Are good grades going to hurt your career prospects?

Everyone knows you’re supposed to study hard when you’re at college so that you can get good grades. Take notes. Attend class. Write papers. Study. Study. Study.

Well, what if I told you that this might be sabotaging your career prospects?

A lot of students have a real single-minded focus on grades. I get it. I was pretty obsessed with getting an 85.00% average during my undergrad as this meant my next year of tuition was free (now you want to know where I studied, right!?). But the thing is that it wasn’t going to make much difference to an employer interviewing me whether I got a 75%, 80%, or 85% average. What they did care about is what else I had done. What role had I played on the student association? What volunteer experience had I gained? What languages had I learned while studying abroad?

Want to become a more well-rounded candidate, and person? Here are just a few ideas to consider:

  • Internships – Don’t think internships only take place in the summer. Even a few hours a week can be amazing experience – and you have a lot less competition from other students when you’re applying.
  • Volunteer work – All volunteer work is great, but use it strategically and it can really help with your career. Serving food at a soup kitchen is great, but think from an employers’ perspective and compare that experience with say, organizing a major fundraising event and raising $10k for a local charity.
  • Travel and languages – Take your travel to the next level by doing a language immersion program or getting involved in the local community.
  • Clubs and student associations – Don’t just pay your dues and then list your membership on your resume. Get involved and take on a real position.
  • Skills – Learn a really popular skill or computer program, like PowerPoint or Excel. Don’t want to take a course? There are other ways too, for example, helping a Professor with his/her research to learn SPSS.

Not only will you gain really valuable experience to add to your resume, you’ll have a lot of great material for interviewing, a broader network, and probably a few people who could serve as references.

It’s easy to become fixated on GPA when you’re in the bubble that is college – professors, friends, parents… they all reinforce it. Of course grades matter. But the time required to make the difference between getting a good and a great GPA might be better spent invested in other experiences.

By Kari Reston
Kari Reston Founder and CEO Kari Reston