating and general BS has pushed people much further along than skill sets. I’d like to think there are exceptions here, but the fact is that the vast majority of people who have no real skills end up figuring this out early on and weasel their way into positions where they can manipulate and use others to get their next promotion. It’s downright pathetic but is all over corporate America.

      It’s all in what’s important to you. Personally, I laugh at people who climb their way up the ladder, spend all their time away from their family at a job they basically don’t like only to come home to a slap up vinyl house they paid too much money for that sits 15.6 feet from their next door neighbor’s place.

      What happened to real leadership and innovation in this country? No “grades” can show you this potential.

      • Paul says

        I could not have worded it better, John. Our society (mostly the corporate part) does everything in its power to devalue a skilled worker. On one hand, companies clamor for experience but refuse to train new graduates. They (American companies!) say they need more engineers and scientists but go out of their way to outsource these jobs, or bring in cheap foreign talent on visas, or collude with corporate schools to flood certain job markets, or even fill positions with underqualified or unlicensed people (a non-engineer doing an engineer’s job, e.g.). The list goes on. We all have our stories.

        The only person benefiting from this set up is the businessman, the CEO. He sure as heck is getting rewarded. Society as a whole is not. Like you suggest though, obsessing over the GPA or grades or one-upmanship of the rat race is not a recipe for happiness. Happiness and success are independent things in the end. Good post.

  2. david M says

    Grades and a good resume definately do matter – I had both when I was graduating from college and I got lots of interviews – which I then turned into multiple job offers. The good grades were from lots of studying and the good resume – well working for a typesetting company and having them typeset my resume definately helped! (Yes I’m dating myself when I write about typesetting a resume.)

    I graduated with a degree in accounting when the “Big 8″ still existed – you can figure out that I’m not that young. If I had not put my GPA on my resume – I would not have received 1 interview with a Big 8 firm. Also, if my GPA had not been above a 3.0 or even higher – I would not have received any interviews.

    • Financial Samurai says

      David, I think it’s important you follow the herd and say that grades don’t matter. It makes things easier for those who are hard workers to get ahead if the average GPA goes down. I can’t believe those accounting firms had a 3.0 GPA cut off, those snobs!

      • david M says

        Me follow the herd – that’s not going to happen regarding this or many other things in real life and/or regarding my posts to your blog.

        This was any easy one to “disagree” with you on. However, even when most other people are agreeing with you – I have no problem disagreeing.

  3. Tim says

    I would say that grades matter less than people think. Don’t get me wrong – I tried for good grades and I’m very happy with my undergrad 3.7 and grad 3.5 – but what I learned from self study and from others is much more valuable to me than the business degrees on my wall.

    If I had to choose between a 4.0 student who was ‘finished’ learning or a 3.3 gpa student who loved learning new things – I’d probably have a more favorable view towards the learner.

    You know what they call the doctor who graduates last in his class, right?…….Doctor.

  4. The Genius says

    This is part of the reason why it’s so easy to get ahead in America. There are so many clueless people who believe grades don’t matter, that all one has to do is try and you blow away the competition.

    It’s the same people who do very poorly in school and then complain why they don’t like their job, can’t find work, or whatever. I love these people. Makes life easy for the rest of us!

    • Financial Samurai says

      Don’t you think it’s important to play along and convince people grades don’t matter, so that our kids can have an easier time competing when we tell them they do matter and to try hard?

      The best is when someone says grades don’t matter, but they finished school with a 3.7 GPA or higher and they point out their success. Love that!

  5. retirebyforty says

    Good grades are like good resume – it gets your foot in the door.
    Once your foot is in the door, it’s up to you to force your way in with good interview and good impression. Once you’re in good grades and good resume doesn’t matter anymore.

    During the tough economic time, all the little things count. When time is good and everyone is hiring, it’s easy to get a job.

  6. Jess says

    Just wanted to comment that I found your resume post VERY helpful. I went home yesterday and revamped three different versions of my resume based on your tips and the specific examples shown. Thanks! It was starting to get really bogged down in details and wordy at 2 pages, but now it’s much more streamlined. I needed a resume makeover badly since I’m applying to some very competitive internships in the fall. Would you ever consider doing resume coaching in real life? Also, would you apply this same resume advice to, say, a linkedin profile? Or would you include some information in your profile that you wouldn’t in a resume?

    • Jess says

      @Jess Wanted to add that I hadn’t been including my GPA since I’ve been out of college several years, but I did add it back in based on your advice. I was surprised that the GPA recommendation was controversial and not the hobbies/interests section. It seems to me that takes up valuable space and could end up making me just look stupid/weird/boring. Any ideas about areas to avoid/emphasize in that section?

      • Financial Samurai says

        If you are past 5 years out of college, and are a rock start in your current or previous line of work, a GPA carries very little weight. But, if you’re within 5 years, and you’re still trying to prove yourself… your employer wants to see how you performed in the 4-5 years of your life in college and the 1-5 years of your life working.

        Hiring the wrong people is a BIG PROBLEM and the biggest headache companies face.

  7. Bogey says

    The people who say that making good grades doesn’t matter are the same pople who will tell you that making more money won’t make them any happier, so they keep on earning $35k per year.

    This type of complacency is what opens up opportunties for very driven people.

    • Financial Samurai says

      Well said. You don’t even have to be driven. You just have to be rational. If it’s true that so many people believe grades don’t matter, it’s therefore so obvious to get ahead in America with a little bit of effort.

      In summary, all is good. It’s when people say grades dont matter, then turn around and complain why they don’t have a great career and arent making what they want and you are like, HUH?

      This is why I love America!

  8. IPA @ investmentpropertyasset.com says

    After reading your post yesterday and this one today I looked at my resume to see if I had my GPA listed. I didn’t and don’t know why. I added my GPA to my resume as I feel it is something that employers look at and could possibly give myself a chance at getting an interview. Undergrad I had a 3.8 GPA and I am still contemplating on going to grad school. I truly believe that a masters degree today is like a bachelors of the past, a must have to get ahead in your career. During undergrad I went full time, worked full time and my wife and son at home. Yes it was crazy but well worth it as I didn’t go to college directly out of high school.

  9. Sandy @ yesiamcheap says

    Those plaques on the wall with my degrees shellacked onto them are missing my grades. I overlooked this and will need to get it rectified immediately. Considering how much I spent on those degrees my GPA and my student loan debt should be printed front and center on those bad boys right below the school names.

  10. krantcents says

    I will take a different position, grades matter with your first job. A particular internship with a Fortune 500 company, a Big 4 CPA firm internship, a prestigious law firm internship, or government agency can open doors. They probably asked for grades to select their candidates. Fresh out of college, that is almost the only thing you have. Phi Beta Kappa, Ivy league schools and grades may mean something to somebody along the way, but most employers want to know how you performed your job. I once got a job because the president I went to the same school. There are intangibles like school, fraternity, background, and maybe grades that can help, but job performance is number one.

    • Sandy @ yesiamcheap says

      Well said. It gets you into the door for internships and the all important first job. After that your previous job gets you to the next job. By the second job in, no one really cares too much…except if you can use it to build your personal network.

      • Rich In The Heart says

        I couldn’t agree more with this Sam. I have been a consultant at a combination of fortune 50 – fortune 1000 companies over the years.

        What got me in was most definitely not my grades in college (dismal GPA of 1.6-1.8). My grades were brought way down due to the non-primary classes for my desired degree in CS. I say “desired” because I never did get finish it up. But my tenacity and overall ability to get the job done on or ahead of time is what got me those positions.

  11. Gordie says

    Grades do matter, but they shouldn’ so much. Most of the knowledge and skills we learn at College in most courses (excluding sciences) are too narrow. I did a BA and basically the only skills I really picked up of use at College were time-management, writing skills and a bit of team work ability. I’ve forgotten at least 90% of the knowledge I learned there because it was of no use to me in the workforce.

    I think the system is broken. :(

  12. Positive Brother says

    Grades are a bit like looks.

    If you are hot everyone will want to f you. But if after that initial conversation and courtship, there is no substance, you will never be marriage material – just a f buddy.

    Isn’t it funny how the fat girls frequently have a personality while the beautiful ones rarely do? That is because the hot girls expect their looks to get them what they want, so they don’t develop anything else. On the other hand, the ugly ones work on their personalities as this is all they have to win people over. Which one works better in the long run? The personality of course.

    So it is with grades. You can’t just expect your grades to get you far. There are other important bits to the equation. Sure they matter, but so does developing other important career skills.

    I graduated top of my class, taking home various academic prizes but this was simply to get the top companies to flirt with me so I could, as one person here said it, get my foot in the door.

    Anyway this is becoming more of a blog post than a comment, so I will stop here lol.

    Great post FS!

  13. Romeo says

    Grades do not matter per se, but are a direct correlation of someone’s motivation;I think that this is the part that is missing from the argument.

  14. pilito says

    Hi, like the sarcasm! Although you do have a point, let me say why I partly confirm your post heading: :-)

    - since we are talking about grades and not CV here, there are plenty of examples of people running their own business without the best grades or without even attending school. But of course, these are the exceptions, which (you may say) just confirm the rule;

    - however, a person cannot be good at every subject offered in uni curriculums. If s/he is the analytical type, writing that organisational behaviour essay might be a horrible experience (for both writer and reader). It does not necessarily imply the person is stupid, did not work hard enough and did not walk the extra mile. He’s just not good at writing essays and despite the long hours of practice, s/he would never shine in the essay, as much as a peer with writing talent. Therefore, I’m coming with this revolutionary proposition :D for CVs to list only grades relevant to the job in question. I mean, if you are going to work as a software programmer, who cares about your organisational behaviour grades?!

    • Romeo says

      Pilito, you actually have a point, but it is no new proposal. There have been legal battles over companies who have required recruits to take test that was not job related. In fact, it is the job of one’s HR department to ensure that test or hiring practices are relevant to the job.

    • Financial Samurai says

      What sarcasm? Thanks for agreeing with my thesis that grades don’t matter!

      You are right, we should not have well rounded people and slice and dice the grades to exactly what the person plans to do upon graduation. We’ll create our own GPA to suite our needs and not the needs of the employer.

        • pilito says

          Do we really have to argue on this point as well? :) There may be a ton of reasons, like the drone having a combined honours degree for example.

          Anyway, I appreciate your point and I also do not enjoy when people around me don’t aim to get the best possible grades, however, I’ve seen guys that can’t spell right, yet are great salesmen because they can connect to people and can sell them the air they breathe.

  15. Jonathan says

    It could be that, since there are so many people who have joined into the mantra of ‘grades matter’ over the years, that there is just an over supply of this type of person. Therefore, companies get bored and start looking for something else.

    People who don’t care about grades tend to do their own thing. These people, if they decide to be productive outside of the mold, are what really push the envelope of human achievement. I know people use Zuckerburg as an example of this, but he’s a great example. Do something different, leave the road ‘more traveled’, and you just may find treasure.

    • Financial Samurai says

      Yeah, getting into Harvard seems like it’s getting much easier. Anothergood example is Bill Gates, who also dropped out of Harvard. You used to have to study hard and get good grades to get into Harvard, now it seems like any genius can.

  16. Money Reasons says

    Very funny, you really had me laughing out loud.

    I think it does take more than grades to be a great success. A childhood friend of mine graduated with a doctorate degree in chemistry with a GPA close to a 4.0. He now lives in the basement of his parent’s house and works as a stockboy at a grocery store that he had while he was in college. His flaw is his social skills. Communication, people, looks, humor, networking skills, and grades are all part of the magic mix that makes a great employee.

    Another segment where grades aren’t quite as important is when you are a small business owner. My grandfather didn’t even graduate from Junior High, let alone college, but he was very successful as a small business owner. My dad got his associates degree in engineering (with a B average), but also become a small business owner and make very good money now. Both had exceptional personalities…

    But based on what I’ve learned from you, to land an executive job, grades are important, at least to get hired… But I’m assuming that it’s how you perform after your hired that enables you to move up. Just like in one of your older posts, to get ahead you have to be the first one in, and the last one out. You also have to pick the correct friends (the latch onto a rocket post) at work, that’s also critical.

    That for the great sarcasm, it truly was a great read!

    • Financial Samurai says

      Respect to your grandfather! Yes, grades are only one of many indicators such as personality, presence, charisma, communication skills etc that employers use as a determinant of fit.

      And, I hope when your kids grow up, they have the best chance possible to compete in a world full of competition as they can. Cheers

  17. Patrick says

    What I have found most amazing is that the people who care most about grades are the same ones who can’t separate academia from reality. I don’t care what you learned in school or how well you did, I am interested in your ability to think outside the box and actually solve a problem. In my opinion to many people put emphasis on memorizing useless facts and historical dates and not enough on critical thinking.

    I am also biased, I value experience more than any grades or school you attended. If you are a recent college grad but you have no life experience then I have no interest in hiring you. When I was 22 I had been in the military for 4 years, was accountable for the lives and welfare of 9 soldiers and was serving in my second combat tour. I may have missed out on getting that 3.7 GPA but I had life skills and experience you can’t teach or learn in school.

    I am currently in charge of about 100 people, I wear a suit and tie everyday and I still don’t have a college degree. The last two jobs I have had required a college degree and yet that was waived each time I applied and got the job. I am not saying all school is bad, I am saying it is OVERRATED. Some of the dumbest people I know have multiple degrees, a graduate degree, etc but they lack life skills. I can change the oil in my car, shoot a deer from a distance greater than a football field, gather food in the forest, cut wood to heat my home and survive.

    Let us also not forget, our last President was a C student and I would give anything to have him back in office compared to the community organizer gone socialist currently occupying the seat.

    • Financial Samurai says

      Can we agree to this theory that people who didn’t do well in school, or didn’t go to school but feel they are a success believe that grades and school doesn’t matter? And people who did go to school and did very well in school and feel they are a success believe grades and education is very important?

      Everything points back to the picture in my post and point #1: You’re special. I’m special. We’re all special.

      Since we are all special, this is another reason why I’m so bullish on the economy, because anybody can get a job if they want to, and flourish.

      • Patrick says

        I do agree, which is also why I am fed up with people who sit on unemployment for 99 weeks. There is no excuse for that, if you can’t find a job where you live then you do one of two things, you change career paths or you move.

        To build upon what you are saying, it is ok to be special, that is what made America great and what will keep America great in the years to come. What we need is for government to get out of our daily lives and let us all flourish.

        • Financial Samurai says

          More reasons why I’m so bullish. Grades don’t matter because as you say, we’ve got 99 weeks of unemployment insurance which ROCKS!

          Also, since grades don’t matter, everybody can get a job if they wanted to because firms don’t believe grades or anything that provides a measure of success matters.

          Hence, it’s a win/win for all!

  18. Charlie says

    A resume with no gpa tells a candidate is hiding something. I may still bring them in for an interview if the experience looks good. But if I have 2 good candidates and one spot to fill, I’m going to pick the person that did better in their classes. I interviewed a kid from a top Ivy league school today. He was a little bit shy and had some pretty good experience. He probably could have done an extra internship and been a little more confident but he was articulated, driven, and had a stellar GPA – and I swear that 3.75 started singing to me “pick me” “pick me”. I worked my butt off to get good grades in college and I have a lot of respect for younger folks that do the same.

    • Financial Samurai says

      Word to yo mother Charlie! That is great you have respect for younger folks who’ve worked their butt off to do well in school too.

      Too bad, according to the internet and many commenters from my last post, grades don’t matter. What matters more is how special we are, because someone with good grades can’t also be special too.

      I will ALWAYS pick the harder worker over the brainiac. Nothing anybody ever does is rocket science… only rocket scientists do rocket science! Hence, what I want is someone with an extremely strong work ethic. A lot of grades is about effort, and having the maturity to take your life seriously.

      Good luck with your hiring!

  19. brokeprofessionals says

    I have another one:

    Who cares about grades when the world is going to end in 2012 anyway. The Mayans said it.

    or

    Who Can Worry About Something as Trivial as Grades with all the pain and suffering in the world?

    or

    Bill Gates is the richest guy ever and he dropped out of college.

    or

    No great writer ever got good grades.

    or

    A students will never have the social aptitude to be successful outside the classroom (not sure if you got that one in there already).

  20. 101 Centavos says

    Great post, FS.
    Bill Gates is held up as a paragon of success by our two boys, curiously enough more often right around the time that report cards come out. Our response? You’re not Bill Gates, and what’s that B doing there?
    Good grades may not matter much later in life, but as other commenters have pointed out, they get your foot in the door for that first job or internship or admission to a particular school or program. More importantly, the hard work that leads to good grades instills other good habits.

  21. First Gen American says

    This article was hilarious. Money Reasons summarized my thoughts best. The people on the fringes are scary. I don’t want to hire the 2.0 slacker guy, but if I look back at my 4.0 students, most of them had horrible social skills and could not do more than 1 thing at a time. The fortune 50 company I started with had a 3.0 minimum and they could have had a 3.5 but they know the students that multitasking with sports, jobs, etc, often are above average but not perfect.

    • Financial Samurai says

      What a silly company you started with to have a 3.0 minimum. Let’s change perceptions and allow for equality of allowing for 1.0-2.99 people as well. We need to help everyone!

      Yes, we should probably bar the 4.0s of the world. 3.99 or worse! :)

  22. First Gen American says

    One more comment, if grades are important, how many companies do you know who have asked for a college transcript from anyone who’s been out of school for more than 5 years? I only had to provide one for my very first job and that was it.

    • SavingMentor says

      Even when I was first out of school, I don’t remember interviewers asking for a copy of my transcript. I did include my GPA on my resume, and even brought my transcript to interviews with me in a binder – but no one was ever interested in seeing it.

      I’m in the technology industry though and I think they would rather ask you tough technical questions than try to judge you by the courses you took.

    • Financial Samurai says

      College transcripts? Not sure, but that might go too far and obsessive. However, background checks are very thorough and serious nowadays, and a transcript isn’t out of the question since all they have to do is ask, and it is up to the job seeker to provide.

      Companies are taking less and less chances out there now because there are MORE AND MORE qualified individuals.

  23. DoNotWait says

    I hate how so many companies put too much emphasis on grades. Well, mostly when they want to hire a newly graduate. I was lucky enough to be talented in school, no matter the subject or discipline. Of course, I was more interested in some than others. But I could have done basically anything with my grades… that does not mean I would have been a great doctor or a good engineer. I discovered young enough I didn’t like science that much. I could have listened to many adults saying: go for it, you have the talent. I’m glad I listened to myself and got in something I like. I think that matters over anything else, grades included. When a person likes what he or she does, it shows. And as I had to hire a few times, this is what I was looking for: persons with passion and the will to try to make something good. Not being perfect or having the greatest rates ever, but rather being an inspirational being.

    • david M says

      You wrote, ” When a person likes what he or she does, it shows.” and by writing that you have proven that grades matter. Why – what good grades show is that they person likes to learn and thus they got good grades. Do you want to hire someone who likes to learn? If yes, all other things being equal – hire the person with the better grades.

      • DoNotWait says

        I guess you can twist it like this if you want, but that is really not what I meant to say. Some persons really love something but have trouble making this love turns into good grades. Some persons just don’t “fit” as much in our educational manners and ratings than some others. I don’t think a passion only shows in grades, not at all. It shows when the person speaks, when the person looks at you, it shows because of its enthusiasm towards a subject or another. That is why I said “it shows”. This thought was not related to the grades. Let’s say a person really loves its discipline and ends up being in multiple committees related to it during college. His grades might not be as good as the one who spent all his nights in books. But, to me, that person who engaged in multiple things is more passionate. So not, I would not necessarily hire the person with the better grades.

        • david M says

          I agree absolutely agree with your last sentence, “I would not necessarily hire the person with the better grades.”

          Some organizations do take it to far and only care about grades – I once interviewed for a job with TASC (they are weather information business) and all they cared about was grades and other quantitative things. They wanted to know my grades of course but also my SAT scores and CPA exam scores. My scores were good and thus this company wanted to hire me for a job that I had absolutely no passions for (staff accountant). However, since they only cared about grades and the like they could not see how bad a fit the job was for me. One a declined the job – they actually tried to convince me to take it.
          Thus I can agree with you that “only” basing a decision on grades is a bad idea.

    • Financial Samurai says

      It’s natural selection though. The world will get smarter and smarter and competition will get even tougher as organizations naturally select the best of the best in an every growing population.

      Part of the movement is to get your immediate population to believe that grades don’t matter during their school, so they fook up their lives and make things easier for you when you graduate and go out an compete.

      Even if you are an entrepreneur, your pedigree will count more and more as people provide you capital and give you a chance.

  24. david M says

    You wrote, ” When a person likes what he or she does, it shows.” and by writing that you have proven that grades matter. Why – what good grades show is that they person likes to learn and thus they got good grades. Do you want to hire someone who likes to learn? If yes, all other things being equal – hire the person with the better grades.

  25. Invest It Wisely says

    This is a very sarcastic post, right? I already know what you think about grades but this one made me laugh :P

    We both believe in meritocracy, eh? I’m not the smartest guy in the room but I still believe that people deserve to reap the fruits of their labour, and if they are not willing to put in the work to achieve their goals then they don’t have the right to force others to provide it for them.

  26. Miss T says

    I have never agreed with the modern education system. For one, they don’t teach people in all forms of teaching. There is so much written and oral and little visual that those who learn visually or kinesthetically have little chance to ever do well in school. That is why you can have a technically A student who get’s C’s in school. They aren’t taught in the form they learn best.
    Grades to me have never been an honest representation of someone’s abilities. To me they are just a letter that only makes sense in a school and only to some people.
    In real life, adult life there are no grades. We don’t have an honour role at work. We don’t get a report card every few months from our boss and we certainly don’t get a report back with an A plus on it. Teaching kids in a forum that measures success by grades does not prepare them for real life. Adults aren’t evaluated that way.
    Also, just because someone gets A’s in school or is book smart, does not mean they are going to function well in the real world or real job. Experience outways grades every time if you ask me. Anyways, that’s my rant. As you can see, I think the education system needs a serious over haul.

  27. Little House says

    Elementary School – “Don’t worry sweetie, it’s your effort that counts.”

    Middle School – “It’s okay if you didn’t pass that class, at least you’re trying.”

    High School – “Well, there’s always community college.”

    Life – “How those burgers coming?!”

    Maybe we should rename GPA to gross pay average – the lower the GPA, the lower the salary; the higher the GPA the higher the salary? Of course, this doesn’t really work out evenly across all occupations. Somehow teaching got the short end of the stick – or it could just be that it’s a woman-dominated field…..hmmmm…

    • Financial Samurai says

      Wow! That’s the spiciest comment I’ve read from you yet! I like! We are a society that strives to make everybody feel special, sometimes beyond what’s necessary. As long as we’re happy with what we have, and aren’t delusional, it’s all good.

  28. Sydney says

    Ha I love your post. You have a great blog Sam. Your creativity and style of writing is so fun to read. As for grades, I didn’t get straight A’s myself but I tried to! To me there was nothing better in school than getting an exam back with an A written across the top. Sometimes it was a B or a B- though and i was still happy if I knew I’d given it my best shot. It’s hard to be strong in every subject and Physics and Calculus were definitely not my strengths. :)

  29. Graham says

    I think grades only matter to everyone else as much as they do to you. I got decent, but not outstanding grades at a pretty decent state school and every job I’ve ever been serious about wanting to get, I’ve been at least be considered for. (The only one that didn’t pan out, was because of a stupid assessment center, I’m 1-1 lifetime against assessment centers) Still, what they saw (or didn’t see) on my CV didn’t hinder them from calling me and asking me to the next stage. Grades however are a very poor predictor of real life success, in my opinion.

  30. brokeprofessionals says

    Mrs. BP works at the school’s and parents favorite excuse for underperforming children (aside from the teacher being bad) is “My child is gifted…..their just so above it all that their bored!”

  31. Darwin's Money says

    For your lightbulb idea, that sounds like a fun place to work!
    Seriously, I used to work for some great leaders that really flew through the ranks that routinely joked about being C students. Often times, the 4.0s were tools, at least in the world of Engineering. The problem is, you can’t even get your foot in the door without at least a 3.2 or so in most places. There are so many other kids out there with higher GPAs and a fair amount of weighting is placed on that factor to even get an interview before they get to know you.

    • Financial Samurai says

      Would be a KICK ASS place to work! I’d arrive late, leave early, kick back and do nothing all day, take 2 hour lunch breaks and collect my pay.

      If people believe companies are run by socialists, then sure, grades don’t matter.

  32. Max says

    I think it feels good to get good grades. Like, when you go to school, perform your best, and get good grades, you feel good about yourself, but when you do half-ass, it sort of sucks and doesn’t feel so great. I’ve been on both ends, so I know the feelings. I mean, buck the system and all that, the man can’t judge me, but I still have to judge myself in the end, and that has to be based somewhat on my performance in life, whether in school or whatever else I do. Of course, many items in the list are probably true in some sense, with a little bit of luck and effort, but then why not just drop out altogether, who needs school anyways if grades don’t matter and you can just learn it on your own?

  33. Nicole says

    We tell our students that grades matter for their first job, but what they’ve learned and what they do matters for every job after that. Nobody has looked at my GPA since I got into graduate school.

  34. Jane Sanders says

    I was an honor student when I was in highschool. I got tired of studying when I was in college. My grades were horrible. When I was applying for jobs, I didn’t have confidence. In guess there are cases wherein good grades matter.

  35. Pleading Monkey says

    Rather than being a college or ex-college student, im still in high school. I go to a international school in Singapore where the expectation of the the average is a 3.75, and almost all years 3/4 of the graduating class go to ivy league colleges.Grades are considered of the paramount importance and even though competitive activities are held in realitivley high regard grades are still of the tip of all care. My GPA is considered bellow the threshold at which it is the norm to be proud about it at a 3.0. My fellow students say and mock that i wont go to college. Despite how self pretentious this may sound, i think that they are wrong. My family at this school is not of great financial superiority so rather than traveling across the world the second summer comes, i work. Ive taught a full trimester at a Australian primary school as a full fledged adult, i have worked as a sales person for over 120 hours and have interned at one of the largest tax companies in Singapore. The phrase that connects the two of these points is that, good grades are a dime a dozen but experience is something much more rare.

    Very thought provoking post, it was thoroughly enjoyed!

  36. Phil says

    In my views, grades only matter to a certain point. It is not wise to put so much emphasis on grades when choosing to hire someone. Having good grades does indicate that you can work hard, and follow instructions. Yes you were able to memorize a bunch of information and regurgitate it on a test in school, but can you think for yourself? Do you know how to think with a critical mind? Can you innovate, come up with new ideas and think outside the box? Can you add value to the organization? Or do you just simply follow what you are told to do and are just capable of doing the tasks you are given. Often times, job duties and things you have to deal with at work are not what you were taught in school. School only gives you academic knowledge, but no real world experience. There is way more to life than just working hard to get good grades. That is just a small facet of life. There are many different paths people can take and I do not think it is right to limit people to only one way of thinking. Just because someone did not take school so seriously and got poor grades does not means they will not be successful in life. There are many different paths to success, and success means something different to every individual.

  37. Josh Bertoli says

    Ok I think the problem with grades is that, we are raised in a society that promotes to just chase the grade. Get the grade for the sake of just getting, and never stop to think what your doing. I think it would be great if some people just watched the first four mins of this video “Public “Education” has become indoctrination and distraction”. I’m not saying grades are a bad thing but what I do think is how we get them is the more important thing.

  38. Otto Johns says

    Financial Samurai,

    Does it make you made when people with poor grades at college earn more money that you?

    I am waiting for your sarcastic reply.

    Peace.

  39. Elaine Gillum says

    @Mike Hunt
    Mike, I have a student who is actually conducting a science fair project here in San Diego, on this topic: Do grades matter? or, specifically: Do student’s with good grades earn more in their life time. He is having a heck of a time speaking with people who have done research and have documented studies. Poor kid, he’s put in numerous hours and can’t find someone to talk with about his project. He has a great idea, and some ideas to test his hypothesis, but really needs a mentor. If you or someone else reading this post could offer my student some guidance and advice, I could have you communicate with him, through me. Please drop me an email: mrsg9064@aol.com Thanks everybody!

  40. JayCeezy says

    Sorry to bump this so late, but it is a great subject. As one who spent decades telling others (and myself) that grades were not important, trying to change others’ perceptions of less-than-best academic performance, and all the while believing I was “special”, please allow me to say…I was wrong. And kidding nobody. Grades are important. People will tolerate one’s piffle while attempting to make the opposite case, but consider it time wasted in the interest of politeness and avoiding a no-win confrontation.

    btw, dig the ‘Light Bulb’ idea, but believe that concept is already a mature implementation; it is known by another name – Civil Service.

    • Financial Samurai says

      Thanks for your thoughts JC. I don’t really care what people’s grades are, so long as they show a good attitude and a willingess to work hard. But, when folks start arguing that grades don’t matter to younger folks who are in HS or college, that’s when I have to step up. It’s better to have good grades and more options, all else being equal.

  41. sarah says

    9) You are already very wealthy. Grades mean nothing because you can always work for your parents company, live off your trust fund, or live off your spouse.

    What is this, a satire? Some of us are killing ourselves over our GPAs precisely because we are unwealthy and we cannot fall back on our families. GPAs aren’t the end all be all of an application. But they help us stand out against competition.

  42. Ivy says

    I was excited about reading this until it hit me that this was satire. Grades do matter yes. In most cases grades should matter, but I was still hoping this wasn’t going to be a satire…

    A little about myself:

    I am an Undergrad Engineering student (Electrical, Computer, Bio-Medical and Neural) at an unnamed University (Globally within the top 50 universities). I work hard in school. I do research. I study all the time. I have a 2.7 GPA. I don’t like putting my GPA on resumes because it is easy for recruiters to think “Oh, she doesn’t know anything” instead of thinking “Oh, she doesn’t take exams well.”

    I think the research that I do proves what I am capable of. I think the extracurricular activities and the course projects I have worked on prove what I am capable of. I think the fact that I go to the school that I go to says a lot! None of that matters when they see 2.7.
    I’ve gone to job fair after job fair, and it hurts when employers hand you your resume back.

    Yes, I realize my scenario probably isn’t typical everywhere, but at my school it is. The semester I got my first D was the semester I decided to get 8 hrs of sleep 4 nights a week, and try to eat at least 2 meals everyday (rather than skip these things to study). Goodness knows I have no social life! My schedule before then involved classes from 10 am – 4 pm, and homework from 4 pm – 4 am. I would get 5 hrs of sleep if I was lucky, before I started again.

    At my school many students develop depression or eating disorders from the stress of the courses. Learning and getting the grade is more important than their personal health and well-being, and for what? A world-renowned education, a vast array of knowledge, and the inability to have anyone take you seriously. When given the chance they surpass expectations, but their “grades” keep opportunities from coming their way.

    Again, I acknowledge that we are not the majority, but nonetheless I feel that when the advice, “the grades don’t matter” or “grades should matter” are given they should be given in context. My grades neither reflect what I know, nor how hard I work. Truly they say: “Ivy doesn’t take exams well. Ivy’s professors like asking obscure questions that will likely not be useful in the real world. Ivy should eat better/sleep more.” The other 99% of the resume says: “Certainly Ivy can do the work,” but the GPA speaks slanders my name loudly.

    • Financial Samurai says

      Ivy,

      Everything is relative. Maybe a 2.6 GPA is OK compared to a 3.8 GPA from Boston University, but the potential employer isn’t going to hire everyone from MIT. You are competing against fellow people at MIT who have good to great grades.

      It’s once you get into the school that matters. Let’s try even harder and get the GPA above 3.0. Many firms have 3.0 cut offs.

      Good luck.

  43. Ted Hu says

    I know many Ivy Leaguers who are booksmart yet lack wisdom, historical context, or critical thinking. College is a data point. If someone has a great GPA and in conversation and action yield above average results, great. But to rely on that as the singular data point that matters disregards other life experiences.

    While others were graduating college, I had a lot of personal family issues to contend with. Learned a lot in the process, many of it health and gerontology included, that my peers did not have to deal with until recent years. My grades took a hit as a result. As a matter fact, I ended up viewing grades as a rather artificial construct.

    As you yourself have noted, grit and effort matters more than talent. And that is what I noted as well. The shit I had to go through in life mattered a lot more than the grades I got. And to those that get hung up on grades, I am fairly confident they also had a pretty sheltered and well-to-do life at their parents expense that allows them to see the world through so rose tinted lenses.

  44. John Doe says

    Begin Rant:
    You imply that my life’s sole purpose is to work for someone else in a job deemed respectable by the institutions and to have a high income. This is false. This type of thinking is derived from consumer fetishism. When you understand this you will begin to see that most of your cute little grades are worthless. I honestly hope every 4.0 student gets the job of their dreams so that they can devote their existence to sitting in an office so they can get that cute little bmw brand car. I hope they work so hard that they stay at their desk 18 hours a day never to experience any other aspects of life. I hope they consume all their cutely branded “diet” granola bars at their desk to off put their diabetes due to obesity due to being a cubicle monkey. I hope they work so long that they never have time to develop relationships with their family consequently to be married 3 times. I hope they buy their large house, cars, boats, televisions, i mean heck double size everything and let them buy it and be hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt never to truly own anything they have. I hope they can never sleep at night or do basic human functions like running a mile because they developed an ideology that their head is separate from the body and that the body is an unnecessary organism getting in the way of making money. This is the american dream! Who doesn’t want it??? Live it up guys!!!

      • Paul says

        Obviously, your reply and the original post are examples of extreme stereotype. It’s almost needless to say that anyone can be “full of regret” and for any reason. Believe it or not, many physicians regret their choices to enter medicine.

        • John Anderson says

          I would completely agree with Paul. However, as a physician of 33 years and a veteran of Operation Bright Star I could say I don’t regret entering medicine as I regret the state of my life currently.

          I would say its not all about money as a substitute for happiness. Get this fallacy out of your head now. Life is so precious and yet we collectively throw it away every second. Yes if you can comment on this blog you probably are in the 3% of the world population that can take a few minutes out of their 80 hour work week. Wake up and live a little.

          I suggest you all watch the 1976 film “Network”. It held true then and it holds true now.
          Life goes by way to fast on this pale blue dot. Enjoy life for yourself and not for the acceptance of others. Who are secretly or not so secretly wishing for your downfall simply to get a moment of joy from your suffering. This is the real human condition. Always will be.

  45. Akasha says

    I can relate to Ivy, Sam & John Doe…think of the small percentage of people who work their butts off and still can’t pull off a decent GPA…also it’s ok to fail Beethoven was told that he was not good enough and almost everyone here now know who he is, all great people have to struggle & have failed look at Bill Gates & Steve Jobs grades don’t matter if you don’t have a creative, innovative minds & excellent person to person skills and relationships. You can gain the world and still lose everything. I really think getting good grades is supeficial and does not give an idea of the true worth of a person as an asset to an organisation.

  46. Lola carmeral says

    Trust me, u re nuts when u say grades don’t matter. Come on!!! People must and has to study their busts off in order to go to good universities. Just with certificates might increase ur chances to be applied to a better universities but that doesn’t mean getting bs ll give u chances to go to good universities. Plus not everyone are born with silver spoon in their mouth

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