What's the Point in Getting Good Grades in Your Undergrad?


by GreenPrint
Tags: grades, point, undergrad
MarneMath
MarneMath is offline
#19
Dec25-12, 11:00 PM
P: 421
GreenPrint, in many ways, having good grades and a degree won't directly translate into making six figures. You can be an A student in history, and end up making less than a C student in engineering. You're right, the A student in engineering may not always end up making more than the C student. There's a lot of factors that determine your eventual earning potential.

However, I am a firm believer that you should always do everything in your power to fortify your position. If you know some employers, can judge you on grades, then I think it's worth the time to keep a good GPA. Besides, you don't know how much a difference 40,000 a year is from even just 100,000 a year. It's the difference between having a decent college fund for your child vs hoping on a scholarship. It's the difference between being able to take vacation vs working the holidays for extra money. It's the difference between having a nice buffer in the savings account vs hoping your car doesn't break down soon.

If you ever have a family, simplying having enough to live isn't good enough anymore. It's about being able to provide for them and any emergencies that pop up.
Woopydalan
Woopydalan is offline
#20
Dec25-12, 11:29 PM
P: 746
I think you guys misunderstood his statement. He wasn't saying that there is hardly a difference between a 100k salary and a 40k salary. He was saying that a C student in engineering isn't going to have a difference in pay from an A student that is very different.
MarneMath
MarneMath is offline
#21
Dec25-12, 11:42 PM
P: 421
Regardless, I already stated that in sense yes, grades don't directly translate into pay. However, that isn't the point of grades. It's a measurement of your understanding, and in my experience, people who obtain C's tend to have less confidence in their field and often need more supervision, than those who achieved higher grades and feel they can handle any problem they encounter. Over time, i've seen this translate into the person who can work alone and provide results get the better pay job in the long run, while the person who started with low confidence and needed constant supervision, to remain at a lower level longer, and progress slower.

Is this a steadfast rule? Of course not, but it's constant enough for me to look at a new employee's GPA when I consider what task I should task out to him/her first.
Bipolarity
Bipolarity is offline
#22
Dec26-12, 12:20 AM
P: 783
Grades are not always indicative of ability. Sometimes a grade can reflect a professor's difficulty and harshness in grading more so than the true effort a student puts into the work. In this case, it is possible for a C student to be better prepared than an A student, if the C student had much more demanding professors.

But if the same professors, same teaching is done on all students (which is rare), and if the grading is truly reflective of hours invested into work, then the ones with lower grades tend to be incompetent compared to ones who have higher grades.

In the case of engineering, grades are not everything, but the work ethic and communication skills are big factor in the engineering workplace. Grades try to reflect these skills, but are not always good at doing this. Those who got by engineering school without working very hard are usually the first to get bashed in the ever-changing workplace.

BiP
Choppy
Choppy is offline
#23
Dec26-12, 07:43 AM
Sci Advisor
P: 2,558
This is an important question that I believe all undergraduates should ask themselves. It's very easy to get caught up in the race for the highest mark, even to the detriment of understanding or evem relationships that are formed over those years - with colleagues and professors.

There are of course some specific reasons to keep your marks up. These include:

(1) Graduate school. Since acceptance in highly competative, you want to have transcripts that will put you in a favourable position. Sure other factors like a high GRE score or research exerience will help, but those transcripts are, in my experience, the most important factor of the holy trinity.

(2) Professional school. In many cases, particular for people in science undergraduate programs, the BSc is not the end fo their eductation. Many will go on into professional programs such as law, medicine or an MBA - all of which are competative and look at marks.

(3) Scholarships. University is expensive. Some scholarships require that you keep a high GPA, and those that are not athletic are almost always based on transcripts. It's also imporant to keep in mind that just because you don't get one in your first year, does't mean you won't ever get one. Lots of scholarships are awarded part way through.

(4) Employment competition. There are some (many?) employers that take your undergraduate GPA into account when hiring. Others have posted examples on this board. Often it can be a case of a cut-off. You need to have a minimum GPA before you can apply.

(5) Personal motivation and goal setting. When setting goals for own self improvement it is important that they be: specific, measureable, attainable, relevant and time-limited. Marks allow you define and measure your progress. I agree whole-heartedly with the camp of thought that believes what's really important is the understanding of the material. I agree whole-heartedly as well that marks do not necessarily correspond perfectly with this understanding. But they certainly give you a quantity to measure and evaluate your performance and this cna be of tremendous help in guaging where you stand both with respect to yourself and you peers.

All of that said, I think it's important to recognize when you reach a point of diminishing returns. I've had students with whom I've gotten into heated debates over a fraction of a mark on lab reports and later on exams in a course. In the end it's clear that they care deeply about their performance and I understant that completely. But some of them have gone well-beyond the point of legitimate protest to the point where they leave me with a completely negative impression of them. I'm not going to write a reference letter for someone who argues with me for half an hour over a trivial matter.

The diminishing returns rule of thumb also applies to taking care of yourself. There are many cases (often discussed on these forums) where students experience tremendous stress, give up sleep, excercise and/or personal relationships, as well as other important opportunities for self development (such as volunteering, or club involvement) for minor improvements in marks - that may or may not actually translate into improved marks.
Vanadium 50
Vanadium 50 is offline
#24
Dec26-12, 11:45 AM
Mentor
Vanadium 50's Avatar
P: 15,569
Quote Quote by Woopydalan View Post
One can also look into the fact that getting straight A's isn't always a 100% correlation with learning the material.
True, but neither is it 0%. The Correlation between High School GPA and College GPA is about 0.5 or 0.6, and there we are talking about entirely different courses. And while our personal experiences usually let us come up with an example or two of someone who ended up with a grade that didn't match his accomplishments, that same experience tells us that on average a group of A students knows more that a group of C students, who in turn know more than a group who flunked the class.
streeters
streeters is offline
#25
Dec26-12, 01:08 PM
P: 221
Quote Quote by GreenPrint View Post

I hear left and right from people that no one really cares about your GPA if the highest level of education you have is a Bachelor's.

You hear a lot of crap. When I graduated I got offered several jobs/PhD places on the strength of my undergraduate grades. If I had got poorer grades, I would have had severely limited options.

In the UK it is given more importance, as you are forever described by your degree class.
Shaun_W
Shaun_W is offline
#26
Dec26-12, 04:50 PM
P: 261
Quote Quote by streeters View Post
In the UK it is given more importance, as you are forever described by your degree class.
I've never heard of anyone being asked about their degree class after their first job... and in fact even for most graduate jobs the difference between a 1st and a 2:1 is almost nil.
streeters
streeters is offline
#27
Dec27-12, 02:22 AM
P: 221
Quote Quote by Shaun_W View Post
I've never heard of anyone being asked about their degree class after their first job... and in fact even for most graduate jobs the difference between a 1st and a 2:1 is almost nil.
Really? I constantly read bios where they mention their degree class. I also see a lot of graduate programs that want 1st class degrees. Looks like we travel in different circles.
Bipolarity
Bipolarity is offline
#28
Dec27-12, 03:01 AM
P: 783
Conclusion:
As long as there is last one employer looking for good grades, it stands to reason that someone with better grades stands a better chance of landing a job than someone without good grades, all other things being equal.

Because such an employer exists, having good grades increases one's chances of landing a job, all other things being equal.

So study hard!

BiP
Abstr7ct
Abstr7ct is offline
#29
Dec27-12, 05:14 AM
P: 17
The problem with the grading system, is that it takes most of the student's time and leaves almost nothing for self-development in practice. Talking specifically on electrical engineering, one student can earn the highest grades possible but he has almost zero practical skills. Having 15+ hours for a semester and trying to earn A's in all courses will leave the student not having enough power to concetrate on doing some bredbaording, soldering, building things from the books he learns, doing simulations.... and so on. Let alone that some courses with a credit of 3 hours actually take more of your time than a 4 hours course. Imagine that we've a Professor who assigns 100 questions as an assignment for each chapter of a Microcontroller course!.

I know one student who can understand very well but doesn't study very often because he prefers to invest his time building and experimenting actual circuits even if they're not directly related to any of the courses he takes in a given semester. His GPA is probably way under 3.0 out of 4.0, but he's very good at practice more than any one of those students who have a GPA nearly around a complete 4.0. I know a lot of those students and they don't really show any interest in doing self-development in practice more than what they do in the university's labs and their most dedication is how to get A's.
MarneMath
MarneMath is offline
#30
Dec27-12, 05:22 AM
P: 421
It's like I used to tell the soldiers under me. All I require is that you shoot, move, and communicate like a pro. You can make fancy 550 cord braclets, know all the army field manuals better than the guy who wrote them, and tell me about tactics all you want, but if you can't shoot, move, and communicate at a natural level, everything else doesn't matter.

Same thing here. You can have some students who are really great hands on people, who can self-study and do some really great stuff, but at the end of the day, if you neglect your actual meaningful work, then what good are you to me? The majority of your time spent at most jobs is doing stuff that is required. Consider the grading system a good way to get used to this aspect of life. Sitting in on budget meetings, planning future operations, etc are not things anyone really likes to do, but they take up most of your time. I don't need someone who knows a lot of stuff but neglects his work, I need a guy who knows enough to do his work well.
Shaun_W
Shaun_W is offline
#31
Dec27-12, 05:48 AM
P: 261
Quote Quote by streeters View Post
Really? I constantly read bios where they mention their degree class. I also see a lot of graduate programs that want 1st class degrees. Looks like we travel in different circles.
Can you provide examples of graduate programmes that require first class degrees?
streeters
streeters is offline
#32
Dec28-12, 03:03 PM
P: 221
Quote Quote by Shaun_W View Post
Can you provide examples of graduate programmes that require first class degrees?
ok, when I applied to Rolls Royce they only considered 1st class degrees due to a shrink in manufacture that year.
mdxyz
mdxyz is offline
#33
Dec29-12, 10:28 AM
P: 44
Grades in bachelor's degrees do matter, but it's more like a cut-off than a sliding scale. The cut-off is 3.0-3.3, or perhaps 3.7 for IBanking or strategy consultancy or something.

And the OP has a point. Some people care about understanding the universe, but for the most part college is just a credential factory designed to get people generic office and retail jobs without making them better at performing those jobs.
Lavabug
Lavabug is offline
#34
Dec29-12, 04:18 PM
P: 841
Quote Quote by mdxyz View Post
Some people care about understanding the universe, but for the most part college is just a credential factory designed to get people generic office and retail jobs without making them better at performing those jobs.
I fall under the former category (I care about learning) but I still agree with this. I had a math prof once that asked an entering class (mixed STEM fields) if they would bother going to/paying for college if it didn't help them get a decent job afterwards. They all answered no and the prof thought it was totally reasonable.
ZombieFeynman
ZombieFeynman is offline
#35
Dec29-12, 05:00 PM
PF Gold
P: 233
I think a college education/degree serves different purposes (particularly in science):

1. To teach you facts and methods of solving problems.

2. To teach you/allow you to figure out how to learn on your own.

3. To certify to future employers/graduate schools that you have learned facts and methods of solving problems and are able to teach yourself more.

Grades are a part of number 3. I personally think they do a pretty good job of this.
Jow
Jow is offline
#36
Dec31-12, 05:18 PM
P: 67
Just because your grades wont be looked at by future employers should not mean you shouldn't take pride in your grades. Don't you want to leave university knowing that you did your best? If all you care about is the degree then clearly the point of post-secondary education is lost on you. The point is to learn not just information but a good work ethic.


Register to reply

Related Discussions
What to do with undeserved GOOD grades? Academic Guidance 10
A good book on QFT for an undergrad Science & Math Textbook Listings 8
Good undergrad physics programs Academic Guidance 7
Some questions on undergrad grades Academic Guidance 2
Good undergrad schools. Academic Guidance 4