Difference between a 3.7, 3.8 and 3.9 GPA

Husky32's picture
Rank: Gorilla | 670

How differently would a recruiter/admissions counselor consider a 3.7 GPA, a 3.8 GPA and a 3.9 GPA? 3.7 is a little low I know, but is there really that much of a difference between a 3.8 (magna cum laude) and a 3.9 (summa cum laude) coming from a state school?

Does Your GPA Matter To Recruiters

Short answer is yes. However, some recruiters may place a floor at 3.5 GPA while others may not have a GPA cutoff. Although this would also depend on the structure of the firm, some smaller startups or businesses may not weigh GPA as heavily. User @BlackHat, a hedge fund partner, offers valuable insight to GPA:

blackhat - Hedge Fund Partner:

That's not to say a higher GPA is bad, but, more often than not, grade point average is not the best indicator of success due to grade-padding, rigor of coursework, and motivation of the student.

Although GPA is one of the things that recruiters screen for, it is more targeted towards current students or recent graduates. As years progress, GPA becomes more irrelevant as work experiences proves your value more than a number. User @northsider, a private equity associate, explains that:

northsider - Private Equity Associate:

Your experience is far, far more important than your GPA.

Should you have a 4.0 GPA?

Having a 4.0 would be an impressive feat within your school, but it may hurt you depending on the rest of your resume. Specifically within the business industry, you need to be well-rounded with internships, EC (extra-curriculars), and community involvement. Some recruiters said that having a 4.0 GPA may indicate a singular focus instead of developing yourself to be well-rounded. There are also skepticism on having a perfect gpa depending on your school, their rules on grade inflation, and the classes that you have taken.

However, some of this may not apply to you as you may have steller internships that articulate your interest in your particular field, or are heavily involved within your community. All of these paired with a steller GPA would place you in a better position.

What Can You Do If You Have A Lower GPA

If you do have a lower GPA, fear not. There isn't enough corrobating information on your resume to immediately put you out of the running. Specifically for business, User @23mich, a corporate strategy vice president, shares that there are a number of factors that you can play to your favor:

23mich - Corporate Strategy Vice President:
  1. Length of time - the longer you've been out of college, the less your undergrad matters and the more your work experience comes into play
  2. GMAT - a higher GMAT will essentially "validate" you showing that you have the intellectual horsepower to do well in MBA and your undergrad record doesn't fully reflect your abilities.
  3. Graduate school - if you've gone on to get a masters in something else and done well in it, it'll help your case
  4. Trend - Is your GPA a result of a terrible freshman year where you had trouble adjusting to college life but you turned things around and you can see a strong sense of improvement over time? This will show you can do well academically, you just took a "mulligan" of sorts before you hit your stride.

If you have more advice on either achieving a higher gpa or what you can do to level your playing field, please comment below!

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Comments (28)

Jun 20, 2013

a well thought out and pertinent question

Jun 20, 2013
blue-monkey:

a well thought out and pertinent question

Is it worth it to kill myself and get a 4.0 every semester to get summa cum laude or could I take it a bit easier, have some more fun, and get 3.8s every semester (magna cum laude) while learning more, taking more challenging but interesting classes, working on my senior thesis, etc. My school can definitely be challenging, and I'm deciding between taking better courses versus taking easier courses. These are all obviously decent GPAs but I have heard from a colleague that "perfection" is needed to get into investment banking from a non target school. I know networking, strong interview skills and technical intelligence through modeling courses are ways to make oneself competitive for recruiting, but does "perfection" constitute a perfect GPA? Also, since GPA is thought of primarily as a measure of learning and hard work (as opposed to intelligence), would a 3.81 GPA look bad in comparison to like a 3.95 or do people in finance say "beyond a 3.7, it's not really a big difference"?

Jun 20, 2013

Since you are going to a state school, you should put in the extra effort to distinguish yourself from the unwashed masses (which is what I had to do). It matters much less if you are going to a target.

Jun 20, 2013

Well I would assume there is a .1 gpa difference in between each step you listed. But then again I've been told I am bad at maths.

Follow the shit your fellow monkeys say @shitWSOsays

Life is hard, it's even harder when you're stupid - John Wayne

Jun 20, 2013
heister:

Well I would assume there is a .1 gpa difference in between each step you listed. But then again I've been told I am bad at maths.

so there isn't much of a difference?

Jun 20, 2013

Well,, Honestly, 3.7/3.8/3.9 are all good gpas. I bet the recruiters would definitely give an opportunity to those with stellar 3.95 gpa guys. But I think the difference of 0.2 wouldn't really matter if someone with gpa of 3.7 has other strengths such as being CFA lvl 2 or 3 candidate. GPA of 3.7/3.6/3.5 would still have a chance of interview. JUST MY OPINION! Disagree? Agree?

Jun 20, 2013

I automatically discount anybody I see with a 4.0 GPA, as it makes me think they are too singular in focus (or if they went to Michigan that it's actually out of a 4.2 scale). If somebody's taking the time to look at your resume and you have a 3.7 and decent work experience, you'll probably get an interview. Once you're in the interview, your GPA doesn't matter. Take classes in college that you can learn from and that interest you- you'll be more well rounded and better prepared for interviews. If your grand plan is to take easy courses to get a good GPA, you probably shouldn't be in college to begin with.

Jun 20, 2013
Connecticut Yankee:

I automatically discount anybody I see with a 4.0 GPA, as it makes me think they are too singular in focus (or if they went to Michigan that it's actually out of a 4.2 scale). If somebody's taking the time to look at your resume and you have a 3.7 and decent work experience, you'll probably get an interview. Once you're in the interview, your GPA doesn't matter. Take classes in college that you can learn from and that interest you- you'll be more well rounded and better prepared for interviews. If your grand plan is to take easy courses to get a good GPA, you probably shouldn't be in college to begin with.

I wouldn't auto ding anyone with a 4.0 if I was screening CVs, I would at least look at how the school grades. Is it on a straight letter basis, 90-100 A 80 - 89 B? Also I would look at the rest of their CV I know kids who got a 4.0 and had a very well rounded college experience at the semi target I went to. So its not a sure fire singular focus.

Follow the shit your fellow monkeys say @shitWSOsays

Life is hard, it's even harder when you're stupid - John Wayne

Jun 20, 2013
Connecticut Yankee:

I automatically discount anybody I see with a 4.0 GPA, as it makes me think they are too singular in focus (or if they went to Michigan that it's actually out of a 4.2 scale). If somebody's taking the time to look at your resume and you have a 3.7 and decent work experience, you'll probably get an interview. Once you're in the interview, your GPA doesn't matter. Take classes in college that you can learn from and that interest you- you'll be more well rounded and better prepared for interviews. If your grand plan is to take easy courses to get a good GPA, you probably shouldn't be in college to begin with.

This is the mentality I had for the first two years, but it's tough to stand out when everybody else is bullshitting and pumping up their GPA. Obviously when they get to the interview, and are called out on it, it is all for nought, but it's very tough from a non target so idk what to do at this point. My school is "targeted" for certain industries and by certain banks, but the non targets who break into the elite firms talked about on wso seem to all have 3.9s. I'm just hoping that a 3.8+magna cum laude won't be looked down upon since it's from a state school. However, I do realize that work experience, networking and technical know how is key, possibly more important than GPA. Do you feel like if I were to learn financial modeling, that it would help me to stand out? Thanks

Jun 20, 2013

What year are you in currently? Are you saying to get a 3.9+, you HAVE to get a 4.0 every semester here on out? If so, it's probably best to get a high 3.8+ and spend your extra time focusing on activities (since you're saying that one

However, if you're just starting school and don't need a 4.0 EVERY single semester to get a 3.9, I would recommend going for that 3.9.

Jun 20, 2013

The difference is 0.1

Jun 20, 2013

I think it is more important how you derived your 3.7/3.8/3.9 GPA. A student who has a 3.3 but received an A in Econometrics, Linear Algebra, Finance Theory, etc is far more impressive in my opinion than a student with a 3.9 and instead took intro elective classes every semester to inflate their GPA. Do the absolute best you can in courses that will actually challenge you. I rather have a 3.3 with courses that give me the tools I need to succeed than a 4.0 GPA and nothing to say for it.

Come interview time I think everyone on the other side of the table will appreciate you knowing a little math more so than a little about the history of under-water basket weaving.

Jun 20, 2013

When I was in college I got a 3.8. THe only reason I've ever been pissed is that I just wish I had Summa and not Magna.

Now that on the other side and Ive hired interns and looked at a lot of resumes I'll just say I couldn't care less. 3.6 and up is good for me. It's just a screen.

What I really care about is would I want to spend 70+ hours a week with you. I would much rather hire someone with a 3.6 who played sports in school, is easy to interact with and if we were to go out after work to blow off steam would be cool at the bars.

Interpersonal skills will forever trump your GPA. That number is just a check on the list I will only think about once...

Jun 20, 2013

Quick question. Are you able to tell if someone is a cool guy by their resume or is this part all down to the interview? If you can tell by their resume, what kind of stuff do you look for to see if the person is a cool guy?

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Jun 20, 2013
TheBigBambino:

When I was in college I got a 3.8. THe only reason I've ever been pissed is that I just wish I had Summa and not Magna.

Now that on the other side and Ive hired interns and looked at a lot of resumes I'll just say I couldn't care less. 3.6 and up is good for me. It's just a screen.

What I really care about is would I want to spend 70+ hours a week with you. I would much rather hire someone with a 3.6 who played sports in school, is easy to interact with and if we were to go out after work to blow off steam would be cool at the bars.

Interpersonal skills will forever trump your GPA. That number is just a check on the list I will only think about once...

Agree with this. Generally speaking, above a 3.7, I don't even consider differences. Your experience is far, far more important than a tenth of a point on your GPA. This is even more true at state schools, where grade inflation is far less prevalent than at Ivies. 3.6 is decent, but you would have to make it up with experience; below 3.5 and I start to shy away.

Jun 20, 2013

i think the difference is .1 between each.

Don't be one of those guys, work hard, have fun and make it happen. Don't stress over shit like a girl.

Jun 21, 2013
socman:

What year are you in currently? Are you saying to get a 3.9+, you HAVE to get a 4.0 every semester here on out? If so, it's probably best to get a high 3.8+ and spend your extra time focusing on activities (since you're saying that one <4.0 semester will ruin your chances at 3.9, making this the strategy of getting a 3.9 to stand out quite risky).

However, if you're just starting school and don't need a 4.0 EVERY single semester to get a 3.9, I would recommend going for that 3.9.

I have 3 semesters left, and getting a 4.0 each semester would get me to a 3.9 and summa cum laude. I mean, theoretically the cut off could drop to a 3.89 or something, but most likely if I were to aim for a 3.80 (lower than my current GPA) then I would be stuck with magna cum laude. I would spend the extra time either networking, learning more and practicing financial modeling, working on my thesis and also joining a frat or something in addition to my other leadership positions. My internships aren't extremely impressive, but they do show an interest in finance, and I'm trying to bridge the gap of prestige with expertise and job preparedness.

Edit: I'm also just saying that it will be harder for me to get that 4.0 each semester, because even a 3.98 one semester would put me at a 3.89 cum. Otherwise, I could write one class off as an A-/B+/B every semester to keep a 3.8 each semester.

Jun 21, 2013

In that case, the road to a 3.90 will be tough. I'd say forget the 4.0's every semester since something out of your control can go wrong and you'd miss your mark. Use the extra time and energy to do as you said - taking interesting classes, writing your thesis, exploring finance internships.

I would try to get a 3.85, though, so that maybe down the line you still have the "ability" to round to a 3.9.

Jun 21, 2013
socman:

In that case, the road to a 3.90 will be tough. I'd say forget the 4.0's every semester since something out of your control can go wrong and you'd miss your mark. Use the extra time and energy to do as you said - taking interesting classes, writing your thesis, exploring finance internships.

I would try to get a 3.85, though, so that maybe down the line you still have the "ability" to round to a 3.9.

Down the line? Unless you're having to round down, round your GPA! I only care about the two sig-figs anyways.

Jun 21, 2013

i think the minute differences in strong GPAs (3.6+) derive their importance from the candidates' schools. I'd focus more on the ECs of two target school kids (even if their respective GPAs had a gap like 3.6 vs. 3.8). However for non-target kids (more like lower tier state school kids), I'd prob take the 3.8 gpa kid any day over the 3.6 kid.

Jun 21, 2013
Surish:

i think the minute differences in strong GPAs (3.6+) derive their importance from the candidates' schools. I'd focus more on the ECs of two target school kids (even if their respective GPAs had a gap like 3.6 vs. 3.8). However for non-target kids (more like lower tier state school kids), I'd prob take the 3.8 gpa kid any day over the 3.6 kid.

Though I'm sure there are people who care this much, I don't think it's the general approach. Above 3.7, I have never experienced anyone paying much attention to GPA (other than having a 4.0, in which case it could even be a negative). You want to be well-rounded in this industry. Someone who will have success in buyside interviewing has a 3.7+ GPA, a 2100+ SAT score, strong ECs, a good story for why they want to be in finance and work experience in top groups. All of this Summa vs. Magna stuff is just silly, and I don't know anyone who pays attention to it when screening resumes.

EDIT: But yes, 3.6 is where questions start to be raised. The difference between 3.7 and 3.8, however, is basically zilch.

Jun 21, 2013
NorthSider:

I only care about the two sig-figs anyways.

I'm going to assume you were a STEM undergrad. I've only heard chemists and physicists talk like this.

Jun 21, 2013

Majority of the posts are probably right about the GPA just being a number. But if you're already making this "choice" then I'm sure you're a cool guy who undertands the tradeoffs between hard work and having fun in college. You probably won't come off as a solely grade focused guy to an interviewer - no matter what decision you take.

Will say that some of this information here doesn't necessarily apply to OCR at semi-targets/targets. At my school the kids with 3.9 GPAs will pull anywhere from 7-8 offers, and even students with 3.7s will be lucky to get a couple interviews and land one offer. Since the OP goes to a semi-target where there is formal recuriting for some positions, perhaps the extra work is worth it. I don't know if the way my school gets recruited compares across all targets, however - but I've heard posters on WSO say similar things.

Jun 21, 2013
Dhanam:

Majority of the posts are probably right about the GPA just being a number. But if you're already making this "choice" then I'm sure you're a cool guy who undertands the tradeoffs between hard work and having fun in college. You probably won't come off as a solely grade focused guy to an interviewer - no matter what decision you take.

Will say that some of this information here doesn't necessarily apply to OCR at semi-targets/targets. At my school the kids with 3.9 GPAs will pull anywhere from 7-8 offers, and even students with 3.7s will be lucky to get a couple interviews and land one offer. Since the OP goes to a semi-target where there is formal recuriting for some positions, perhaps the extra work is worth it. I don't know if the way my school gets recruited compares across all targets, however - but I've heard posters on WSO say similar things.

To the extent this is true, I promise you that the GPA is not the reason why the 3.7s aren't getting interviews.

Jun 28, 2013

I didn't mean to focus on the fact that 3.7s don't get any interviews, they do quite well for themselves too. I'm just trying to point out that in places with formal recruitment there is a significant incremental benefit to a 3.9 versus a 3.7. People often say once you're above a threshold that you'll get the interview, but in my personal experience there is some benefit to be added. There are people I've spoken to who demonstrate a strong passion for finance (have placed well at competitions like Ross stock pitch competition, Georgetown stock pitch conference, were Ben Graham junior fellows at value investing congress) and network well. They do very well for themselves, but they make a point of saying how frustrating it is that people they know who know absolutely nothing, but happen to have very high grades, seem to land interviews left and right without any finance knowledge and without having talked to anyone in the industry.

And to those that say you should spend time networking instead of trying to eke out a bit more on your GPA - who's to say those two things are mutually exclusive. There are brilliant guys out there who are doing well and also networking with tons of people.

Jun 28, 2013
Connecticut Yankee:

I automatically discount anybody I see with a 4.0, as it makes me think they are too singular in focus

Really? What about an athlete with a 4.0, other EC involvement and solid internships?

Jun 28, 2013
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Jun 28, 2013