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College Success 101: The Hard Truth About Your Grade Point Average

In this article, Dr. David Wyld, who has been a business professor for over two decades, shares tips and tricks that college students should know in order to maximize your grade in any course. This article is actually part of a series, written to provide students with an overview of what it takes to succeed in college classes, whether the setting is a “real” classroom or a virtual one. In this article, Professor Wyld provides insights into how students can best view – and improve – their Grade Point Average (G.P.A.).


Grades. Grades. Grades. For students, for their parents, and ultimately, for potential employers and graduate schools, the numbers are all important today. And while this author has previously addressed the issue of grades at the course level (College Success 101: Understanding Subjective Grading – for Good and for Bad), a student’s cumulative grade performance has a single, all-encompassing metric. This is your Grade Point Average (G.P.A.).

All too often, students begin to be concerned about their G.P.A.s too late in their college careers. Sometimes, the concern occurs during the a student’s junior year, or perhaps even at the start of their senior year. Most of the time, the concern for the G.P.A. arises out of a “triggering event” – a job interview or an application to a graduate program or professional school (medicine, law, dentistry, etc.). On the bad end, the sudden focus on G.P.A. can come from an email or letter from the college or university alerting the student to an “issue” with their G.P.A. – namely that it has fallen to a point where some action has to be or will be taken (i.e. suspending the student, placing the student on probation, limiting the number of hours to be taken, etc.).

At that point – 60, 87, or 109 hours into his or her degree program, G.P.A. becomes not just a relevant issue for the student and his/her family, but in many, many cases – both on the the low-end and on the high-side – it suddenly becomes an all-important number. When an employer has a requirement that a student must have a 3.0 G.P.A. to be considered for a position or a law school or M.B.A. program has an entrance formula that specifies that a student must have a 3.25 G.P.A. to meet its admissions standards, then the student’s G.P.A. becomes the critical number for the student’s future. If you current college has graduation honors distinctions (magna cum laude, cum laude, etc.), you will automatically qualify if your G.P.A. is high enough. On the other hand, if your G.P.A. is low – and too low for the college – you may not be able to proceed in your degree program and ultimately, not be able to graduate. Indeed, the student’s G.P.A. can be one of two things – a qualifier or a disqualifier. It becomes a “go/no go” decision factor for the student in terms of what they can do and the options they may have before them. Indeed, that single number can either limit (on the low-end) or enable (on the high-end) the choices the student has for his or her respective future.

So, how should you look at your G.P.A., whether it is good or bad? And what can you do to improve it? This article lays-out some of the cold, hard facts about your G.P.A., as well as some “tricks” to make it better – or at least appear better on paper or an e-form!

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