You’ve just graduated. You’re looking for your first job. With little or no relevant work experience, you start wondering: “Should I put my GPA on my resume?”
You might have noticed conflicting recommendations about putting grade point averages on resumes. Don’t worry. This guide will help you decide whether to cite your GPA, when to do it, and how to do it.
To get the best job possible, you need to have a top-notch resume. With limited work experience, you’ll have to prove your fit by penning the perfect cover letter and figuring out how to write the perfect resume. For some, sharing your GPA might just give your resume a boost!
When to Include Grade Point Averages
Here’s the tricky thing: There’s no golden rule when it comes to disclosing certain information on resumes. This is true for grade point averages, too.
Aren’t I Required to Disclose My GPA?
There are some companies that do, in fact, require applicants to share their GPAs. Likewise, there are some industries, like governmental institutions, that consider this common practice. It’s pretty clear what to do then—if it’s required, you include it.
But Should I Volunteer My GPA?
If your grades are stellar, disclosing your grade point average is indicative of how smart and hardworking you are. A proven educational track record is definitely something to leverage.
However, if your grades are subpar, you might be unintentionally sending the wrong signal. No matter what the circumstances were (how difficult the courses were, how many projects you were running on the side), below-average grades might make you look like a slacker.
Key Takeaway: If your work experience is limited, listing your impressive GPA might signal you’re smart and hardworking. A below-average GPA isn’t something you want to volunteer!
So What GPAs Are Worth Mentioning?
In order to figure out whether your GPA is good enough to mention, let’s see what grade point averages would in fact be deemed average.
The average GPA has been rising for decades. This phenomenon is often referred to as grade inflation. As the name suggests, there seems to be a surplus of increasingly high grades. In fact, the most commonly given grade in college is “A” (43% of all grades):
- During the Vietnam War era, the average grade was “C.” Now, the average grade would be the equivalent of a “B,” though “A” is most common.
- GPAs vary between colleges and across majors. In general, students from private colleges seem to have higher GPAs. Likewise, students in the humanities get higher grades than students in engineering and social sciences.
- GPAs depend on the method employed to calculate them.
If there are no specific guidelines or requirements, it would make sense to refrain from volunteering your GPA to hiring managers unless it’s a solid above-average score.
Typical GPAs vary between colleges and majors. But as a rule of thumb, you should refrain from including information on scores below a 3.0. In many (if not most!) cases, anything below a 3.5 would be unimpressive.
If you achieved a score between 3.7 and 4.0—you might want to consider mentioning it!
Which Grade Point Average Should I Provide?
Some of you might have sat down with a spreadsheet and figured out that a particular method of calculation makes your GPA work in your favor. Some transcripts explicitly provide you with various GPAs such as Major Option, General Major, and Overall GPA.
For example, it might turn out that the GPA calculated from core, in-major grades might be higher than your overall GPA. If you chose to share it, don’t do it without appropriate caveats. You don’t want to pass it off as a typical, all-inclusive GPA.
Remember, some employers may require you to submit proof of your academic achievement in the form of a transcript of your permanent academic record.
So here’s a pretty obvious tip: Don’t lie and don’t be coy about your grades. Don’t try to game the system.
How to Cite Your GPA
Before you start typing up your grade point average, make sure you know how to put your education on your resume. Assuming you have to list your GPA (or you’re a genius with the grades to prove it), be mindful of the scale. The standard American GPA score is calculated on a scale from 0 to 4.0, though some colleges make it possible to score beyond a 4.0.
If that’s the case for you, you might have to round it down to a 4.0.
Yes, a 4.3 is greater than a 4.0, but recruiters will assume a 4.0 score is perfect anyway. Being proud of your achievement is fine, but don’t try too hard as it might backfire.
Note: If you were a double major, and you enclose your GPA for one of them, you should include your GPA for your second major.
If you graduated from college, forget about sharing your high school GPA. Always go with the most recent institution.
Bonus tip: In some cases, you might be able to include your impressive one-off GPA success in the achievements section.
Bottom Line on Disclosing GPAs
In the vast majority of cases, assuming your GPA isn’t above-average, providing it may be neutral at best, harmful at worst.
Most job seekers (or people looking to get their foot in the door through applying for an internship) are unlikely to benefit from sharing their grade point average on their resume. So, if you want to leverage your grades to your advantage, make sure they are approaching perfection.