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If you are planning to pursue your college studies or are already a college student, you are perhaps more or less familiar with the GPA (Grade Point Average) system. U.S. colleges employ the GPA to keep track of students’ academic performance and achievements. This system is often highly competitive and you may find yourself worrying over maintaining the ‘perfect’ GPA or whether your GPA is good enough. Further, you can read up on a more detailed explanation on what exactly is a GPA, what a good college GPA looks like, and what the national average is, moving then to answers on whether a GPA is as important as it seems and tips to help you improve the overall college performance.

What Is a GPA and How Is It Calculated?

Many students have trouble understanding the concept and calculations that go into a GPA. Simply put, the Grade Point Average of a student is an accumulation of the grades received throughout the typical four years of college studies. This is achieved by dividing the total number of points earned in a study program by the total number of attempted credit hours.

The standard scale which is prevalent in its use in most U.S. colleges is a 4.0 scale. This scale implies that students’ GPA can vary from 0.0, being the lowest, to 4.0, being the highest. The grading system uses letters ranging from A being the highest score to F being a failing grade. These simultaneously stand in a numerical grade calculated through a 100 point percentage scale, e.g., an A stands for 90% and above, up to 100% out of the 100 point score.

Why Is a Good GPA Important?

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You may often be doubting your academic performance and anxiously asking yourself: am I doing enough? Is a 3.4 GPA good in college? Are the hard work and long hours of studying really worth it after all? While the accumulation of a student’s grades is not the sole means to measure potential, success, and academic accomplishment, it is universally acknowledged that maintaining a good GPA is of significant importance, be it for your personal, professional, or further academic development.

A 2017 review on the value of the GPA in U.S. recruitment finds that the GPA not only predicts success on a job; it is also an indicator of an employee’s willingness to voluntarily be of aid and assistance to co-workers and the organization. This means the job market will continuously be on the lookout for students with a good GPA seeing as this foresees a good performance in the workplace as well.

In today’s competitive labor market, among other professional qualities and skills that you are equipped with, your GPA might help set you apart from other candidates. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) conducted a 2019 Job Outlook survey to inquire about employers’ intentions and hiring plans and found that at least 60% of respondents will perform GPA screening on potential candidates.

Further, if you intend on pursuing a graduate degree after your undergraduate studies, the grade point average plays a crucial role in your admission. Some graduate schools set specific requirements for their admission, but generally, admission requirements vary from a 2.5 average to a 3.5, depending on the college, program, and degree.

What Is a Good College GPA?

An average GPA in college varies considerably depending on several factors such as the discipline of studies, the college itself, and whether it is a private or public school.

A 2010 grading trends study, which inspected grade inflation and how GPAs shifted over time, discovered that, at that time, from private colleges and universities in their extensive database, the average GPA stood at 3.3 in private schools and 3.0 at public schools.

Further, students’ performance differs depending on their choice of major as well. The field of your college studies should be taken into account when comparing GPAs and calculating whether you are on the right track to a good GPA. A Cornell study has indicated how GPAs tend to be higher for college students majoring in humanities and social sciences, ranging on average from 3.13 to 3.36 points. Students from STEM backgrounds, in comparison, obtained a GPA ranging from 2.78 to 3.13 points.

You should consider this so you don’t make wrongful comparisons and set unrealistic expectations for your studies. It should also be noted that the Grade Point Average tends to shift from year to year and may potentially change accordingly with industries as well.

What If My GPA Isn’t Good Enough?

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Indeed, the GPA is important, but that is not all there is to the college experience. Keep in mind that there are always exceptions, and having a GPA that is not perfect does not mean you are doomed to failure. Students’ grades tend to be affected depending on the course load, as well. While a high GPA with an average course load is still an accomplishment, a more challenging course load, accompanied by good grades, will be appreciated more.

Renowned organizational psychologist and bestselling author Adam Grant argues for the New York Times how academic grades do not necessarily assess qualities like creativity, leadership and teamwork skills, or social, emotional, and political intelligence.

Most importantly, you should bear in mind that the GPA is not a definitive measure of intelligence, but rather a tool to measure your dedication and hard work in an academic setting. The good thing is that there is always room for improvement.  Here is how:

  • Studying harder is essential; therefore, analyze your studying patterns by keeping track of the time you spend studying, tasks you do, and materials you review. Doing this will help you understand if you are dedicating less time to a particular course or whether you have been neglecting any courses.
  • Communicate regularly with your professors and attend office hours to find opportunities for improvement or extra credit work.
  • Keep in touch with your peers. Some students study and understand course content easier when sharing it with other fellow students.
  • Consider retaking a course in which you did not perform as well, or find out about opportunities to attend summer schools in which you can earn more credit.

A good GPA has clearly shown to be beneficial for many career paths, professional development, and an indicator of a dedicated college student. Distinguished students often have an advantage in college since good academic performance makes them ideal candidates for scholarships and financial aid.  The overall performance in college may affect future career choices; therefore, one must be aware of the competition and use it as an incentive to perform better in addition to showing commitment to your studies.

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