Personality is Paramount

Grade point average (GPA) is an important tool used to assess a student’s ability to be successful in their classes. GPA is what will put your foot in the door, but who you are is what will get you a job. How well you do in your classes is important, but personality is paramount.

The few weeks after the end of the semester is a time when college students deal with a lot of conflicting emotions. Exams and classes are finally over, bringing a sense of great relief, but final grades are yet to be received. There is a constant, looming sensation of impending doom – the paranoia that the final exam didn’t go well or, perhaps, that there is a forgotten test or assignment requiring attention.

Then, of course, one must worry about GPA.

Students have long been told that although a grade point average may inaccurately reflect one’s experience, emotional intelligence, ability to apply knowledge, and aptitude for learning new skills, it will still be used as a major determinant of a student’s propensity for success. On the contrary, many companies have done away with looking mostly to GPA to measure competency. Though it serves as a factor in deciding whether one is fit for employment, it is typically not the main impetus of the decision-making. I have found in my search for internships and research positions that employers care most about energy, aptitude, experience, and willingness to work.

The realization that I did not need to have a shiny 4.0 GPA to impress companies served as a huge relief for me.

Applying and going to interviews for internships, co-op positions, and/or permanent positions is extremely nerve-racking. The interviewer holds in their hand your resume and your future, if you like to get dramatic. Your skills, experience, and character will be investigated, and your appearance will be scrutinized. Worse yet, you likely will not hear back about the interview for just long enough to push you to the edge of insanity.

All of this is enough, but there is also the nagging question of “how do I compare to my competition?”

I used to get very anxious about how my experiences and GPA stack up against my cohort. Especially in cases of online applications, in which character matters very little, but GPA matters a lot. For a long time, I worried that someone less qualified for a job than me will be hired simply because they have a higher GPA. As I go into my applications and interviews now, I worry very little about those things. I am confident in my ability to demonstrate the person that I am, and I am confident in a company’s ability to recognize my competency and drive. I now see how much companies regard the person much more than they regard GPA. That may seem intuitive, but I come from a background in which GPA and class rank were heavily emphasized. Sometimes I still have to remind myself that that number does not define me, and that I can still be incredibly successful even if I am not first in my class.

The realization that I did not need to have a shiny 4.0 GPA to impress companies served as a huge relief for me. Although the maintenance of my GPA is still incredibly important to me, I recognize that it is equally important that I maintain and build my “soft skills.” Your character and personality are what will gain you success, so it is critical to recognize your value aside from GPA to remain fit for competition.

Photography credit: Jason Perry/Goodnight Scholars Program