3.7 vs. 3.8?
February 6, 2008 1:30 PM   Subscribe

Does the difference between a GPA of 3.7 and 3.8 matter?

Sounds like a stupid question on the face of it, I know. I am a second-semester senior currently thinking of dropping two classes and being a part-time student, mostly for monetary reasons. The two classes I would drop aren't particularly interesting, and cover material that I have read before, so I'm not sad at the prospect of losing them.

The thing that's holding me back is this: taking these two extra classes and getting a 4.0 this semester would bump my GPA up to a 3.8 and (if I pass my comprehensive exam with distinction) earn me a degree cum magna laude. Not taking these two classes means my GPA will stay at 3.7 (if I get two As, which seems fairly likely), and my degree (again, if I pass my comps exam with distinction) will be "just" cum laude. The difference would come down to a hundredth of a grade point (3.74 rounds down; 3.75 rounds up).

My problem with this comes on two fronts: one, is this likely to negatively affect my applying to graduate school (for English or Comp Lit)? (My advisors say not really, and I believe them, but if you disagree I'd like to hear why). And two, will I regret not going for the magna cum laude five years down the line? Right now, it doesn't mean all that much to me, but I'm sort of worried that I'll look back and wish I had just done it. I am definitely going to spend my free time doing productive things, so it won't be a "wasted semester" (in which case I'm sure I'd regret it). How much do your latin honors mean to you? Is this the kind of thing I'll feel bad about, or do you usually just forget about it later (if it means anything, I don't even know what my GPA was in high school anymore, and I only remember half of my SAT score).
posted by maxreax to Education (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Particularly if it won't matter for grad school - no, you won't ever care. Other than for graduate-school purposes, in fact, everyone I know (most of us 1-3 years out of college) are spending time being amazed at how much we used to care about our grades, and how utterly pointless they seem now.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:36 PM on February 6, 2008

Does the difference between a GPA of 3.7 and 3.8 matter?

The short answer: Yes.

The long answer: It depends.
posted by The World Famous at 1:36 PM on February 6, 2008

Since you seem to have your own doubts, maybe sticking with it and getting the more impressive designation is the way to go. You are only talking a matter of weeks until you finish at this point. Don't derail yourself now. You can stand if for another 8-9 weeks, can't you? You are almost done! YAY!

Having said all that, I don't think it really matters much to the outside world but it does seem to matter to you, so just do it. I think you will be glad you did.
posted by 45moore45 at 1:39 PM on February 6, 2008

TWF said it perfectly.
posted by special-k at 1:39 PM on February 6, 2008

It's not a big deal for getting into grad school - you meet the minimum GPA. Lit might be different than the sciences but a lot actually in will depend on written statements and interviews.

Once you're in grad school, you'll want to apply for scholarships. If everything else is equal, the $$$ will go to someone else with a 3.8 GPA instead of your 3.74 GPA.

Once you're out of grad school, your undergrad GPA will likely never be brought up again.
posted by porpoise at 1:44 PM on February 6, 2008

If you want to stay in the humanities, I'm not so sure. Venture into a field like Law and MCL becomes a very useful tool
posted by stratastar at 1:45 PM on February 6, 2008

Other than for graduate-school purposes, in fact, everyone I know (most of us 1-3 years out of college) are spending time being amazed at how much we used to care about our grades, and how utterly pointless they seem now.

A small anecdote: When I applied for my first position out of college, they looked over my resume but also did a lot of interviewing. They cared most about the stuff I had done in college, not just in class but also out of class. After the interviews, they asked if I could mail them my transcript from college.

Well, the transcript never came. The college had made a mistake on the request and this was when eveything went through slow postal mail. i contacted the company and apologized and said I'd correct the problem and get them a proper transcript. They replied: "Oh, ok. Sure, if you want to.. but, listen, you're a strong candidate and we've just sent you an offer letter in the mail."

I never sent them the transcript. For my next job all they cared about was what I had done in my previous job and so on... All that work I had put in, all that worrying I had gone through in college about my grades...ended up making no difference whatsoever in my career.
posted by vacapinta at 1:46 PM on February 6, 2008

The 0.1 of a GPA doesn't matter, but the "magna" does, to a certain extent. I would take the courses if it'll get you that, just so you don't regret not doing it later.

It's just something to differentiate you from the rest of the pack. It's not major, but unless you're going to do something else to make yourself really a standout student/applicant/employee with the time you'll save, I'd take the courses and get the "magna" for your "cum laude."
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:51 PM on February 6, 2008

My advisors say not really, and I believe them, but if you disagree I'd like to hear why

Why would random jerks on the internet know better than them?

If everything else is equal, the $$$ will go to someone else with a 3.8 GPA instead of your 3.74 GPA.

Not really. All else equal, it will go to whoever they want more, or whoever they have to work to get. This might or might not correlate with gpa.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:52 PM on February 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Other than in specific situations where GPA is a selection criterion *and* there're zillions of applicants (scholarships, grants, fellowships, admissions at platinum tier schools), no, a tenth of a point on your GPA won't even kinda matter.
posted by Netzapper at 1:54 PM on February 6, 2008

1. I'm not in grad school admissions, so take this with a grain of salt, but I really doubt the GPA makes much of a difference. They'll be looking at your actual transcript, seeing what classes you took, etc.; it's not like they'll discard you immediately based on the one number. Also, they may recalculate your GPA themselves anyway, possibly using a different formula. Having more classes is better, of course, but that's because they want to see you challenging yourself, not because they want some magic number to be above a particular level.
2. You won't even remember what honors you got five years down the line. It'll never come up; you'll put it on your resume once and forget it forever.
posted by equalpants at 1:55 PM on February 6, 2008

I got second class first degree honours instead of first class for my MSc. Not quite as close as you're talking, but still in the 'just missed' category. It did not stop me getting into grad school at all and had no effect on finding a good project with an awesome group. I got lots of positive encouragement while applying and was told repeatedly that my grades were good enough.

However, it did make it harder to get funding. It took longer to find a fellowship (two years) and the one I have is less prestigious and my stipend is less than it could be. If I had first class this would have been a lot easier. I also have friends with very good first class honours but not quite in that top tier, and their funding options were also less (not as bad as mine, six-eight months looking to get a scholarship with some prestige and paying the going rate). The very top students walked into awesome fellowships with less restrictions (e.g. they can hold two at once) and with additions to their stipends like travel money. We're all doing great research projects, it's just that some are getting an easier ride than others and that really does come down to marks.

But then I'm in NZ where the funding is pretty well contested and PhD students aren't guaranteed an income. It may be that wherever you are these things don't matter as much. So I'd suggest you take a look at the requirements for any fellowships or scholarships you'd be applying for and look at their cut off points and criteria. You'll get into grad school OK either way, and this is what your advisers are likely to be focussing on, so it's those peripheral things like stipends or travel grants that this will affect. How much of an effect it has depends on where you are and what you're studying. Talking with the graduate centre at your Uni and graduate students currently doing what you are aiming at are ways to find out how much this matters.
posted by shelleycat at 1:59 PM on February 6, 2008

I missed magna cum laude by .02 points. It needles me 'cause it was so close, but it has never come up professionally, or, as far as I know, in my application to grad school.
posted by Hildago at 2:05 PM on February 6, 2008

posted by gnutron at 2:16 PM on February 6, 2008

I'd guess it won't make that much difference. Even for grad school, there are many factors that affect who gets admitted and funded. For instance, I was recruited heavily by Rutgers 20 years ago. They had just started a new Women and Politics Ph.D. I had an undergrad Poli Sci degree from Michigan, which was one of the top-rated poli sci schools in the country at the time, but I had done almost all of my PS coursework before transferring to Michigan as a Junior. I got an amazing fellowship; when I got to Rutgers the next fall, I really couldn't believe I was so much better than the other students that I got the best fellowship the university offered. Then the year after that, a student who'd done her undergrad at Yale told me the department had used me as a recruiting tool: "You won't be slumming, we've got a student now who did her undergrad at Michigan."

I was interested to discover that my individual merit as a student was perhaps not even the strongest factor driving the department's interest in me.

And 20 years later, none of that matters at all.

I've also been to grad school for literature. If you have good GRE scores and did well in your lit classes, I'd be amazed if one-tenth of a point would make any difference at all.
posted by not that girl at 2:55 PM on February 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Up until my last semester, I had a 3.786. Then I got a B on my final thesis and my GPA dropped to a 3.749. I was pissed. However, I've since graduated, went on three interviews, and got a job. No one ever once wanted to know what my GPA was.

I would have gotten a 3.7 if I had dropped my thesis altogether, and I now regret NOT dropping it. It caused me so much stress and grief only to minorly negatively affect a GPA no one cares about. So no, one-tenth of a point is not worth it. If you'd rather save money, and have more free time to relax and have fun, go for it.
posted by kidsleepy at 3:28 PM on February 6, 2008

I am a grad admissions officer in the humanities at a Research 1 university in the US, and agree that magna cum laude does stand out a bit, but think your advisers are right that the GPA differenital you're talking about isn't likely to matter. There are a few very competitive and highly sought programs that might make something of the difference, if everything else looks similar between you and another applicant -- but this is a rare scenario. So I agree with those who say you should do whatever you prefer (you also mention financial concerns).
posted by Rain Man at 3:30 PM on February 6, 2008

I graduated with a high enough gpa to earn summa, but then they factored in my grades from my transfer school (which included some A-'s) and I received magna. MY GOD WAS I PISSED.

And yet, here I am in my third semester of grad school, and I no longer care. All anyone cares about is your scholarship and all the other good stuff you can put on your CV. So, as others have said, I don't think that it's going to matter in the long run at all-- if you're looking for a gig as a professor down the line, it's more about your book project, your research, all the articles you will have published, etc. cum or magna cum won't be such a big deal, other than what YOU have psychically/psychologically invested in it.
posted by exlotuseater at 3:49 PM on February 6, 2008

If you're getting it for you, go for it. If you're only concerned regarding your professional success, I'd say don't worry about it. I did crappy in undergrad (like a 3.4) but got a 3.9 in grad school. Nobody in my adult life cares, and I've only been asked for GPA information on a couple government job applications. Otherwise, it's your merit as a professional that matters - doing well in school and doing well professionally can be mutually exclusive.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 4:33 PM on February 6, 2008

ROU_Xenophobe - Not really. All else equal, it will go to whoever they want more, or whoever they have to work to get. This might or might not correlate with gpa.

All else being equal.

If there's one person on the committee that hates your guts for no reason, but everyone else doesn't give a damn, the .005 GPA justifies the position.

OP- don't worry about the GPA; if not getting the 'magna' (I too, was a rounding non-magna - but, pfff) means you get "real" life experience and whotnot, that'll help you get into gradschool working with a professor you want to work with better than having a magna vs. "just" a cum laude.

Pssst. There's a way into graduate school that lots of people seem, to me, not to know about. Sure, there's the "apply to graduate program N at University M" route. Then there's the one where you kinda figure out what you want to do, figure out who else is doing such stuff, then contacting them personally asking to be graduate students with them.

If a tenured (or tenure-track) professor wants you in their program; how is the university going to deny them that, regardless of your so-called "qualifications?"
posted by porpoise at 9:38 PM on February 6, 2008

I took fewer hours my senior year for sanity's sake and missed out on high honors by a whisker. I remember being ticked in an advanced math class that I might not get a good grade. Since then it has not a single time been brought up or mattered. When I was interviewing for very competitive grad programs, they seemed infinitely more concerned about how I and my research fit into their program development than what my GPA was. I was asked probably a thousand questions about research topics, publications, and plans for the future. I was asked zero questions about any grades, and maybe five questions about specific classwork ("What was this chaos theory class about?"). Since every question was about the same class, I'm pretty sure that it was just because it was last on the list.

OTOH there are classes that I wish I'd taken that year, and there were two easy classes that I wish that I hadn't taken, but those are because I want the knowledge that I would have gained, not the GPA points. On the third hand I'm more glad about the sanity, and meeting Ms Robot that year in my abundant free time.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:15 AM on February 7, 2008

I went to a college which did not give "latin honors". I got an MS and am now getting a PhD and this was never mentioned at all.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:27 AM on February 7, 2008

If the 2 classes aren't interesting, and you need the money, then drop 'em. I have a BA in English and only once in 12 years have I been asked about school other than having a degree. That was working for a community college, where I think they ask everybody for transcripts. (I'm a web designer.)

In college I dropped one class (chemistry) and failed another (american politics) in the same semester, mostly because I was dead-broke and depressed. The politics class embarrasses me just because I actually love politics & history, and I'm starting to think maybe one day I'll take a chem class at the local community college, just to see if I can learn it.

But neither of those classes had any particular effect on my life in the long term, and in the short term I even managed to keep my scholarship.
posted by epersonae at 9:19 AM on February 7, 2008

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