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How Important Is Your GPA?

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[hidepost]Most employers and graduate schools use a 3.0 GPA as a cut-off point for applicants. Once it’s above that, the exact number usually becomes less important. If your GPA is below the 3.0 threshold, you may wonder about the negative effects your GPA can have on your career or graduate school applications. However, there are ways to overcome a low GPA and minimize its possible damage to your future employment prospects or graduate education opportunities.

Do I Have to Tell Employers My GPA?

Yes, and you should be honest with them. If you don’t put your GPA on your resume, particularly for your first job after graduation, you can expect to be asked about it during the interview.

The trick is where you put the emphasis. If your GPA within your major is higher than your overall GPA, tell them: 2.9/4.0 major GPA, 2.2/4.0 overall GPA. Likewise, if your GPA has improved you can emphasize that: 3.3/4.0 since fall 2008, 2.5/4.0 overall. Finally, if you had to work while studying, employers may take that into account, so it’s worth mentioning: 2.5/4.0 GPA, worked 20 hours per week throughout school year.

How Low Can My GPA Go?

While many employers may 3.0 as their cut-off point, some may be more flexible than others depending on your skill set.

Yet, when asked to rate the qualities employers find most important in a candidate, in the 2007 Job Outlook Survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), GPA was ranked number 17 of the top 20. This means a low GPA isn’t necessarily insurmountable–you have 16 other qualities you can enhance to overcome it.

The top 5 most important skills to employers are, in order:

1. Communication skills 2. Honesty/integrity 3. Interpersonal skills (relates well to others) 4. Motivation/initiative 5. Strong work ethic

Best Way to Overcome a Low GPA

Written and verbal communication skills have consistently been ranked as the number one quality employers seek since 1999. However, they have trouble finding candidates with those skills, as they also ranked good communication the hardest quality to find in job applicants.

Graduates who can express themselves clearly, both orally and on paper, may have a significant advantage over the competition. You can prove your communication abilities both on your resume and in the interview, giving you two chances to shine.

GPA and Graduate School

Graduate schools do put significant weight on your undergraduate GPA, but again it’s not the only factor they consider. First of all, not all graduate schools look at your overall GPA. Many only look at your GPA from your junior and senior years, while others only look at your GPA in your major.

The weight each graduate school puts on your GPA also depends on several variables, including:

* The competitiveness of the graduate school * Whether the school places greater value on work experience, internships, or a portfolio of work * The undergraduate school’s reputation: a student with a lower GPA from a highly ranked university may get accepted over a student with a high GPA from a lower quality school * Strong test scores. * Excellent letters of recommendation

The bottom line is that while employers and graduate schools traditionally look at your grades, mitigating circumstances and strong skills in other areas can certainly help you overcome a low GPA. So put your energy into the other areas they find important.

Author’s URL: http://www.Edu411.org
Edu411.org is a career education directory for finding colleges and universities, training schools, and technical institutes. For more information about careers, online and campus based career programs, please visit us at http://www.edu411.org.
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Graduating With a Plan of Action

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You spend a lot of energy making graduation plans, but do you have a plan of action for after graduation to jumpstart your career? Many people struggle with career choices before making that important life-changing decision that will define who they are for years to come. It is hard to imagine that a new graduate would still struggle with what they want to do with their new college degree. Even if they know, they might not know the next step to take. This article will give a few pointers on how to get started with a plan of action. Continue reading Graduating With a Plan of Action

Top Five Ways College Students Work Too Hard (Part 4)

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Are you studying the wrong way? That will definitely cause you to work too hard.Ever heard of the backwoods farmer who wanted to clear off an acre or so of heavily forested land? The farmer excitedly began cutting trees with a new chain saw he had recently purchased, but by the end of the day he had actually cut much less than he could have done with his old hand saw. In disgust he returned the chain saw to the store, and the salesman fired up the chain saw to see what the problem was. The farmer jumped back in surprise and yelled to the salesman, “what’s that noise?”

You can cut down trees with a chain saw, even when it isn’t running, but that’s definitely the hard way. In the same way, you can study for classes by doing rote memorization–going over your notes or flashcards again and again–but that’s definitely the hard way.

What you want is something like a cheat sheet. Sure it might take some time to make your cheat sheet and carefully conceal it, but it sure makes the test a lot easier. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to construct a cheat sheet that wasn’t really cheating? Something that the prof would be totally okay with?

I discovered something like that just before I began my first semester of grad school. It’s a way to make a simple cheat sheet that is actually stored on the inside your brain … the only truly OK place to keep a cheat sheet. I used a simple memory trick that enabled me to quickly and effectively turn my notes into a mental cheat sheet.

The first chance I had to try it out was in my human osteology class. Our first exam was on the bones of the human cranium–ethmoid, sphenoid, vomer, zygomatic, occipatal, etc. We had to be able to identify all the bones and know which bones each of these contacted. The ethmoid alone articulates with twelve other bones! That’s a lot to memorize for one test. In fact, just making a thorough, concealable, readable cheat sheet for the test could have easily taken me an hour.

Using an alternative to rote-memorization I memorized all the material–effectively storing a cheat sheet in my memory. I studied less than thirty minutes for the test and received a perfect score … the only one in the class! The class average was a 72 and most students had studied 8 to 10 hours. Needless to say, I was hooked! You can find out more about the technique I used here. There is also a nice overview of the technique in this college study skills video.

That experience set me on quest for other techniques that made learning more natural and easy. I’ve found many others including…

  • Reviewing on an optimal schedule to maximize recall
  • Using time you would normally waste to get your studying done
  • Taking notes that increase recall and comprehension while actually writing less
  • Teaching other people the information (whether those other people are real or imaginary)
  • Taking frequent breaks to soup up your ability to absorb information

I’ve already blogged about many of these. Others I will be covering in upcoming posts so stay tuned!

By the way, my Wired Study Tips podcast on iTunes takes some of the most popular posts on this site and turns them into meaty, mp3 goodness. Check it out!

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Top Five Ways College Students Work Too Hard

  1. Cramming
  2. Taking too many notes on the wrong stuff
  3. Reading more than you need to
  4. Studying the wrong way
  5. Not taking care of your brain
© Cody Blair, All Rights Reserved.

Top Five Ways College Students Work Too Hard (Part 3)

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‘Kay, so far we’ve covered cramming (hint: don’t) and note taking (less is more). This time I’ll tell you why those of you who do all the assigned readings are probably wasting your time. Ever seen a syllabus with readings like this?

Poultry Lactation 101
COURSE SYLLABUS

…..
Class 12: Avian pituitary fluxions
Readings: MENSA for Dummies, F. Smoottinkler, pp. 119-827; Unabridged Transcript of Congressional Proceedings, 1806 to 2008, pp. 1-211; Latvian Journal of Yorkshire Terrier Psychiatry, May, 1972, pp. 23-117; Introduction to Poultry Lactation, K. Pootwhistle, et al., pp. 72-76
…..

Many of the assigned readings have a very tenuous relation to the actual class. Here’s a little known factoid for you; professors assign course readings using a page quota system based on astrological readings obtained from the Tibetan Book of the Dead. I’m speaking hyperbolically, of course, but don’t you sometimes wonder?

Some professors only assign you readings that you actually need to read in order to ace the exams. These profs get together at the Annual Profs-That-Don’t-Assign-Busy-Work Convention, held in beautiful Chappahiney, Indiana. Last year, both of them showed up. Most professors, however, seem to work with the assumption that if they read it at one time (or at least thought about reading it), you should have to read it too.

Handy pointer: don’t. Only do the assigned readings if they will actually contribute to your bottom line, GPA’ically speaking. Often this means that on readings the prof assigns for each class you will need to carefully read a few, carefully skim others, and carefully use some to pick up your new puppy’s “accidents.”

Get the straight skinny here.

Next time, part 4 of the Top Five Ways College Students Work Too Hard, Studying the Wrong Way.

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Top Five Ways College Students Work Too Hard

  1. Cramming
  2. Taking too many notes on the wrong stuff
  3. Reading more than you need to
  4. Studying the wrong way
  5. Not taking care of your brain

Note Taking: Top Five Ways College Students Work Too Hard (Part 2)

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Note Taking: Enough is Enough

Part 1 was about how cramming actually costs you waaaay more than you gain. Excellent study skills include consistent studying, rather than cramming during crunch time. In this post we’ll discuss another way in which we shoot ourselves in the foot by taking notes on the wrong stuff and by taking too many notes. Note taking is something you will spend a LOT of time doing over the course of your educational career, so make sure you’re doing it the right way!

Question: why are DVRs, such as TiVo, so popular? Answer: it lets you get rid off all the stuff you don’t care about, like the commercials, and focus on the stuff you do care about, like Better Off Ted. And what does this have to do with study skills? Good notes are like TiVo; they allow you to avoid the useless schlock that won’t actually be tested and concentrate on those golden knowledge nuggets that will.

Did you know that studies on note taking (yes, people concerned with study skills actually do research on note taking) show that writing down every word the prof says is only slightly more effective for recall than not taking notes at all? Why? ‘Cuz you aren’t processing the information. You spend all your time just trying to get it all down before your hand cramps up. Even if you do manage to get most of it down, you’re just going to have to go back and pick the M&Ms out of the party mix, so to speak, at a later date. Why don’t we just start taking notes on the testable tidbits?

There are a couple of reasons. First, we feel like we’re supposed to be taking notes on everything. Somewhere some time someone convinced us that novel-length notes are good notes. Not true! Good note taking is discerning. Every letter has to prove it’s worthiness. Good note taking is snooty. Good notes are notes that say, “prove you’re good enough, and I might write you down.” Good notes don’t let in the hoi polloi, the riff-raff, or the rabble. Good notes are snobby; they have standards. Quality over quantity, people.

So next time you’re in class and the girl in front of you is scribbling madly to get down “electrolytes have been shown to prevent muscular cramping. That is why athletes often drink sports drinks containing electrolytes, such as Gatorade,” you can write, “electrolytes prvnt cramps (ex. Gatorade),” and watch smugly as her hand seizes up like a baby sucking lemons. You might offer her some Gatorade at this point.

Another reason students take too many notes is because they aren’t sure what’s important–better safe than sorry. I’m all for erring on the side of caution, but let’s be realistic. It’s not like you intend to memorize everything you write down. You plan on going back later and deciding what to actually study for the test. Good note takers just make that decision before they decide to write it down. Some students actually write down stuff they already know. What’s the point of that? Notes are there to help you learn stuff you don’t know.

Bottomline? Too many notes waste time and effort. Make the decisions about what you will actually need to study while you listen to the lecture and while you read taking just enough notes to help you recall it accurately later as you study. Anything else is wasted effort. These are study skills, however. Skills must be developed, and that means practice. Practice study skills, such as taking notes that are snooty yet sufficient. You will soon reach the heady ranks of super-mega-student overlord, and professors will kneel before you!

For more posts on note taking, including detailed how-to’s, click here. Please click on one of the social links. Heck; click’em all!

Next up on The Top Five Ways College Students Work Too Hard, reading too much.

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Top Five Ways College Students Work Too Hard

  1. Cramming
  2. Taking too many notes on the wrong stuff
  3. Reading more than you need to
  4. Studying the wrong way
  5. Not taking care of your brain
© Cody Blair, All Rights Reserved.

Study Tips – Top Five Ways College Students Work Too Hard (Part 1)

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These study tips can make good study habits easy!

The magic grade fairies have been watching you. They know just how hard you’ve been working on that project/homework/study session and they will grant you the exalted, golden A+ of perfect knowledge. Your mental sweat translates directly to superior scores.

Riiiiiight. If you believe that I’ve got some fantastic diet pills that will let you EAT WHATEVER YOU WANT and NEVER GAIN AN OUNCE (HALF PRICE TODAY ONLY GET’EM WHILE THEIR HOT). Good study habits involve a lot more (and less) than hard work during crunch time.

There is no magical connection between hard work and great grades. Let me be as clear as the school parking lot the day after finals; I’m NOT advocating sloth. You must definitely work, but smart work is MUCH better than hard work. Did you know that a professional athlete expends less energy performing a given skill than does a novice doing the same skill? That’s because the pro knows what muscles not to use. The pro knows just how much energy to expend to get the desired results. The novice, on the other hand, uses too much muscle and too much energy which translates to poorer results and more fatigue.

Many good students make the same errors in their studies, especially at crunch time, but a few simple study tips can make a big difference in getting them great grades. Most students put too much energy and brain power into the wrong things. In the coming days we’ll look at the top five ways students work too hard for less-than-wowing results. Let’s start with …

Cramming

When crunch time comes, college students start cramming. Cramming to do well on a test or project is like spending four hours in a tanning bed the day before Spring Break. It hurts. It costs you now and later (now it’s expensive and painful, later it causes skin like fried pork rinds and visits to dermatologists). It hurts. The effects will peel away in a few days. And did I mention it hurts?

Cramming during crunch time hurts too. Crunch time leads to cramming leads to PAIN. Failing to use good study habits costs you now and later, and you end up losing more than you gained.

You may spend all night working your keister off (the keister is located just south of the duodenum, if you were wondering). You may actually pass the test without using good study habits. But now your brain is seriously sizzled leading to poor performance on other tests and assignments. You’ve also stored everything in short-term memory, meaning that all that time and energy will net you exactly bupkiss since you’ll forget it all three days after the test. So next semester, when you are taking the second part of that subject, you’re going to have to learn it all again. Congratulations. To summarize; 20 hours of mind-numbing study + 14 Red Bulls = an undewhelming exam score + the functional IQ of a drunk weasel + zero recall three days later. Nice.

Study Tips for Crammers

Use these good study habits instead. Take that same twenty hours of study and spread it out evenly over the course of the semester; thirty minutes per week day should do it. Study the same stuff, but in small doses. That way it’s not mind-numbing–not even mentally taxing. Now it’s going into long term memory, so three days after the test it will still be there, not to mention next semester when you need it for the second part of the class.

If you’ve done that, then you can apply these study tips. Go watch a movie the night before the test; then turn in early for a good night’s sleep and a prof-impressing performance on that exam the next day. To summarize; (30 minutes of easy study x forty sessions) / over a semester = an impressive exam grade + the IQ of the ideal you + the envy of your friends – that Christmas card Red Bull sends you every year in thanks for your support.

Next time we’ll look at number two of the Top Five Ways College Students Work Too Hard…
Taking too many notes on the wrong stuff

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Top Five Ways College Students Work Too Hard

  1. Cramming
  2. Taking too many notes on the wrong stuff
  3. Reading more than you need to
  4. Studying the wrong way
  5. Not taking care of your brain
© Cody Blair, All Rights Reserved.