As students begin this new semester, many are thinking about their education as a whole — how many more classes do I need to take, is this class going to be too difficult, etc. But besides making it to graduation, what really can be used to assess the quality of an individual student’s educational success?
In her article "Your GPA is Your Calculator of Academic Success," Emily Ludeman wrote, "GPA is a snapshot that employers, professors, advisors and peers look to as a benchmark of your academic career." GPA defines many parts of student life as it stands now: whether a student is on academic probation, what student organizations they can participate in or what leadership or internship positions they can hold.
Even once a student leaves college, GPA is used by many large companies to screen candidate applications. In the Forbes article “Do Employers Really Care About Your College Grades?,” Susan Adams wrote that "many small employers won’t expect to see a GPA on a résumé, but most large companies will.”
One of the major strengths of the GPA system is that it boils a student’s full academic journey into an easily comparable metric. With the amount of applications these companies have to sift through, it only makes sense that they would look at GPA because of its brute efficiency.
The simple, efficient nature of GPA produces its biggest flaw. GPA does not fully reflect a student’s academic experience or the skills they have learned.
Firstly, screening students by GPA might also sort out students with relevant work and internship experience. Because it is a measure of classroom success only, GPA is not representative of extracurricular experiences.
Even though many classes are important and can teach students various skills in their chosen fields, assignments and tests that factor into GPA bear little resemblance to the work of those that have a career in the student’s field of study.
In the article “Does GPA Matter When Looking for a Job?," Lawrese Brown wrote, "your GPA may get you in the door, but it’s not going to close the deal. There are other factors—your creativity, interpersonal skills, critical thinking, and communication ability—that are likely to be far more relevant than the grades you received in college coursework.”
Tests are often an accurate assessment of whether a student has, at least temporarily, learned the necessary information. However, because it is hard to test career skills, test scores in letter grades and, by extension, GPA are less representative of how students will be able to apply their knowledge in their future career.
Then there are the problems of student cheating and grade inflation. Because we have ingrained GPA as the primary measure of student success, students are turning to unethical methods and pushing professors to grade their classes easier.
In his article “Eliminating the Grading System in College: The Pros and Cons,” Dave Tomar wrote, “Inflated grades lead to inflated rankings, contribute to better employment rates, and generally promote the illusion of academic rigor while achieving exactly the opposite effect.”
Employers, faculty and students need to treat GPA as the blunt instrument it is, and work to find more holistic ways to measure student success.