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Do grad school grades matter?

  1. Mar 30, 2012 #1
    I'm a first-year grad student studying physics. I've always heard that grades in grad school don't matter too much; just maintain at least a 3.0 GPA, or whatever the minimum is to maintain funding, and everything's fine.

    Since "grades don't matter," I haven't put too much focus on classwork. I work on the material with an eye towards passing my qualifying exams, but I haven't devoted all my effort to homework and studying for exams. After all, research is more important than grades, right?

    So, imagine my surprise, when another grad student in our group was emphatic that grad school grades do, in fact, matter. His argument is that funding agencies (e.g., the NSF) and future employers look at your grad school transcripts when you're applying for fellowships or jobs. He firmly believes that you need to get as close to a 4.0 GPA as possible, even in grad school.

    Now, my GPA isn't anything to write home about (it's in the 3.3 - 3.4 range...nothing below a B), but it's above that crucial 3.0 mark.

    So, I'm curious: Does your GPA in grad school matter? Should I be working harder in my classes?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 30, 2012 #2
    It probably depends. Some competitive groups look at certain classes to decide if you can hack it in the group (all the theory groups at my grad school required high marks in quantum field theory to join).

    But when you graduate, remember you probably won't have taken a class in several years. Your publication record will be far more important than classes you took 4 years back.
     
  4. Mar 30, 2012 #3

    OldEngr63

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    I think you would be nuts to say, "grad grades don't matter." Right now, I think that they matter more than anything else you have. Later they will matter less, but for the moment, they are extremely important.
     
  5. Mar 30, 2012 #4

    Choppy

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    Grades in graduate school matter less than they do in undergrad, but "less" doesn't mean "not at all." Your colleague is right in that if you're applying for fellowship money after you finish, your transcripts will be factored in. They are not the "be all and end all" because you will have done other (more important) things, but they aren't ignored either.
     
  6. Mar 30, 2012 #5

    I wanted to add that I already have an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, so I won't need to apply for funding again for another three years.
     
  7. Mar 31, 2012 #6
    dNope. Just pass and publish a ton of stuff. People onlhy really care about what you publish after you graduate. It might matter for academics, but out in the real world, no one cares about your grades in grad school as long as you show you can do the desired lab work required through your publications and resume history.
     
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