GPA as a Predictor of Success

The single biggest screening tool used in Wall Street recruiting is the legendary GPA. Get yourself a 3.8 at a target school, a decent internship or two, and you're all but guaranteed the interview.

But is the candidate who pulled A's in Marketing and Greek Mythology really going to be a better banker than the kid who got B's in these classes (but outperformed in Finance coursework) because he didn't give a sh*t?

If you asked me, I'd prefer to read a 150 word description about the candidate rather than rely on their GPA (past a certain threshold) in making an assessment on who I want to interview. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I've almost noticed a "sweet spot" in GPA where the most successful candidates come from (typically somewhere from 3.3-3.7) and people below - or even above - that level are typically a toss-up.

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.

I'm just an ignorant kid who had a sub-par GPA, so I'm no authority. But... thoughts?

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Comments (96)

 
Mar 20, 2012 - 9:49pm

I cant wait to hear Flake's opinion on the op's writing style.

“...all truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” - Schopenhauer
 
Mar 20, 2012 - 10:15pm

150 word descriptions?.......... For 10,000 applicants that 1,500,000 words. Banks should hire you to do nothing but reading these descriptions.

Most successful candidates come from 3.3-3.7 range........ that's because a lot more people fall in this range than those who fall in the 3.7-4.0 range. Like PetEng pointed out, if you take a 4.0 and a 3.5 side by side, everything else being equal, the 4.0 has a better chance of being successful. The chance might not be significantly higher, but with the lack of information, I would take the 4.0.

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 4:47am

IB2001:
150 word descriptions?.......... For 10,000 applicants that 1,500,000 words. Banks should hire you to do nothing but reading these descriptions.

Most successful candidates come from 3.3-3.7 range........ that's because a lot more people fall in this range than those who fall in the 3.7-4.0 range. Like PetEng pointed out, if you take a 4.0 and a 3.5 side by side, everything else being equal, the 4.0 has a better chance of being successful. The chance might not be significantly higher, but with the lack of information, I would take the 4.0.

I wouldn't, I would question if the 4.0 can strive in our social environment. What I observed the 4.0 Math/Engineering/CS major is usually socially inept and hard to get along with, but that's just me.

For example, I have a 4.0 math major who is my Physics Lab partner, she treats me like crap and says shit a normal person wouldn't be stupid enough to say in the first place, but she blows the professors(metaphorically) so she gets an A. I would also question her IQ and work ethic, but that's a different story. The point is don't judge some one by just GPA; furthermore, I have a question for people who actually conduct interviews on this website how informed about the real world was the 4.0 student vs the ~3.0-3.7 student? Because I would bet big the the student in the range listed above would slaughter the 4.0 in that respect.

Let's be honest, any who says a 4.0 is a good indicator of work ethic/IQ is on crack or needs to get their heads examined. The kids with 4.0's are generally robots who are socially inept as fuck and didn't challenge themselves hard enough(read took bull shit classes). If you get a 4.0 in college then your school didn't do you a favor and your skills weren't tested, period. BTW her best quote - in intro to abstract (relatively easy class(canas15 don't -1 be

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 2:29pm

blastoise][quote=IB2001:
150 word descriptions?.......... For 10,000 applicants that 1,500,000 words. Banks should hire you to do nothing but reading these descriptions.

Most successful candidates come from 3.3-3.7 range........ that's because a lot more people fall in this range than those who fall in the 3.7-4.0 range. Like PetEng pointed out, if you take a 4.0 and a 3.5 side by side, everything else being equal, the 4.0 has a better chance of being successful. The chance might not be significantly higher, but with the lack of information, I would take the 4.0.

I wouldn't, I would question if the 4.0 can strive in our social environment. What I observed the 4.0 Math/Engineering/CS major is usually socially inept and hard to get along with, but that's just me.

For example, I have a 4.0 math major who is my Physics Lab partner, she treats me like crap and says shit a normal person wouldn't be stupid enough to say in the first place, but she blows the professors(metaphorically) so she gets an A. I would also question her IQ and work ethic, but that's a different story. The point is don't judge some one by just GPA; furthermore, I have a question for people who actually conduct interviews on this website how informed about the real world was the 4.0 student vs the ~3.0-3.7 student? Because I would bet big the the student in the range listed above would slaughter the 4.0 in that respect.

Let's be honest, any who says a 4.0 is a good indicator of work ethic/IQ is on crack or needs to get their heads examined. The kids with 4.0's are generally robots who are socially inept as fuck and didn't challenge themselves hard enough(read took bull shit classes). If you get a 4.0 in college then your school didn't do you a favor and your skills weren't tested, period. BTW her best quote - in intro to abstract (relatively easy class(canas15 don't -1 be

 
Mar 20, 2012 - 10:36pm

When I was in college my GPA suffered because I worked 60 hours a week to pay for out of state tuition. I would consider myself just as successful or even more so than anyone that had a 3.8 or higher.

Learn to sell yourself and get yourself in front of the right people and GPA won't matter.

You're born, you take shit. You get out in the world, you take more shit. You climb a little higher, you take less shit. Till one day you're up in the rarefied atmosphere and you've forgotten what shit even looks like. Welcome to the layer cake, son.
 
Mar 20, 2012 - 10:39pm

Nefarious-:
When I was in college my GPA suffered because I worked 60 hours a week to pay for out of state tuition. I would consider myself just as successful or even more so than anyone that had a 3.8 or higher.

Learn to sell yourself and get yourself in front of the right people and GPA won't matter.


This. I have above a 3.8 GPA from a target, but I was lazy and felt entitled. Needless to say, I am not employed in IB and am disappointed with the direction my career is taking. Not too late to change of course (and I'm working on it), but some things matter more than absolute grades, even if they did have a strong correlation with ability (and they almost certainly don't).
 
Mar 20, 2012 - 11:01pm

Matthias:
I'd say lucking into finding this website 2 years ago was more important in terms of getting a job in investment banking than my high gpa.

Haha that's so true... imagine seeing this on a resume:

Activities
WallStreetOasis.com, Active Senior Baboon (Fall 2011 - Present)
- Gain valuable insight into investment banking recruiting processes

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 9:27am

hawkua:
High GPA usually means that you are either smart or hardworking - both qualities are needed to succeed in banking. That's why the metric is used to screen for interviews. Interviews are then used to weed out social retards.

Hahahaha, High GPA does not mean you're smart....such a joke. It means you're good at doing what you're told, really really hard. Which is it's own good quality, but not smart. I was low GPA, non-target, grew up with no money, played real sports like football and wrestling, to most people on this board that would qualify as a death sentence. I've made a living up until this point snapping the necks of high GPA wanna be's who think they know everything cause they were excellent students. Guess what? real life ain't school.

If you're a hustler, you know what you want, have a little talent for what you want, and are of average intellegence you can make it in any field within finance, dont let anybody tell you otherwise. Im sure Mr. Braverman and some similar guys who are a little older will tell you the same.

 
Mar 20, 2012 - 11:06pm

I think that GPA is way overrated, and that this obsession with GPA is actually detrimental to students.

It encourages students to avoid challenging courses in favor of easier courses. I knew a kid who spent his college years taking every single bullshit course the school had to offer and bragged about his 3.8 (in an easy major to top it off). That shit makes me sick and I hope that no employer gives him priority over a 3.3 in a respectable major.

I think that generally GPA is an acceptable screening tool, kind of like the SATs. As nice as it'd be to interview every single candidate, you just don't have the time to do that when you have 1,000 applications for 50 positions. But I feel that the difference between a 3.9 and a 3.7 is negligible. Yes a 3.9 is a lot harder to get than a 3.7 given that all else is equal, but those numbers just don't reveal enough about the candidate without more information such as major, course selection, extracurricular activities (if a 3.6 guy is a D1 track & field runner while the 3.9 doesn't do shit outside of school, then the 3.9 is no better than the 3.6 based off that info alone), etc.

So basically I think that too much emphasis is placed on GPA. Having a minimum cutoff of a 3.0 GPA is fine with me, but when you see 3.5 minimum cutoffs, I just think that's bullshit. Grades just reflect how much you cared about them. If you can test well, then you can get As (assuming you're not an English major or something, in which case you have to know how to read/write). A lot of people test well but have no conceptual understanding of anything they learn (ie. they rote memorize). A lot of people can't figure out how to do their homework (or they're lazy) so they go to office hours every week and have the professor basically give them the answers.

 
Mar 20, 2012 - 11:03pm

We can whine about GPA and how much it's relevant or not relevant, but at the end of the day theres a big difference between a 4.0 and a 3.5 and everyone knows that. True, everyone has their own story and as long as you can sell yourself it may not matter as much but when I'm screening resumes and I see a 4.0 vs a 3.5 with the same experience / background who do you think I'm more intrigued by?

 
Mar 20, 2012 - 11:12pm

I hate to make this generalization but the dumbest people I know actually had the most outstanding GPAs. That was the motivation behind the post in the first place. Given that classes don't really teach you what you'll be doing at your job, (isn't that sad?) how well you do in them just doesn't seem to make a lot of sense to me in gauging future success.

Sure it gives a measure of how much bullshit you can handle at once, which is why I'd advocate for GPA being useful up to a certain threshold (say, 3.5)

I hate victims who respect their executioners
 
Mar 20, 2012 - 11:26pm

Haha, I would have to say the smartest people I know by far have the most outstanding GPAs. It's definitely true that there are the dumbasses that somehow have really good grades, but I would say they are the exception, not the rule. True that classes dont really prepare you for work unless youre into programming or engineering, but the correlation between grades and success is definitely positive in general.

 
Mar 20, 2012 - 11:28pm

Lol this is all BS IMO. Of course GPA doesn't determine how smart someone is and a 3.7 isn't that much different from a 4.0 (even though a 4.0 would be monstrously harder to get). The real fact of the matter is that despite how good you interview, or how competent you are, its always the rich guys who get in with networking/banker dads anyway. At least GPA is neutralizer for Midwestern kids like myself and the only guys I know with a gpa 3.8+ are all gunning for banking and have been working hard forever to get in the industry so the cutoff at 3.5 does make sense. Honestly given how type A this entire forum is I feel like everyone would agree that assessment centers would be kickass granted they tested as hard as the CFA to weed people out. I think that would be a lot fairer determinant of success (time spent practicing for it) than GPA or Networking

 
Mar 20, 2012 - 11:32pm

And if business schools weren't such a joke, than they would require finance majors to take math until the very minimum calc II while encouraging Linear Algebra, Diff EQ and Financial Mathematics. Oh well thats why Quantitative Econ/math majors rape at Asset Management at least

 
Mar 20, 2012 - 11:59pm

Husky32:
And if business schools weren't such a joke, than they would require finance majors to take math until the very minimum calc II while encouraging Linear Algebra, Diff EQ and Financial Mathematics. Oh well thats why Quantitative Econ/math majors rape at Asset Management at least

The problem with this theory is that the socially adept, above average IQ kids end up beating out the way smarter socially subaverage folks in the non-academic world.

"When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is." - Oscar Wilde "Seriously, psychology is for those with two x chromosomes." - RagnarDanneskjold
 
Mar 21, 2012 - 1:06am

UncleMilty:
Husky32:
And if business schools weren't such a joke, than they would require finance majors to take math until the very minimum calc II while encouraging Linear Algebra, Diff EQ and Financial Mathematics. Oh well thats why Quantitative Econ/math majors rape at Asset Management at least

The problem with this theory is that the socially adept, above average IQ kids end up beating out the way smarter socially subaverage folks in the non-academic world.

The Hardcore nerds don't have close to 4.0's since they take harder classes to end up in academia. Of course you have geniuses but the vast majority of people 3.8+ are people who put serious effort into it. If one is socially adept, might have been very popular in high school, but prefers to spend time focusing on getting into finance rather than socializing/partying in college and gets a 4.0, who would you rather choose? I just get the impression that people with high gpa's "want it more" but I can only tell from my non target midwestern school so what do I know

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 12:11am

I think it speaks volumes about a person when they have the mental capacity to get As in course like "Marketing and Greek Mythology" yet don't because "they don't give a shit'.

The importance of your gpa is no secret.
Whether or not it correlates with future success is ultimately irrelevant and should absolutely not be used as an excuse for performing poorly.

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 8:37am

FreezePops:
I think it speaks volumes about a person when they have the mental capacity to get As in course like "Marketing and Greek Mythology" yet don't because "they don't give a shit'.

The importance of your gpa is no secret.
Whether or not it correlates with future success is ultimately irrelevant and should absolutely not be used as an excuse for performing poorly.

I could not agree more about this. Is your first year as an analyst filled with making great financial predictions or reviewing and formatting work? If you can't get a high GPA in easy classes I think it shows that you don't give a shit or take pride in your work.

I also think that the majority of posters on this site are from non-targets. If you want a job you should work at promoting your strengths and answer questions before they come up. A high GPA is like a shield that says "I preform at the highest level compared to my peers".

If have yet to encounter any classes in undergrad that couldn't be solved by "More Work". It's not a hard concept to grasp that you might need to read things second, third, or fourth times.

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 9:19am

Marchettus:

If have yet to encounter any classes in undergrad that couldn't be solved by "More Work". It's not a hard concept to grasp that you might need to read things second, third, or fourth times.

Funnily enough, I find that the classes I've taken which don't appear to be vulnerable to the More Work plan of attack for the most part seem to be the bullshit classes that most people here would spit on. Like Philosophy. Or Literature.

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 12:57pm

Marchettus:
FreezePops:
I think it speaks volumes about a person when they have the mental capacity to get As in course like "Marketing and Greek Mythology" yet don't because "they don't give a shit'.

I could not agree more about this. Is your first year as an analyst filled with making great financial predictions or reviewing and formatting work? If you can't get a high GPA in easy classes I think it shows that you don't give a shit or take pride in your work.


Really? What about that fact that I'm paying the school while my employer is paying me. In my mind that means I'm working for my employer while my teachers are working for me.

If a teacher gave me a bullshit assignment that I thought was worthless I wouldn't do it. Their job is to teach me and if they aren't doing a good job I'll disengage from the class. It hurts my GPA but doesn't change what I learn. After all, isn't learning the point of college?

I have no problem doing bitch work for my employer because that is what they're paying me for. I knew that going in and am fine with it. But don't tell me that GPA signals how hard I'll work on the job. That is a discredit to everyone who believes that college is about more than getting A's.

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 12:20am

In IBD?

I'd probably agree with you. I fall in the 3.8+ category, and I got so bored with banking this past summer that I turned down my offer to do something else full time. The other guy I know who jumped ship (He's actually going into academia instead of working) was also a 4.0 in a STEM subject. I'll be honest: I was just way too much of a vagina to spend two years doing something that didn't seem all that profound. I'd characterize myself as one of those annoying dipshits who took a couple of difficult math/engineering classes, did well, and so believe all things to be beneath me, which will in all likelihood lead me to a life as a Post-Doc making $15,000/year.

Anyway, all things being equal, you need a mix of GPA's, I'd say. If you take a 3.8+, you could swing and miss (me), or you could get a bomb-ass employee. Then, you need the 3.5's to ensure that you have some people who are actually going to give a shit.

//tongue-in-cheek
//Monkeying Around

 
Mar 22, 2012 - 2:02am

Banks and other institutions can afford to screen for high GPAs simply because they get inundated with applicants and can thus seek out the 'brightest' among an applicant pool. Of course GPAs might reflect one's work ethic and perhaps determination, but it certainly does not reflect intelligence. As much as your professor would like you to believe otherwise, being able to perform well on exams does not necessarily imply effective understanding of concepts. I myself used to resort to seeking out 10+ years of past exams to extract patterns in order to prepare for the predictable. Hence, there is little doubt in my mind that there exists a rather weak positive correlation between between GPA and earnings potential within the financial services industry.

Case in point- George Soros: Middling grades while at LSE, started off selling purses in the streets of London upon graduation and cold snail mailed Hungarian bankers in the UK to break into the industry. Solely based on Soros' philosophical theory of reflexivity and open society it becomes more than apparent that he has far more intellectual horsepower than most of his competitors, which says a lot in an industry tends to attract some of the brightest individuals.

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 12:19am

It's already been said in this thread, but if you're a resume screener it's really simple - you set the cutoff for interviews at the school you're looking at as something like 3.5. Then you interview the ten strongest people from that category (so everybody with a 3.9+ in a difficult major will prob get the interview no matter what, but for the rest a 0.1 higher GPA buys you a few points - a really good internship buys you much more points).

Then when you do the interview, it's possible you have a few favorite candidates, but 80%-90% of it comes down to how they interview.

I'm a student so what do I know, but this just makes sense to me

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 1:03am

It's been my experience going through the process that GPA is a disqualifier but not a strong qualifier. I've found it almost means nothing if you have above a 3.5 or so. Things like your internship experience and especially whether you play a sport or not (athletes are shoo-ins in S&T) is the determining factor, not GPA. That being said, it'll definitely be harder to get that interview if it's too low. Then, once you've got the interview, it's almost completely irrelevant, whereas your experience and extracurriculars are not.

If you had to choose between having a 3.8-4.0 and having no activities that show your interest vs. a 3.5, a sport, and/or a solid internship, obviously the 3.5 candidate is going to do better.

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 1:08am

There is no doubt a high GPA helps you get noticed and will get you through the door to an interview in many cases; however, I agree with others here that it has little correlation with intelligence and future success.

My own story is proof of this. I definitely do not meet a 3.5 cutoff (think 3.2-3.3), yet I have been able to find internships in business development with a large global oil and gas company, sales and trading with a big 5 Canadian bank, and now this summer in investment banking with a BB firm. When you have a low GPA you have to work much harder to sell yourself. I have also never had an interview where I haven't been interrogated about my GPA; so be very prepared to explain. I have also not gotten as many interviews as others with high GPAs so I had to really capitalize on a few interviews.

The key to my success, however, I believe has been my ability to display a record of strong achievements that make up for lacking grades. I have invested a considerable amount of time into high impact extracurricular activities. In the end employers want to find the best people, and if you don't have the best grades you've got prove yourself another way. Unfortunately, screening processes miss a lot of qualified candidates, but thats just way it is with so much competition for so few jobs.

Oh ya, networking helps too.

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 1:45am

I think it is not a predictor at all, and honestly, I don't really give a crap about GPA as long as it's above 3.0 or so. I think about the difference between getting an 86 and 88 in a class, the difference between a 3.0 and a 3.3, and to me it's just completely negligible and arbitrary. There are so many different compounding factors in GPAs that I think it's crazy to compare them blindly across students. It's like when people analyzing sports compare win totals of pitchers, it's the same stat, but the factors that influence the number (the quality of the team's offense), make it absurd to use.

I'd much rather see someone with a 3.2 who has a relevant internship and can speak the lingo enough to show me that he's done his homework and knows the industry rather than a 3.8 who thinks he wants to do IB because his peers told him it's prestigious.

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 2:05am

BlackHat:

But is the candidate who pulled A's in Marketing and Greek Mythology really going to be a better banker than the kid who got B's in these classes (but outperformed in Finance coursework) because he didn't give a sh*t?

I think banks look for GPA because they look for people who give a shit about studying.

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 2:15am

In my opinion, GPA doesn't mean crap. It's like buying a stock by only looking at the P/E Ratio. I'd take anyone who was moderately smart with heart over someone with just a 4.0 GPA. So pretty much I'm taking Tebow anyday over Jamarcus Russell.

I'd like to see the day a company accepted everyone with a bachelors degree and then put them through a grueling process and see which one survives. Kinda like the Navy Seals of Finance.

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 2:40am

The question isnt whether you would take someone with a 3.5 that has good personal skills and internships to a person with a 4.0 that's just a nerd. There are oftentimes the exact same people with the same personal skills and the same interests and the same desires that have GPAs of 3.5 and 4.0. Then clearly I am more impressed by the person that can do all that and mantain a 4.0. But of course though, GPA doesnt guarantee competency we all know. Successful people come from all kinds of backgrounds, all GPAs.

 
Mar 23, 2012 - 11:57am

-.-:
The question isnt whether you would take someone with a 3.5 that has good personal skills and internships to a person with a 4.0 that's just a nerd. There are oftentimes the exact same people with the same personal skills and the same interests and the same desires that have GPAs of 3.5 and 4.0. Then clearly I am more impressed by the person that can do all that and mantain a 4.0. But of course though, GPA doesnt guarantee competency we all know. Successful people come from all kinds of backgrounds, all GPAs.

These is really true. I know some financial engineering students who's favorite activities are going out and watching athletic events.

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 3:23am

Well look at it from a bankers or any employers perspective. On the job there are the things that are cool and interesting and then there are things that suck, boring, grunt work, and useless.

You have to be able to grind it out and do the best job. If you can get As in your finance classes you should be able to get As in your non-major courses/electives.

Then again this would consider that all professors are equal graders and capable teachers (highly unlikely)

I think GPA doesn't do justice since you do not know how they are doing overall. getting a couple of Cs can be destructive.

I think their should be a weighted average system gpa where your major is weighed more.

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 3:33am

I think some people are making GPA a bigger issue than it really is.

First, GPA is just a number. There are way too many factors involved in success for GPA to be a meaningful signal. At best, it's a very noisy one.

Second, let's not genearlize by placing 3.5 or 3.9 students into categories. Yes, there are those 4.0 students who do nothing but study, but there are also those that get high grades while taking on a whole host of other activities.

Lastly, although the majority of people who break into banking have decent grades, grades are not what got them in -- their grades just didn't keep them out.

If you can get good grades, then just get them.There's really no reason to put yourself at a disadvantage. For those of you with low grades, don't try to compensate by saying you have better "social skills" than those with high grades. You're only hurting yourself by justifying your own academic mediocrity. For those of you with high grades, you're entitled to nothing. Don't be bitter that someone with lower grades became more "successful," just work harder on improving the other aspects of your profile.

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light." - DT
  • 1
 
Mar 21, 2012 - 7:37am

to me it seems like GPA predicts future success of students much the same way that multiples/ratios predict future success of companies

it's a peer comparison that only reflects past performance that is ideally reproduced in the future.

it ain't perfect but it's better than nothing

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 10:39am

Those who say GPA isn't important have crap GPA's, period. A high GPA says you did well in all your courses not just the ones you were interested in. Pulling A's in courses like literature, art history, your sciences and everything non-business related means that you aren't one dimensional and recognize that all work is important regardless of your interest. This is a key identifier to employers. If you can do well in all those different dimensions regardless of interest... you will be the same person who will strap in and prepare to pull an all nighter and still deliver quality work.

Does GPA mean your intelligent? Yes and no. Yes if you also managed to do a few other things rather than just study. No if you spent your entire college life reading text books and doing nothing else. However, you will see the rest of the persons profile on the resume anyway which tells you which bucket they fell into. I didn't pull a 4.0 but did manage a 3.95 (no A in HR MGMT or Org Behavior - go figure) and can tell you that regardless of the coursework or how much I lacked interest... I still managed to find the time to study for exams while working 30+ hours a week bartending and socializing with my buddies.

Also if you decide to leave banking or your career for business school.. wait til you start filling out those M7 applications with something under a 3.3 if you aren't a rockstar elsewhere.

Rant away!

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 11:34am

I'm from a target school with ~3.7. I had a 35 ACT in high school and took 19 AP courses, all of which I got 4s and 5s on. But when I got to college, I was burned out and wanted to have some fun. I agree that all classes can be solved by "more work." There wasn't a single class I couldn't have gotten an A in easily if I studied more. But that's exactly the point, the reason I really didn't ever open a book unless it was the night before a test (generally) was because I wanted to have some fun. I went out on the weekends, I was in some clubs, and I procrastinated like no other with my work and still ended up with a 3.7something.

But then I notice a few kids who literally were in the dorm study room every night, including on Saturdays, and most of them don't even have GPAs that are that high. To me, and I'm not trying to insult anyone, but to me it shows they don't know to to spend time effectively and have a life. That's why if I see a super high GPA, I almost look at it negatively because I question why someone's devoted that much time to studying. They don't seem like people I'd want to have to be around every day. It reminds me of the girl who gets perfect attendance in high school. Most of us slept in occasionally, went on vacation, etc, but the people who had perfect attendance did so because they were supposed to, not for any other reason.

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 11:40am

GPA is almost purely dependent on your major and the classes you take. I know plenty of kids who consistently pull 3.8 and up at my semi-target school, thanks to their relatively easy majors. This is compared to kids who work their asses off in quant majors just to get above a 3.3. Additionally, many kids take classes freshman year that they have already taken in high school, just to ensure easy A's. From my perspective as a current student, I would say that anyone who tries to judge quality of a GPA without comparing it to others in the same major at the school is taking a big leap of faith.

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 12:01pm

Anyone who thinks GPA shouldn't matter as much as your skills should check out ConnectCubed, a free site for aspiring financiers to prove their talent to hedge funds that are looking for new hires

Play games and get a finance job or internship with ConnectCubed
 
Mar 21, 2012 - 12:45pm

I was flipping through the resume book at my BB S&T summer internship last summer and found out that I had the lowest GPA (3.2). By then I had realized that I was probably one of the best interns (got a full time offer, going back) and started wondering why.

Honestly, the school you go to matters so much, even out of the target schools. That said, it may have also been my major (Financial Engineering) that got me ahead. It's not like I learned anything applicable during my classes, but the rigor of the type of theoretical stuff I had to learn just allowed me to be a faster learner than many of the other interns.

Am I the 99% of 3.2's (as mentioned above)? Maybe, maybe not. But I do know that GPA doesn't mean a thing, especially at many of the target schools that inflate grades so much where a top quintile student has a 3.9 and a median student has a 3.7...and mine doesn't :(

 
Mar 23, 2012 - 2:15pm

balladechina212:
I was flipping through the resume book at my BB S&T summer internship last summer and found out that I had the lowest GPA (3.2). By then I had realized that I was probably one of the best interns (got a full time offer, going back) and started wondering why.

Honestly, the school you go to matters so much, even out of the target schools. That said, it may have also been my major (Financial Engineering) that got me ahead. It's not like I learned anything applicable during my classes, but the rigor of the type of theoretical stuff I had to learn just allowed me to be a faster learner than many of the other interns.

Am I the 99% of 3.2's (as mentioned above)? Maybe, maybe not. But I do know that GPA doesn't mean a thing, especially at many of the target schools that inflate grades so much where a top quintile student has a 3.9 and a median student has a 3.7...and mine doesn't :(

Maybe because it's a 3.2 at Princeton? ORFE?

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 12:45pm

I guess my issue with GPA really comes down to the way academia is run. 80-90% of my classes were inherently bullshit and I walked away from them having learned maybe 1 or 2 new concepts, which were usually obvious anyway. Too many factors not directly measuring ability are involved: how good the professor is, how relevant the material is to the real world, etc. In banking more than in other finance jobs I would say GPA is a decent predictor just because it shows how hard/long you were willing to work, but in many other jobs it just doesn't do justice.

I hate victims who respect their executioners
 
Mar 21, 2012 - 2:20pm

BlackHat:
I guess my issue with GPA really comes down to the way academia is run. 80-90% of my classes were inherently bullshit and I walked away from them having learned maybe 1 or 2 new concepts, which were usually obvious anyway. Too many factors not directly measuring ability are involved: how good the professor is, how relevant the material is to the real world, etc. In banking more than in other finance jobs I would say GPA is a decent predictor just because it shows how hard/long you were willing to work, but in many other jobs it just doesn't do justice.

So if you truly thought they were bullshit, why did you stick with it?
Why not choose a major that you didn't consider bullshit?

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 6:03pm

FreezePops:
BlackHat:
I guess my issue with GPA really comes down to the way academia is run. 80-90% of my classes were inherently bullshit and I walked away from them having learned maybe 1 or 2 new concepts, which were usually obvious anyway. Too many factors not directly measuring ability are involved: how good the professor is, how relevant the material is to the real world, etc. In banking more than in other finance jobs I would say GPA is a decent predictor just because it shows how hard/long you were willing to work, but in many other jobs it just doesn't do justice.

So if you truly thought they were bullshit, why did you stick with it?
Why not choose a major that you didn't consider bullshit?

Because if I was a Philosophy major or a Communications major it would have been even more bullshit, and wouldn't have been the right major to have for what I want to do for a living? I take issue with the way we're taught, even at a school like Wharton that is supposed to be practical, the classes are painfully irrelevant with the exception of 1-2 classes. I'm sure there's a million people that would argue that with me but having gone through it that's what I got out of it, and I wouldn't trade it for anything considering what it's helped me to do. Academia in general just came across as a free-for-all circle jerk of people who don't want to tell it like it is or try and teach their students what really matters.

Rodney Dangerfield sums it up extremely well:

I hate victims who respect their executioners
 
Mar 21, 2012 - 1:03pm

I think the better question is, how do you screen for 'drive' or 'hustle' or 'internal motivation' or whatever you want to call the factor that really is the best predictor of success, all while keeping an appropriate level of competence, intelligence and social skills?

The formula for GPA is most simply: Intelligence x Effort. Obviously, the more you are skewed on one of these, the more it can compensate for the other factor. Effort is closer to 'hustle' than intelligence. How do you figure out who has both? How much do you trade off one for the other?

I think test scores are meant to more accurately correlate with intelligence and GPA with effort, relatively speaking. And since I'd rather have someone a little less brilliant than a little more lazy, GPA gets a higher weight. Unfortunately, both scores and GPA have bounds that highly intelligent/lazy people can exploit, but these are probably more the exception than the rule.

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 1:53pm

IBPEHFVC:
how do you screen for 'drive' or 'hustle' or 'internal motivation' or whatever you want to call the factor that really is the best predictor of success, all while keeping an appropriate level of competence, intelligence and social skills?

Internships show a lot of drive and passion especially if you have them early on, extracurricular involvement/leadership, demonstrated interest outside of those two things...lots of ways.

Quick question: does double majoring matter? Do employers care? And we all have 99th percentile SAT/ACT scores; do any of you include these on your resume past freshman year?

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 2:13pm

If the question is "Is GPA a predictor of success" I think it is not from a hiring manager's perspective. They should look at all the applications as the wonderful snowflakes they are. But they have such a supply of applications they want to chop it down to a smaller number by screening.

Is GPA a predictor of success from an applicants perspective? Well, it's a factor YOU control for an applicant so I wouldn't take the risk in seeing how low it could be and still get a great job. I think that 95% of the process you have no chance to control so you should take control of what you can.

" 80-90% of my classes were inherently bullshit and I walked away from them having learned maybe 1 or 2 new concepts"

I think that this is an interesting discussion. My point is that all the things you might bring up about fairness in academics, who pays, being burnt out, ect are valid points. In the end, if you're burnt out a college is it going to be easier when you start working? Do you think that senior bankers are more concerned with an analyst perception of fairness or getting the work done right? Does an somebody who makes hiring and firing choices want somebody that might do the work because they're being paid, or who has proven they can already?

Your GPA should fit your story when you're networking. If you're from a non-target and your story is that you're at far end of the bell curve your GPA should reflect that. People from other backgrounds have other considerations. GPA isn't an end all, but it certainly is easy to screen using it.

"After all, isn't learning the point of college?"

For me, learning wasn't the point of college. Get a degree, get a job. That is why I moved from a liberal arts major to the business school. I learned a huge amount about getting a job and found that it was freeing and fun to say "My only goal is to get a job." If you think that learning is the point of college, what is the point of life? College is about more than getting A's. But getting A's is what you're suppose to do so don't expect credit for it. You're suppose to get A's, join clubs, get laid, get a job, and not get a criminal record in the process.

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 2:23pm

I think that for employment purposes, GPA is on a logarithmic curve : under 2.75 you are dumb and no explanation can repair this image, above 3.75 you are smart, and you don't need to explain yourself.
For an academic purpose, I think it is exponentially distributed, there is a small difference between a 2.5 and a 3.5 but there is a gulf between 3.5 and 3.9

Is it fair: No. Is it good decision making: hell yeah. I am sure if companies use regressions to see who performed better in the company over time, people with better GPA will always be ahead.

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 5:24pm

I am sure if companies use regressions to see who performed better in the company over time, people with better GPA will always be ahead.

Actually, companies have done that and found out that GPA is not a trong predictor. At least not for anything beyond low-level positions, where you are expected to do mindless tasks anyway. I had a conversation with a professor whose research is focused on this area, and he told me that companies generally don't use GPA as much when recruiting as it is not a good predictor of long-term performance. For analyst positions and the like, they might use it to see who is a better slave if the job entails eating lots of shit, like IB, but success at such positions is not necessarily related to performance at higher positions, where you need different skills to succeed. This is also part of the reason why MBA recruiting exists.

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 5:52pm

GPA doesn't mean shit, but it doesn't HURT to have a high GPA... But if you have a 4.0 eleectrical engineering major and no relevant experiences to talk about in an interview (internships, sports, clubs etc.) vs. a 3.4 who is the treasurer of a student club, on the club tennis team and had a part-time internship at a local hedge fund, and follows the market regularly, the latter is taken all day...

I was the latter from a non-target and networked into all the interview rooms which is more important (networking) than getting an A vs. B+ in marketing.... not ONE time was my grades or GPA brought up in my interviews... like many have said above, it's a SCREENING tool....

Networking however, passes you through every screen, except if you murdered someone.

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 10:20pm

I've seen kids with good, relevant experience like working at a boutique investment bank or at a S&T firm overseas with GPA's in the 3.0-3.4 range not getting interviews for junior year summer internships whereas kids with no experience but 3.7 + GPA's got interviews. That in my opinion is totally wrong. And there are a few firms who simply look at GPA. You guys probably already know which ones.

 
Mar 21, 2012 - 10:37pm

Granted I don't do anything glitzy and I was a tech undergrad, but I only had a 2.9 and made it to many superdays - no offer from my first picks (probably because of the gpa), but I still did get an average it job at a bb bank. I think what matters most is how personable/likeable/knowledgeable you are.

 
Mar 22, 2012 - 1:04am

I think everyone here is also forgetting the CRUCIAL aspect of networking
If you're at a target with a GPA, great, and you'll most likely get the interview. But networking with alumni on the street , visiting and shadowing for a day (like I did), and having someone who isn't even in the division refer your name to HR can in many cases automatically pull you into the super day with priority access without having a first round on campus, and as long as your GPA isn't too low, you're miles ahead of most other candidates.

 
Mar 22, 2012 - 5:41am

2.0 non-target. Doing it big. Had to start out at the bottom & add CAIA & CFA (with no fails) to my resume to make up for it but whatever. College was loose teens, substance abuse & warcraft. I could give a shit. I've had a good life.

Anyone stuck on that GPA bullshit is kidding themselves. D'you think today's big CEOs were straight As in their days? Certificates are only there to prove you're not a complete moron. Once you pass that hurdle life is what YOU make it.

__________
 
Mar 22, 2012 - 2:15pm

IMO at the end of the day you need 4 things:

1) Good GPA

2) Relevant Work Experience / Major

3) A good Story

4) (Arguably) A Good School

To do this, you need to focus on getting a good GPA which will help you leverage into number 2. Getting a good GPA largely revolved around taking the bare minimum credits while not double majoring in CS + EE or some crazy thing. Be a single major (CS or Econ) and get a 3.8+, which even at a target school is possible fairly easily if you focus. This will help you leverage into number 2, which will help you achieve number 3, which all together will put you into the job.

So many people do too much shit outside of their area. No one gives a flying **** if you are on model UN and did debate team in college. Just make your story INTERESTING (IE. I went to the Ukraine and worked in weapons dealing or something crazy) and have the background to show you can be successful (good GPA and scores)

 
Mar 23, 2012 - 2:12pm

I think this entire conversation is stupid. GPA by itself is worthless. But if you can compare that to courses taken and what their major is, its worth gold.

My friend had a 3.97, majored in Mathematics, Economics (Honors) and French, was consistently on the dean list, took advanced chem classes, graduate level econ classes and all worth-while finance classes offered at his school. He was also in the honors program and received the highest award given by the university. He was also in multiple clubs since freshman year, along with being in officer positions.

How is that 3.97 a disadvantage when coupled with all that he did?

 
Mar 23, 2012 - 2:31pm

GPA is an easy reference point to weed out candidates but it is by no means a good predictor of success.

Just look at any firm on Wall Street, the incoming IBD classes are filled with 3.8+ Asian kids from Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Wharton, etc. with a few low 3.0 Ivy connected athletes sprinkled in. Then you look at the MD level and the vast majority are these are those few Ivy connected athletes...the reason: those athletes meet the bare minimum level of intelligence required for IBD (we all know it's a job that a smart h.s. kid could do) but they have the EQ and soft skills to move up the ladder while the high GPA Asian kids don't....

Personally I don't even look at GPA when screening candidates. I look for people that have the strongest resume as a whole - which basically means who has the most interesting work experiences, etc. The most promising (by this I mean the one with the best chances of succeeding and reaching an MD level) analyst I have working for me right now is a guy from Wharton who had a 2.9 GPA...during undergrad he was super well connected and landed super interesting corp strat / corp dev and IBD internships. By far he had the most impressive resume I'd seen despite it not having a GPA listed. When I interviewed him I realized he had base level of intelligence and the soft skills to succeed in the job. The rest of the analysts I have working for me are smart and all (3.8+ target school kids) but most will honestly reach their peak soon and cap out...meaning they're going to have to move on soon.

 
Mar 25, 2012 - 1:51pm

harvardgrad08:
GPA is an easy reference point to weed out candidates but it is by no means a good predictor of success.

Just look at any firm on Wall Street, the incoming IBD classes are filled with 3.8+ Asian kids from Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Wharton, etc. with a few low 3.0 Ivy connected athletes sprinkled in. Then you look at the MD level and the vast majority are these are those few Ivy connected athletes...the reason: those athletes meet the bare minimum level of intelligence required for IBD (we all know it's a job that a smart h.s. kid could do) but they have the EQ and soft skills to move up the ladder while the high GPA Asian kids don't....

Personally I don't even look at GPA when screening candidates. I look for people that have the strongest resume as a whole - which basically means who has the most interesting work experiences, etc. The most promising (by this I mean the one with the best chances of succeeding and reaching an MD level) analyst I have working for me right now is a guy from Wharton who had a 2.9 GPA...during undergrad he was super well connected and landed super interesting corp strat / corp dev and IBD internships. By far he had the most impressive resume I'd seen despite it not having a GPA listed. When I interviewed him I realized he had base level of intelligence and the soft skills to succeed in the job. The rest of the analysts I have working for me are smart and all (3.8+ target school kids) but most will honestly reach their peak soon and cap out...meaning they're going to have to move on soon.

Is it possible the super-smart kids are all just moving on the private equity and the like?

 
Mar 26, 2012 - 9:42pm

harvardgrad08:
GPA is an easy reference point to weed out candidates but it is by no means a good predictor of success.

Just look at any firm on Wall Street, the incoming IBD classes are filled with 3.8+ Asian kids from Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Wharton, etc. with a few low 3.0 Ivy connected athletes sprinkled in. Then you look at the MD level and the vast majority are these are those few Ivy connected athletes...the reason: those athletes meet the bare minimum level of intelligence required for IBD (we all know it's a job that a smart h.s. kid could do) but they have the EQ and soft skills to move up the ladder while the high GPA Asian kids don't....

Personally I don't even look at GPA when screening candidates. I look for people that have the strongest resume as a whole - which basically means who has the most interesting work experiences, etc. The most promising (by this I mean the one with the best chances of succeeding and reaching an MD level) analyst I have working for me right now is a guy from Wharton who had a 2.9 GPA...during undergrad he was super well connected and landed super interesting corp strat / corp dev and IBD internships. By far he had the most impressive resume I'd seen despite it not having a GPA listed. When I interviewed him I realized he had base level of intelligence and the soft skills to succeed in the job. The rest of the analysts I have working for me are smart and all (3.8+ target school kids) but most will honestly reach their peak soon and cap out...meaning they're going to have to move on soon.

How are hiring classes different now than in the past? The IBD hiring class of 2012 is certainly significantly different from one 15 years ago - the demographics of targets have changed significantly.
 
Apr 25, 2012 - 5:58pm

people with a 4.0 are not socially inept, because they obviously know how to suck up to a professor and get that A+.
You can be smarter than the professor him/herself, but if you try to act like an alpha dog in that environment, there are a thousand and one ways a professor can fuck you up and knock some of your hubris off.

More is good, all is better
 
Jan 8, 2013 - 5:09pm

I would assume the interviewers were once students and would be smart enough to realise that a lot of 3.8+ kids are types that exploit the system by strategically choosing the easy classes and the easy profs to get their grades up. On the other hand, they would also realise that a lot of 3.0+ kids are the lazy types that would rather party than study for a test. So don't worry. They pretty much see through you anyway.

I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature. -John D. Rockefeller
 
Jan 19, 2013 - 6:28am

I read through every single comment from the very top to the bottom of this page and I am yet to read one opinion that is truly different. I am among those people that strive to keep their GPA higher than 3.8. However, I am not doing that because I want to use it as a leverage in the job market. For me, it just happens to come along with doing the due diligence in your studies. Even if you have a 4.0, your longevity depends on how much knowledge you possess an how fast you can learn new things. If you lack these qualities, you will be thrown out like the empty pizza box you are.
Thank you!

 
Jan 19, 2013 - 4:32pm

To me, a high GPA calls into question what is missing about a candidate. Anyone can get a high GPA, but the smart ones know better than to waste all their time in college studying. I have found that the process of attaining a high GPA leaves one with a form of brain damage that eliminates initiative and originality. I believe the emphasis on GPA is a destructive and misguided policy pursued by those with small minds.

Here is what Karl Popper had to say on the topic -

"This should never be made their task. This tendency transforms our educational system into a race-course, and turns a course of studies into a hurdle-race. Instead of encouraging the student to devote himself to his studies for the sake of studying, instead encouraging him a real love for his subject and for inquiry, he is encouraged to study for the sake of his personal career; he is led to acquire only such knowledge as is serviceable in getting him over the hurdles which he must clear for the sake of his advancement "

"The impossible demand for an institutional selection of intellectual leaders endangers the very life not only of science, but of intelligence "

"I do not know a better argument for an optimistic view of mankind, no better proof of their indestructible love for the truth and decency, of their originality and stubbornness and health, than the fact that this devastating system of edification has not utterly ruined them. "

"institutions for the selection of the outstanding can hardly be devised"

 
Jan 20, 2013 - 3:15pm

fleetersamuelli:
To me, a high GPA calls into question what is missing about a candidate. Anyone can get a high GPA, but the smart ones know better than to waste all their time in college studying. I have found that the process of attaining a high GPA leaves one with a form of brain damage that eliminates initiative and originality. I believe the emphasis on GPA is a destructive and misguided policy pursued by those with small minds.

Wtf? This is pretty extreme, people who are really smart can get high gpas without studying that much (especially in STEM classes where tests are objective).

In fact, a lot of the time I notice that people with 3.8+ in math or physics study half as much as those with 3.5's just because they pick up material more easily.

 
Jan 19, 2013 - 5:10pm

GPA tells you far more than just how smart somebody is in my opinion. I think it is a great combination of god-given ability and intelligence, time management skills, responsibility, competitiveness, work ethic, and how well-rounded someone is. All of these are very present in the key traits successful bankers possess.

 
Jan 20, 2013 - 3:16pm

College gpa: best predictor of success? (Originally Posted: 10/24/2012)

It's a little scary to think that the decisions we make during ages 18-22 can have such a huge impact on the rest of our lives, but it looks like it does to a large extent.

First, America is more meritocratic than ever before. Top finance jobs which back in the 60's were only open to rich east coast WASPs are now availabe to those who are qualified, regardless of their ethnic backgrounds. Second, firms are increasingly using undergrad name brand and gpa as initial screens before deciding who to interview in the first place. At a lot of banks and consulting firms, they even ask for your SAT I and SAT II writing scores (McKinsey does this for a fact). Furthermore, the first job out of college often sets you up for future opportunities down the road.

When I look at my friends who are all doing very well now, they all had 3.6+ gpa at top colleges and got great jobs straight out of school. Those who did not get on this track are still doing ok but are not on the sure path to future wealth and success.

 
Jan 20, 2013 - 3:17pm

It's not a high GPA that makes you successful; It's the work ethic that it takes to get the high GPA. In other words, success and high GPA are independent events and not mutually exclusive.

 
Jan 20, 2013 - 3:19pm

BTbanker:
It's not a high GPA that makes you successful; It's the work ethic that it takes to get the high GPA. In other words, success and high GPA are independent events and not mutually exclusive.

True. But let's put it this way. I have a lot of lazy brilliant friends who did very well at top colleges. Then there are others who worked hard but for whatever reason could not do well academically. The former will get interviews at top firms over the latter because of his higher gpa. After all, "work ethic" and "discipline" are traits that by themselves cannot be quantified. So top firms and business schools are using gpa and test scores as a means of measuring those qualities. Whether or not those metrics are entirely reliable is up to discussion of course. This is perhaps one reason why ambitious students at our best universities are more obsessed with getting the right gpa than learning for learning's sake by taking risks with their course selection.

 
Jan 20, 2013 - 3:20pm

I don't even put my GPA on my resume anymore (though it's good). After your first or second job, communication/social skills and fit become more important than most socially awkward undergrads with high GPAs would like to believe.

 
Jan 20, 2013 - 3:21pm

I think that GPA is mainly a predictor of work ethic. No matter what major you are in, a 4.0 is really hard to get. In harder majors a 3.6+ is hard to get, etc. Of course there can be mitigating factors like illness or just being in the wrong major, but on average GPA probably shows how willing someone is to work on mundane tasks (which, let's be honest, is gonna be a lot of your job)

Reality hits you hard, bro...
 
Jan 20, 2013 - 3:22pm

Yeah but you need to take the Extra curricular activities into account. College sports etc...

Having said that, the better argument would be for higher GPA's = greater probability for success. R^2 would be closer to 1.

Fear is the greatest motivator. Motivation is what it takes to find profit.
 
Jan 20, 2013 - 3:23pm

How about a low(ER) GPA (say a 3.2-3.4) + strong internships + strong leadership work through school? I know GPA's are often used as cut-offs, but if we're talking about work ethic, doesn't that carry more weight?

I don't think a strong GPA and a top college is necessarily the path to success. Plenty of cases out there of guys succeeding in Finance, starting their own corps, and climbing the ladder.

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