Does a College GPA Matter in the Real World?

College GPA

Does a College GPA Matter in the Real World?

Published February 12, 2020 | Last Updated April 28th, 2024 at 04:36 pm

College GPA

I had all but finished the core requirements for my Spanish major following my Junior year abroad. So, my 21-year-old self took the opportunity to simply load up my course schedule with electives that consisted of whatever the heck I felt like taking.

These are the actual courses I took my last year of college.

Fall Semester of Senior Year

– Aerobic Fitness I – (Got a C)

– Medieval Europe

– Astrology & Cosmology

– Medieval Spanish Literature

– Drama of the Golden Age

– Spanish-American Novel – (Got a C)

Spring Semester of Senior Year

– Medieval Literature

– Folk Literature

– Witchcraft & Magic

– Medieval Foods/ Entertainment

– Castles & Cathedrals

– Early Greece – (Got a D)

Does a College Degree Matter?

You must admit that a collection of courses, like what I took my senior year, fairly begs the question, “What on Earth would a graduate with a transcript like this possibly wind up doing for a living?”

* Health Insurance Corporate Rep (2 years)

* Pharmaceutical Sales Rep for Big Pharma (11-years)

* Started an online business (18-years & counting)

* Author of several non-fiction books

* Raising six kids.

Clearly, very little of my career was related to what I actually studied in college.

So, did what I study matter more than that I studied?

While it has been said many times before, “College is not trade school,”  the truth is, my initial career options would’ve been unavailable to me without that bachelor’s degree.

According to an article in Forbes, “by and large, your college major is unlikely to have any bearing on your career success.”

It is the degree that makes a difference, however.

A recent study from Georgetown University found that, on average, college graduates earn $1 million more in earnings over their lifetime than high school graduates. 

 While my ability to speak, read, and write in multiple languages may be great at dinner parties, it doesn’t directly relate to any of the career options I wound up doing.

(However maybe all the “fun” literature courses I took may have somehow helped me become a better writer, perhaps?)

Does College GPA Matter When Looking for a Job?

So, what’s my point?

  1. Early in my career, simply having a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University obviously opened doors of opportunity in corporate America that would not have otherwise been open to me.
  2. A few low grades aren’t going to be the death knell that many students and their parents fear they will be.
  3. Most of the time, hiring managers never even see a copy of your student’s transcript; just the GPA listed on the application or resume. Human Resources may be the only people in a company who can see that you got a “C” in Aerobics.
  4. My year abroad, and being able to take all of these pretty much irrelevant-to-my-professional-life courses was enriching, and thoroughly enjoyable. Aside from making me good at games like Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit, there’s a surprising personal value in being a well-rounded individual with knowledge on a wide variety of topics.
  5. Most importantly, I graduated from college with a manageable amount of student loan debt. I paid it off within three years.
  6. Furthermore, I was able to take SIX different maternity leaves throughout my career to have my kids. Choosing the major I did, (Spanish) with Senior year courses like these, then following it up by having all of these kids would’ve been…well…STUPID if I’d had massive student loan debts hanging over my head. (And the jury is still out on whether it was stupid anyway, because at a minimum, it’s safe to say it was a calculated risk.)  Albeit it has been a risk that has brought me untold joy with almost no regrets. 
  7. I seldom give this advice, but I believe, as Frank Bruni so eloquently stated,  the college you attend will not dictate who you’ll actually become.

And I’d dare add that often what you actually major in while studying in college isn’t necessarily what you’ll wind up doing for a living.

Case in point, one of my best friends was a Philosophy and Theater Arts double major – and now he is a successful systems analyst and corporate trainer. 

How to Figure Your Student’s College GPA

It would be helpful for students to know what their GPA is.

So, if your student is interested in calculating his/her GPA, here’s a good source to use.

Find the Right College Fit

After all is said and done, my recommendation is that students choose their colleges pragmatically, not only emotionally.

Work with your student to make a college choice with an eye towards the net costs and balance. 

Look for options that will enable your student to (most likely) graduate on time and with minimal debts.

Keep in mind that what will give your student post-graduate career options is having a degree in the first place.

Flexibility and ingenuity are also key.

Focus on having the ability to relocate to a better job market if needed, maintain the capability of learning new information, creating, and implementing solutions in a workplace, and the ability to communicate effectively with other people.

Good jobs may not always be plentiful in every geographic area, at every moment in time, nor in every market, but understand that the odds of finding one go up when you don’t have massive debts keeping you from being able to relocate to find one.

I hope my candor about my wacky transcript, my few less-than-stellar grades, with my non-lucrative major helps encourage you.

In summary, if you can’t help but worry about something – worry about choosing a college that will require deep debt.

Because crippling debt removes more opportunities than a few classes on Castles and Cathedrals, or a “C” in Aerobics ever will!


Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

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Other Articles You Might Like: 

Going to College Abroad? What You Need to Know

5 Things to Compare When Choosing a College (Besides Price)

Our Full Tuition Scholarship Journey




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