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After Graduation (2.8 GPA) Math Degree, What to expect?

  1. May 5, 2013 #1
    To start, I am a sophomore studying mathematics at Penn State under the systems analysis option and going for a minor in economics and statistics. I tried to chose my degree to be most applicable to what I thought there would be a job demand for. So far, I have not put full effort into my classes and just now getting done with my calc and proof writing classes my GPA is less than I would have hoped (2.78 to be exact). Over the next 2 years I hope to pick it up to a 3.0, but what will that .2 difference make? In reality the only difference between a C and a B is only extra memorization in short term memory. So my question is should I or should I not be too worried about my GPA? Will I still get opportunities if I have a 2.5-3.0 or should I spend the next two years of my college life trying to pick it up as much as possible?
    Last edited: May 5, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. May 5, 2013 #2
    It all depends on what your goal is. Why are you getting the degree? Do you want to go to graduate school or do you want to get a job after your BS?
  4. May 5, 2013 #3
    I had never really put too much consideration into grad school. I figured that experience is better than doing more school work and I was hoping that after my BS I would be able to land a job. Now I am mostly worried that I wont even be able to have a decent start with an opportunity of getting decent experience in. Moreover, having below a 3.0 would make it difficult to continue on to grad school. So at this point, no I do not want to go to grad school and I would hope for a job that was relevant to investment, business, statistical analysis, stocks, etc.
  5. May 5, 2013 #4
    That makes sense. I would suggest making sure you get some "real world" experience through internships and and the like. That will probably serve you better than a high GPA anyway.
  6. May 5, 2013 #5
    I've heard a lot of internships are complete shams but I have a course which helps students find internships scheduled for next semester. I hope to complete one or two, however I will defiantly need to build up some motivation beforehand. Just wish I could get this degree then get a decent job without any steps in between. Guess nothing is that simple.
  7. May 6, 2013 #6
    Don't think for one minute that GPA is unimportant for getting a job. You say you're interested in working in investment banking. If you look for recent job postings, you'll find ones from places like DE Shaw where they explicitly state they wanted top quantitative students (math and physics) with a 3.8+ GPA.
  8. May 6, 2013 #7
    There's a quite important point that you're missing. The whole GPA thing is not very important. But what is important is knowing your stuff. A 3.0 GPA does not really reflect that you know your stuff very much. Maybe you do and the system is flawed. This certainly happens in a lot of cases, but in the majority of cases, the GPA will be a rather accurate number.

    So, if you get hired to do a job, then they hire you because they think you have the skills necessary to do the job. These skills come from your education and "extracurriculars" such as internships. If you don't put a lot of effort in your education, then you won't know your stuff and you will struggle significantly.

    In the end, you might end up with a math degree. But why did you go through all that trouble? You only seem to use it to land a job. I'd say that is a waste of your money that you spent. On the other hand, you might use your degree to learn things that are actually relevant to your carreer and to learn them very well. Things like programming are going to come in extremely useful. I might even say that a couple of programming courses (that you know well) are much better than an entire math bachelors if it comes to jobs.

    Eventually, it's your choice how you use your education. Do you want the degree? Or do you want to learn new skills and useful stuff??

    Please don't take this post the wrong way. I didn't mean to put you down. But I only have seen this thread so I have made a reply that represents what you said in this thread. I realize that I might have judged you completely wrong.
  9. May 6, 2013 #8
    Those "steps in between" are called "earning it". Between turning your nose up at internships and expecting your dream job to fall into your lap without making an effort in college, you sound like someone with a major entitlement problem. You're essentially asking us if putting forward an effort in school is worthwhile. Why the hell are you in school if you don't care enough about what you're doing to try to do well in your classes?

    The worst thing is that you're belittling the success of your classmates who aren't lazy and have actually managed to do well. You're dismissing good grades as "only extra memorization in short term memory". Seriously, why are you even taking these classes?

    When you finish school and you start interviewing for jobs, why are these people going to hire you? You're aiming to do the bare minimum of networking ("one or two" internships? Your classmates will be doing them every summer, if they can) and you're not fussed about handing over a transcript with a stack of C's on it. If you land an interview at your dream job—and, short of nepotism by a relative or family friend, I'd be surprised if you got that far with your record—do you honestly believe your interviewer is going to look at your dismal GPA and say, "I'm sure he could have done better if he'd tried. After all, the difference between a C and B is just short term memorization"? Do you think you're going to blow him away with your intelligence so much that he's going to pick you over all the people who have proven track records? Who actually worked in their undergrads so that could show future employers what they're capable of?

    Is this honestly what you think is going to happen? Because if it is, you need a serious reality check. Roll up your sleeves, give up on the obnoxious idea that someone is just going to hand you everything you want without you earning it, and start doing the "steps in between".
  10. May 6, 2013 #9
    This is beautiful idealism, but isn't helping the OP I think. It is a vicious circle. Getting an internship is in most cases a competition based on grades (and recommendation letters). I'll go ahead and toot my own horn and say I fall into the category in bold you describe, but I was still waitlisted and then turned down for every internship I applied for (about 6, what I was able to find, but still waiting on 2), most definitely because my grades are not as good as the other people applying to them.

    So yes, grades are very important even outside of academia. After all, every employer wants to feel like he/she is getting the cream of the crop, why would they want sloppy seconds? In the real world, the people with deeper pockets are the ones who get to play the entitlement game.
    Last edited: May 6, 2013
  11. May 6, 2013 #10
    I completely agree with you. A GPA is very important, but it's only important to actually get the job. Once you have the job, the GPA doesn't matter anymore, but the skills you have matter. If they hire you based on a nice GPA, but find out that you're not able to do the job, then you won't have the job for long. Or at the very least, you're going to struggle very hard the first months/years.

    So I completely agree that GPA is extremely important. But I think that actually knowing the stuff is even more important.
  12. May 6, 2013 #11
    I don't disagree with your ideals, I also believe that learning things properly and retaining them is more important than acing exams (and I have seen more cases of the latter without the former than I can count), but the fact remains that to get a job, you need experience/internships. To get these, you need sufficiently good grades, even if you're clueless on some topics if you manage to get through an interview.

    But guess what, you're probably not getting called for the interview if everyone else in the app pile has better credentials. I think we do a disservice to the OP from convincing him/her of anything different from this.

    So my advice would be to roll up your sleeves and take extra semesters if necessary to spread out your coursework to ensure better performance and/or take additional coursework that would be relevant to the type of internships and ultimately jobs that you want.
  13. May 6, 2013 #12


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    Saying that you have "not put full effort" into your classes means not only that you aren't getting the grades that you potentially could, but also likely means that you are not learning as much as you should be learning. Try to keep in mind that you are in the middle of a terrific opportunity; for many it turns out to be a once in a lifetime opportunity (wow - i sound like my father!). I think it would be worthwhile for you to really apply yourself in the remaining years to get better grades and learn as much as you can. Experience is great as well, but as some others have mentioned many of the internships/co-ops and the like are decided based upon things like GPA.

    I would just like to add that some employers may take "trends" into account. So if you have mediocre grades your first two years, and much better grades your last two years, some may not hold the first two years against you so much. Also, since I suspect that the majority of your in-major classes are still ahead of you, it is possible for you to graduate with a quite respectable in-major GPA, which again may help for some employers.

    best regards,

  14. May 6, 2013 #13
    I appreciate the responses everyone so thank you.
    LastOneStanding, it's not like I slack all day and don't learn class material. I just want it to be considered that in a class(s) where a final is 40% of your grade, then the grade itself is not very reflective of what you may or may not know. A lot of these classes I look at as pass/fail. I do not have a degree issue as I hate social sciences and language and think that only idiots take business. I do like mathematics and I do understand all the material I get and I want to be able to get a job one day which applies all of it.

    I also want to add this notion. I see people getting degrees in Business all day who need to keep a 3.0. Well their classes are pretty much a high school version of the classes I take, econ, stat, basic maths, etc. If I were to go for a ******** business degree and sit through the classes and do the work my GPA would be much higher, but I appreciate the validity of my major.

    By the way I feel like my question has been sufficiently answered.
  15. May 6, 2013 #14
    At the universities I have attended, final exams are 100% or 90% of the grade. It could be worse.

    Some business courses might actually be of some assistance in getting a job... That elitist mindset about the validity of humanities or business majors won't get you anywhere and I'm pretty sure job interviewers will pick up on it. Please don't fall into the physicist/mathematician stereotype. Change your attitude or at least make an effort to hide it for your own sake...
  16. May 6, 2013 #15
    Well, the 2.8 will make it hard to get a job at DE shaw out of the starting gate, but getting a job in a related company and working your way up is still possible.

    Not that I would ever recommend having a 2.8 GPA, but the point still stands.
  17. May 6, 2013 #16
    It was an entry level job for fresh graduates in science and math, but it did state they expected a 3.8 from a top 20 university. The ad unfortunately was taken down (it was on APS' job register), but I'm guessing similar finance firms wouldn't settle for much less either.
  18. May 6, 2013 #17
    Well, that does it right there! Why would you ever want to work for a bunch of idiots who restrict themselves to graduates from top 20 universities?

    Sounds like DE shaw is a humongous snot rag.
  19. May 6, 2013 #18
    Well, finance firms like those pretty much run the world we live in, whether we like it or not. I myself wouldn't like to work for companies that engage in tax evasion and other ethically questionable activities, but when you've got to pay the bills...
  20. May 6, 2013 #19
    I personally know an employer at an unnamed firm who only hires Ivy League varsity athletes. His justification was that these individuals brought a very refined skill set to the job, and after working with that firm, they all moved on to partner and c-level positions. Unfair? Probably. But that certain firm has tremendous success and great quarterlies. Employers are generally biased, but in reality, everyone everywhere is biased. In any job, you'll have clients that are even more biased. By no means do I endorse this practice, just sharing relevant information.
  21. May 6, 2013 #20
    It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone I think. The vast majority of people in positions of high social/economic status went to elite schools and nepotism is here to stay. The "who you know vs what you know" is the sad but true fact of the labor market.
  22. May 6, 2013 #21
    If your fantasy is to work for a highly elite firm of movers and shakers, by all means, try to go to Cornell or Harvard, but for the rest of us, there are plenty of cool employers from Intel to Google who will hire you if you've never been within 10 miles of an Ivy, provided your competent.

    To make this relevant for the OP, the point was simply to say that the DE shaw example was not particularly useful. Again, if you want to be a part of the movers and shakers over there making the bucks, then you're toast, but if you're content with a more normal job, you can probably find one. Just don't expect to start out doing something awesome and at a high salary with a 2.8. Seriously bring that up if you can, the GPA gets your foot in the door, from everything I've been told.
  23. May 6, 2013 #22
    I don't have a fantasy like that by any stretch of imagination. I'm just a final year undergrad at a university you've probably never heard of that has been looking for a job for 3 months. I'm just stating the realities of what I have found in my long hours of searching for jobs to apply for. If you spend a few dozen hours browsing through entry level job positions that a physics or math major might be hired for, you will see what I mean.

    The DE Shaw example is a perfect example of what you can expect to find in an entry level job hunt through sites like Careerbuilder, USAjobs, APS and Physicsjobs as a fresh math or physics job seeker, and is exactly the kind of job the OP claims he wants (he/she said investment banking). There aren't many out there that won't discriminate heavily on where you went to school, what your grades are, and in some cases whether or not your degree is exactly what they're looking for (specifically engineering jobs for science/math majors).

    Intel and Google are still "movers and shakers" by any standard, these are dream jobs for any CS graduate, and a far reach for a physicist or mathematician with just a bachelors unless he/she has GOOD GRADES and/or comes from a well-known school.
    Last edited: May 6, 2013
  24. May 6, 2013 #23
    My understanding is that those “top 20 university” type restrictions are, in many cases, not set in stone and you can get around them if you’re good enough.

    If your GPA is 2.8, you won’t be good enough.

    Note though that the OP wasn’t the first to mention investment banking. They said “investment”, which could include a lot of things outside of IB. In fact, most finance & investment work goes on outside of IB departments. One may be able to make some big moves if they start low and demonstrate they do great work.
  25. May 6, 2013 #24
    I whole heartedly agree that you're not getting into Intel with a 2.8 from No Name U without lots of work experience first. However, I think that your current problem has a considerable amount to do with the present economic climate. I know personally a family member and a separate friend with GPA's (in EEE) of 3.1 and 2.9 who work for Intel who came from state schools, the former with considerable work experience and the latter with connections. I also know that the family member in question works with several physics bachelors who came from state schools, but it would be interesting to know good the physics students were GPA wise.

    Honestly though, if you go to a big name state school like Penn State (in the OP's case) you should be able to get the connections you need for some kind of employment. There are loads of places that would probably pick up a 2.8 math major for some kind of finance work, or at least that's my suspicion, but apart from spamming job apps on the web you need the personal connections to get your foot in the door.
  26. May 6, 2013 #25
    Are you sure?
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