Higher GPA vs Tougher Course Load

OK, so now that my GPA is set in stone for FT recruiting, I need to think about course rigor.

Basically, I have a 3.4 right now. If I get a 4.0 in every class the next two semesters I can pull it up to a 3.5 (quite possible as I've been doing it for the last 3 semesters). Right now I am registered for a pretty easy course load, nothing too challenging and quite obviously not very challenging. My question is, for MBA apps, should I take on a tougher course load which could mean that my GPA stays at around a 3.4? I'm talking about taking on more math, physics etc or should I just go for the artificial GPA boost?

FWIW, I go to a non-target, top 50.

Comments (89)

May 12, 2010

The saying goes "easy does it" for a reason.

May 12, 2010

I learned this back in hs the hard way. take the easy class, get the A and get in wherver/whatever you want. as someone, who also attends a non-target, our GPA is gonna be of even greater importance than a target student's, so it is essential to keep it as high as possible.

May 13, 2010

Higher GPA for sure. Think of it this way - when they print your diploma, when you write your resume, what gets put on there?

Major, GPA, Period. Those harder classes may make a good anecdote if you make it into an interview. When I'm flipping resumes, you'd better believe the 4.0 with zero detail on what classes they took stands out a hell of a lot more than a 3.4 with a list of "interesting" classes underneath it.

Trust me, take less class, get better grades, enjoy the fuck out of college because you can't go back, and that GPA is final once you walk across the stage.

May 13, 2010

It depends on what you are aiming for. If you want to pursue a career in finance, taking additional finance courses will help your resume.

Secondly, if this helps you get an additional minor/major, I say go for it. However, if it does not add any value, then I would suggest take the blowoff classes.

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May 13, 2010

"It depends on what you are aiming for. If you want to pursue a career in finance, taking additional finance courses will help your resume.

Secondly, if this helps you get an additional minor/major, I say go for it. However, if it does not add any value, then I would suggest take the blowoff classes."

that's just bull shit. A. you don't put course work on a resume, and if you do, good luck with that BB interview B. Recruiters don't care and the name of the class and some numbers don't mean anything to them. For example at my school FIN 4850 (this is a quantitative derivative course and the hardest class I've ever taken) I got a B. I can't brag about getting a B in an interview, and if I put this on my resume, I would look like a tool. Terrible advice

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May 13, 2010

Duly noted gents.

"I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcom

May 13, 2010

Go for the higher GPA as listed. Pretty sad who college is supposed to be about gaining knowledge and experiencing things, but we are all so paranoid about GPA that is almost a career destroyer to take a hard, but educational class.

May 13, 2010
AnthonyD1982:

Go for the higher GPA as listed. Pretty sad who college is supposed to be about gaining knowledge and experiencing things, but we are all so paranoid about GPA that is almost a career destroyer to take a hard, but educational class.

You're right. I'm genuinely interested in taking some more math and astrophysics classes but I just can't risk getting a B.

"I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcom

May 13, 2010

How bad was your GPA prior to earning a 4.0 for the past 3 semesters?

May 13, 2010

Go for the GPA and then audit/sit-in on the classes you really want to take. Ask the professor if it would be alright to sit-in on their class. This is a great way to take the classes that interest you while maintaining a high GPA.

May 13, 2010

Before I found this site I really thought that knowing finance inside and out was the best way to get into banking. Now I realize how wrong I was. The best way is to take the easiest classes with the easiest major at the best school possible. God forbid HR could think outside the box or with any initiative at all. I mean if HR acts like robots why not just have a compute programmed to delete all resumes with less than a 3.6 and not from a top 20 school.

BAM, just eliminated 1/2 the HR department and saved every bank a couple million bucks. Where is my office!

May 14, 2010

LOL Anthony. It depends on which bank and who looks at your resume. Naturally a chemical engineering/Finance dual major with a FT job isn't going to graduate with the same 3.7 as someone who has Daddy Warbucks taking care of everything and they can just worry about school.

May 14, 2010

If you can't do well in relevant courses, perhaps it's a sign that you should be considering another career path...

May 14, 2010

Sad as it is, probably GPA boosting classes. So long as these classes aren't "Basketweaving 101", keep in mind that the people who look through your resume and transcript likely spend far less than a minute on each.

So the actual GPA number is more important. But like you said, taking relevant classes and doing well is what you should be doing.

May 14, 2010

gpa boosting classes but id suggest a food mix of relevant and gpa boosting classes

May 14, 2010
ibanalyst:

id suggest a food mix of relevant and gpa boosting classes

mmmm....food mix

May 14, 2010

how are weak grades from unrelated non gpa-boosting courses viewed?

e.g. i'm probably averaging about a B+ in Engineering courses but averaging an A- in Econ courses

i feel like getting a B- in a tough Engineering course vs. an A in an easy psych course will be a lot more useful for finance, but will these be looked down upon? how about C-range grades (keeping in mind the overall GPA is still competitive)?

May 14, 2010

Relevant classes to banking are the easy ones. Accounting and corporate finance are not fing rocket science.

May 14, 2010
ginNtonic:

Relevant classes to banking are the easy ones. Accounting and corporate finance are not fing rocket science.

So if you can't do well in these, it might be a sign to look at another profession.

May 14, 2010

hahaha...good catch zala

May 14, 2010

It's not good to be cocky, it's not rocket science, but that doesn't mean it's not hard, especially at a top 5 school.

May 14, 2010
MandA_Junkie:

It's not good to be cocky, it's not rocket science, but that doesn't mean it's not hard, especially at a top 5 school.

People are not being cocky, they're being real.

May 14, 2010

Btw my definition of well is b+ or higher, less than that is not up to par.

May 14, 2010

Agreed with above, the truth is if you dont have a 3.5+ you are in trouble. Preferably a 3.7-3.8 or better. If you cant get that, getting a job is going to be more difficult.

Assuming non target that is. For target reduce by .2 or so.

May 14, 2010

Higher GPA always trumps harder coursework.

May 14, 2010
SF_Reg:

Higher GPA always trumps harder coursework.

I disagree.

A higher GPA will help you get interviews, but taking harder courses and actually learning the material will help you convert interviews into jobs. No one gets hired because of their GPA.

Now is probably the best time to pad your GPA to get it over a 3.5 before SA recruiting but don't give up on all your hard classes. One of your best leg up during super days should be that you know finance theory better than nearly every candidate.

May 14, 2010

Learn how to pad your GPA

May 14, 2010

Yeah go for high GPA. However, you probably can't make a huge GPA jump in one semester. So be sure to list the financial courses you have taken if you have taken several notable ones.

May 14, 2010

You know you can round up a 3.48 (even a 3.45) to a 3.5 on the res right? So what's the problem?

May 14, 2010

^^Academic finance is mostly bullshit, but it is still the basis of being able to "talk shop" or speak the "language" of finance. I still got asked about CAPM in every interview. I'll agree that you'll probably learn more by reading outside of class, but I'd argue that knowing the academic theories and then being able to point out where they are flawed using real world situations is extremely valuable.

But back to GPA, yes a 3.5 makes a difference. As much as I hate the grade grubbing game, now would be a good time to pad OP. If you take easier classes make sure to keep up with market news.

May 14, 2010
illiniPride:

^^Academic finance is mostly bullshit, but it is still the basis of being able to "talk shop" or speak the "language" of finance. I still got asked about CAPM in every interview. I'll agree that you'll probably learn more by reading outside of class, but I'd argue that knowing the academic theories and then being able to point out where they are flawed using real world situations is extremely valuable.

But back to GPA, yes a 3.5 makes a difference. As much as I hate the grade grubbing game, now would be a good time to pad OP. If you take easier classes make sure to keep up with market news.

it what ways are CAPM and other major theories flawed?

May 14, 2010

Assumptions of all investors under CAPM (from Wikipedia):

  1. Aim to maximize economic utilities.
  2. Are rational and risk-averse.
  3. Are broadly diversified across a range of investments.
  4. Are price takers, i.e., they cannot influence prices.
  5. Can lend and borrow unlimited amounts under the risk free rate of interest.
  6. Trade without transaction or taxation costs.
  7. Deal with securities that are all highly divisible into small parcels.
  8. Assume all information is available at the same time to all investors.

Compare these assumptions to reality. How many do you agree with?

May 14, 2010
illiniPride:

Assumptions of all investors under CAPM (from Wikipedia):

  1. Aim to maximize economic utilities.
  2. Are rational and risk-averse.
  3. Are broadly diversified across a range of investments.
  4. Are price takers, i.e., they cannot influence prices.
  5. Can lend and borrow unlimited amounts under the risk free rate of interest.
  6. Trade without transaction or taxation costs.
  7. Deal with securities that are all highly divisible into small parcels.
  8. Assume all information is available at the same time to all investors.

Compare these assumptions to reality. How many do you agree with?

Well, the question is not "which assumptions are false in reality?"

Rather, the question is "which assumptions are not true, why are they not true and what is the reality, how does that play into and impact CAPM theory?"

Things aren't black and white. "Let's go find a list on wikipedia and check stuff yes or no" doesn't sufficiently explain the flaws of CAPM, but that's just my opinion.

May 14, 2010

Agree with Leverage.

First thing you should do is round your gpa up to 3.5. Regarding classes, they're not going to impress the interviewers unless you're taking ridiculously hard math/physics/engineering courses. Even if you do take them, chances are they won't find out unless you mention it on your resume or during the interview, in which case you'll sound like you're trying to impress them. Lose- lose situation.

If you're thinking about taking classes to actually learn, forget about it. The only exceptions are if you're planning on taking some kind of modeling course or intro finance course (assuming you don't know anything finance related).

I would recommend that you take easy classes to boost your gpa and learn the technicals on the side during your spare time.

May 14, 2010

Take the easiest A's possible from here on out. I have never been asked about the rigor of classes or how hard Professors grade - just a simple X.X/4.0.

May 14, 2010

Meh. I guess I'm in the minority here.

I just took hard classes in subjects I was interested in. Math, Philosophy, Lit, Finance, Law. Tried Physics but it was too time consuming. I know I gained a lot.

May 14, 2010

So there's no grey area regarding rounding a 3.45 to a 3.5? I mean, mathematically it's legit but for jobs?

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May 14, 2010

you can list classes you've taken on your resume

May 14, 2010

generally just look at gpa, might take a glance at your resume if they ask for it before your interviews and mak sure you did decent in quant/econ/businesses classes and spot check gpa

May 14, 2010

most any bank will ask tosee you transcript! better not lie either; best to have a good story to explain that one bad class!

May 14, 2010

For both majors and classes, it's quality not quantity.

It's rationale too. In banking, no one cares if you can handle being on 8 deals at once if you you produce B quality work.

May 14, 2010

Def bring a transscript and def list classes on your resume under: relevant coursework. Also, yes explain your bad grades but if it is pre Junior year and not a D or F and your grades are good now do not worry.

    • 1
May 14, 2010

Not sure what some people are talking about.

It's all about GPA...and your major. I'm going to assume most everyone goes to a school that forces a relatively rigorous core curriculum upon its students. If not, then it's probably not a target (could be wrong here but doubt it). Recruiters will look at GPA, and adjust slightly depending on perceived difficulty of major. Nobody wants to read through 50 transcripts. Maybe if you have a joke major, they'll check that your 3.9 has some meat behind it. Otherwise, just make sure GPA is high and forget about taking 7 hard courses at once as if you're impressing anyone.

One more thing. In my interviews, the only time courses came up was in the question "what was your favorite class and why," and that came up a lot.

May 14, 2010

yup, take the a's

May 14, 2010

The first thing a bank sees when they look at your resume is your GPA. Most places won't see your actual course selection until they ask for your transcript. In my experiences, this doesn't happen until AFTER you have received your offer.

When the analysts and associates are plowing through hundreds of resumes at 1am, they aren't going to know that resume A has a 3.9 with bullshit classes and resume B has a 3.4 with incredibly difficult classes... they just know one has a 3.9 and one has a 3.4... all else equal, guess who gets the interview?

May 14, 2010

If you are taking easy classes, try to take easy classes you can actually learn from...afterall, you need some knowledge gain to justify 25k in tuition+expenses.

May 14, 2010

I'd go for the easy classes.

Try to sprinkle in a few more math-focused classes, like operations research, diff equations, corp finance, etc., in case they ask you about what quantitative skills you have (this doesn't happen very often for IBD, but be prepared)

May 14, 2010

I overloaded this semester (taking 8 courses instead of 4, all upper level econ/math) and it definitely knocked down my GPA a little. I don't think anyone really cared which courses I took as long as I had three majors, and taking so many courses killed my available time. You'll get a better return by keeping your GPA up and using the time you save to network and improve as a candidate.

May 14, 2010

its taken into account, but no hard and fast rule how it is perceived.

May 14, 2010

Graduate schools will definitely care a lot more. Companies don't care as much about what you've taken since the transcript is usually presented after interviews (and often just to see proof of education). However, if you can list impressive courses on your resume, or better yet get a double major/minor in something challenging, then that should still be a positive signal.

May 14, 2010

Honestly I think a higher GPA is better as long as you take a reasonable load. I made the mistake of taking a heavy load of tough courses for 3 semesters and it knocked my GPA quite a bit. I honestly think the .2-.3 GPA sacrifice was not worth it, although I did learn quite a bit more. However, I would take additional finance and accounting courses, if possible.

May 14, 2010

What if one is double majoring in a "hard" subject such as math or comp sci, and one's GPA in the hard major is really high, but his/her cumulative GPA isn't as high, would listing the math or comp sci GPA "compensate" for the relatively lower cumulative GPA? say if I have a 4.0 in my math major, but my cumulative GPA is about a 3.7, would that 4.0 in the math major "offset" the cumulative 3.7?

May 14, 2010

tmi

May 14, 2010

What it comes down to is recruiters sort through resumes very quickly and a higher GPA catches their eye more quickly. If you want to double major in math because it really interests you or you have a natural aptitude...then do it. But don't do it to give you a better shot at IB.

May 14, 2010

I would say probably not worth it if you think it will significantly effect your GPA. B-schools look at the rigor of your academic classes if they have concerns about your quantitative ability as demonstrated by your GMAT. If you do well on the Quant section of the GMAT it won't be an issue. If you do so-so they may look at your transcript a bit closer to see if they can glean anything from it.

May 14, 2010
Boothorbust:

I would say probably not worth it if you think it will significantly effect your GPA. B-schools look at the rigor of your academic classes if they have concerns about your quantitative ability as demonstrated by your GMAT. If you do well on the Quant section of the GMAT it won't be an issue. If you do so-so they may look at your transcript a bit closer to see if they can glean anything from it.

What is considered a satisfactory score for M7? For example, is a q40 good enough?
Would the schools ever consider your job when deciding if you are qualified in terms of quantitative ability. Say you work in a modeling heavy M&A or Lev Fin group. Could that make up for not having quant heavy coursework or a low quant score on gmat.
Thanks!

May 14, 2010

I just took classes that were potentially A-/B classes as a Pass/Fail. This way I still got the knowledge from the course, such as mathematical economics, econometrics, and even an Italian course, but did not have to worry about a ding on the GPA

May 14, 2010

gpa gets you the interview. knowledge gets you the job. IMO get as high of a GPA as you can, but learn as much as you can outside of class to make sure you have all bases covered. you cant increase a GPA outside of class, but you can easily learn (much more!) finance outside of class.

May 14, 2010
leveRAGE.:

gpa gets you the interview. knowledge gets you the job. IMO get as high of a GPA as you can, but learn as much as you can outside of class to make sure you have all bases covered. you cant increase a GPA outside of class, but you can easily learn (much more!) finance outside of class.

so the solution is taking the easiest classes and studying guides and excel

May 14, 2010
leveRAGE.:

gpa gets you the interview. knowledge gets you the job. IMO get as high of a GPA as you can, but learn as much as you can outside of class to make sure you have all bases covered. you cant increase a GPA outside of class, but you can easily learn (much more!) finance outside of class.

This...

Its all about the filler classes, but try to throw in some relevant ones. Sample class schedule: equity val, private guitar, intro to painting, public speaking.

May 14, 2010

In general I'd take the class that gives you the best chance at an A. But, I decided to take a significantly harder accounting class this semester and will get a B instead of an A. I definitely have learned more than I would have in the other class though.

May 14, 2010

Funny question. An interviewer had my transcripts and started going through the classes. My freshman year, I took some really easy A general eds and the names of the courses clearly gave that away. I relaxed and made a joke when he commented on them and the interviewers had a good laugh. Scored the offer. Bottom line: GPA's what is going to get you in the door, not the classes you take.

May 14, 2010
moneymogul:

Funny question. An interviewer had my transcripts and started going through the classes. My freshman year, I took some really easy A general eds and the names of the courses clearly gave that away. I relaxed and made a joke when he commented on them and the interviewers had a good laugh. Scored the offer. Bottom line: GPA's what is going to get you in the door, not the classes you take.

Interviewer had your transcript? Unless you're at some tiny boutique where this might happen, I'm calling BS.

May 14, 2010

Try GS/MS/JPM. You've never had to upload an unofficial transcript with your online application for an SA before? I'm calling BS.

May 14, 2010
moneymogul:

Try GS/MS/JPM. You've never had to upload an unofficial transcript with your online application for an SA before? I'm calling BS.

At least at our OCR, MS was the only BB of the entire lot which requested any kind of transcript. The consultancies all did, however.

May 14, 2010

so there isn't a consensus on how to approach this?

May 14, 2010

I would recommend taking the easiest classes and learning stuff on your own. I had a tough time during recruiting because my GPA was a 3.3, but I got an offer and turned it down.

I'm gonna get that bish some binary

Bishes love binary

Kind Regards,

Bin_Ban

    • 1
May 14, 2010

My best advice would be to front-load gut classes. Take layups and the easier in-major classes freshman and sophomore year - enough in-major courses that you can credibly say that you're in the major. Leave out the harder major requirements until later:

1) By then, you've established a solid GPA, and can absorb the hit
2) In an ideal world, you'd actually not take these courses until the term of SA OCR - this way, you actually never have to deal with the grade downside in recruiting.

For example, if you're going to be an econ major, take the prerecs and then skip around the major sequences (to the extent that you can), leaving out the weeders and other killer courses until junior spring. Take easy distrib/gen ed requirements (or core classes, or whatever your school has), other interesting/easy classes along the way. Take a language and go abroad sophomore year - it's awesome, and when you put the abroad term on your resume, it might get spotted by someone who is from there/went abroad there/has some other affinity.

I wish I planned this way when I started out. It sucks, what with all of my school's bs about "liberal education" and grades being secondary. But the cold hard truth is you will be reduced to your GPA regardless of what you want to do professionally, and especially if you're going for Banking, Consulting, or another hyper-competitive path.

    • 1
May 14, 2010

I expect to finish my freshman year with a 4.0, is there a sense that having a 4.0 means all you do is study and might hurt you?

May 14, 2010
Comment
May 14, 2010
Comment

I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.

May 14, 2010
Comment

I would agree with you, but then we'd both be wrong.

May 14, 2010