GPA: Not the bottom line

Today, grade point average (GPA) is considered to be the standard and reliable measurement of a student’s character and intelligence as a predictor of future success in the real world setting.

GPA certainly reflects a student’s commitment to the class as well as his or her grasp of class concepts.

Nevertheless, is a student with a record of straight A’s really going to be more successful than his or her classmate who gets lower grades?

Recently, USA Today published a debate about the worth of a GPA as an indicator of an individual’s potential both within and outside the academic realm.

Surprisingly, admission counselors from top colleges and universities revealed that a numerical figure such as a GPA is not truly a comprehensive and relevant way to judge an applicant.

In today’s competitive marketplace, an individual’s potential can be best demonstrated in a combination of factors that include extracurricular activities, internships and other relevant hands-on experiences.

“It’s artificial,” says Jim Bock, admissions dean at Swarthmore College, which is the top private college in The Princeton Review’s Best Value rankings.

So unimportant is the GPA that Swarthmore doesn’t bother calculating it for guidebook publishers.

Frank Rizzone, associate director of the Career Development Center asserts, “GPA is one indicator of a student’s ability, but it’s not infallible.”

During his years of experience helping students and alumni obtain professional employment, he states that it is not rare to encounter students who with a 2.2 GPA, per se, secure successful and coveted jobs.

However, Rizzone does indicate that the importance of GPA can oftentimes be circumstantial.

He points out that the highly specialized on-campus majors of accounting and intelligence do require students to procure and maintain a specific GPA to either stay on the academic program or obtain a job upon graduation.

What do these findings that indicate that the utmost importance of GPA as the screening tool that indicates future success is dwindling represent to students?

On one hand, it means that students who do not perform well on standardized tests can demonstrate their abilities and qualifications through other activities that reflect drive and motivation.

Nevertheless, it can also lead to an increased pressure for students to not only do well in their school work, but also to undertake multiple extracurricular activities, projects, research and off-school jobs as a means to stand out.

Even though the significance of a number such as a GPA cannot be entirely overlooked because it reflects a student’s efforts, it is not the only factor that will determine success following graduation.

Determination, attitude and passion can oftentimes be more important tools in helping a person thrive. Therefore, students who work hard yet are not able to attain a high GPA should not be discouraged.