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What is a Good GPA in College?

Instructor: Carrie Soucy
The definition of a good college GPA is different for each student, depending largely upon career goals or post-graduate academic plans. Read on to learn how to interpret your GPA and, if necessary, improve it.

Defining a Good College GPA

Good is a relative term when it comes to college GPAs. While a GPA of 3.5 is sometimes used as a general benchmark by competitive employers and graduate programs, it is by no means an absolute minimum requirement. To determine if your GPA is good enough to help you achieve your goals, compare it to the guidelines below.

Good GPAs for Graduate Studies

To gain admission to one of U.S. News & World Report's top 10 graduate schools in popular fields of study, such as law, medicine and business, you'll generally need a GPA ranging between a 3.5 and a 3.7. But at other schools, students with GPAs under 3.5 are often accepted. Below are the GPAs for admitted, full-time students entering their programs in 2015.

Type of Graduate School GPA for Admitted Students at Top 10 Schools GPA for Admitted Students at Other Schools
Law School Median: 3.70-3.93* Median: 2.74+*
Medical School Median: 3.73-3.92** Median: 3.43+**
Business School Average: 3.50-3.75** Average: 2.79+**

Sources: *American Bar Association, **U.S. News & World Report

Good GPAs for Employment

Employers vary widely in what they consider a good GPA. To land a job at a large, competitive corporation, you may need a 3.5 GPA. Other large companies consider applicants with 3.0 or higher. Small businesses, meanwhile, may not even ask for your GPA, so as long as you keep it within what's considered good standing by your school (typically a 2.0) and earn your degree, your GPA is good enough for employment.

How to Improve Your GPA

If your current GPA isn't on par with general guidelines for your post-college plans, you can improve it in a variety of ways. For example:

  • Get yourself organized. Have a calendar and use it! Don't just enter all your exam dates and deadlines. Block off daily, distraction-free study time as well. If you're missing classes, you should also enter your class times into your calendar; do not skip them. To get help finding time for all of these responsibilities, check out these Time Management for College Success lessons for tips on fitting everything into your schedule.
  • Beef up your study habits. If studying isn't one of your strengths, check out these lessons on Studying for College Success to make sure you're using your time effectively. You'll get strategies for taking good notes, making study guides and preparing for quizzes and tests.
  • Get ahead of stress. Is stress hindering your ability to improve your academic performance and therefore your grades? If so, you are not alone. Beat the stress by following the tips in this Behavioral Strategies for Dealing With Stress lesson.
  • Be positive. A good attitude goes a long way in college (and after college). If you're feeling pessimistic, check out this Positive Psychology lesson for a reminder of the importance of optimism and suggestions for turning your outlook around.

Other Considerations

Make no mistake: a good GPA is important. But if your GPA falls short of the general guidelines described for your career or academic goals, bear in mind that your GPA will be only one of many components considered by employers and admissions officers. While a strong GPA is a great asset, some employers and schools actually prefer college graduates who have less-than-stellar GPAs but extensive work experience, a record of accomplishments and glowing reference letters over applicants with a flawless academic record and no real-world experiences.

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