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Does College GPA Matter for Getting Internships?

If you’re worried about your college grade point average (GPA) getting you an internship, then you might have a GPA that isn’t very good. Internships require you to apply what you learned in college, and if your GPA isn’t that high, employers might think you didn’t learn that much. But does it really matter or not? 

College GPA matters when getting internships, but not as much as you might think. If your GPA doesn’t meet a company’s requirements, check if you have anything else that can showcase your potential as an intern. 

In this article, I’ll tackle a couple of things. First, I’ll look at how much weight companies give GPA as a factor for hiring interns. Second, I’ll give you concrete advice on how to land an internship regardless of your GPA, so let’s get started.

Do Companies Check GPA for Internships?

Whether your GPA matters depends on factors that may or may not be within your control. 

Two out of every three employers check GPAs for internships. But you can still land an internship despite a low GPA if you don’t list your GPA on your resume or avoid companies who don’t make this a priority in their hiring process.

Up to 67% of employers believe GPA matters when hiring interns, according to a 2013 survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers. It’s worth noting that most of the survey respondents averaged 7,500 employees, meaning large companies often favor interns with high GPAs (source).

GPA impact on getting internship

How To Get an Internship With Bad Grades

A high college GPA will usually get your foot in the door when it comes to internships. However, it’s not the only factor employers consider.

To get an internship with a low GPA, do the following:

  • Don’t list your GPA on your resume unless necessary.
  • Avoid companies where GPA is of the utmost importance.
  • Get a temporary job that makes use of your strengths.
  • Connect with professionals in your industry.
  • Explain your low GPA in your cover letter.

In the next section, I’ll explain why the above ways are essential and how to go about them.

Don’t List Your GPA on Your Resume Unless Necessary

In an interview with CNBC, executive resume writer Laura Smith-Proulx says that unless your GPA is at least 3.5, you’re better off not including it on your resume at all. That’s because employers know most fresh graduates don’t have work experience yet, and a high GPA can theoretically compensate for that lack of experience.

Also, if you’ve had at least five years of professional work experience, especially if you’ve been working since high school, you can leave off your GPA. Instead of your GPA, you can highlight how your previous work experience makes you the perfect candidate for that internship (source).

Avoid Companies Where GPA Is of the Utmost Importance

If a company notes explicitly on their job ad that they require a minimum GPA that you don’t have, you may want to look elsewhere.

You may also want to steer clear of industries where companies put a premium on GPA like professional service firms, investment banks, and pharmaceuticals. Unfortunately, if your major relates to any of the above industries, and you still have a few subjects left before graduation, you need to put extra effort into those remaining subjects (source).

Alternatively, you can work in an industry that doesn’t relate to your major at first glance but still allows you to hone your strengths minus the stigma of a low GPA. 

For example, if you major in finance and excelled in your computer programming classes, you may get into a company like Google, provided your programming and soft skills meet Google’s standards (source).

Get a Temporary Job That Makes Use of Your Strengths

When the Chronicle of Higher Education surveyed employers on what the latter looks for in recent college graduates, most ranked “employment during college” as the second most crucial factor when evaluating potential hires (source).

If you don’t already have job experience, and you can squeeze in a few extra hours for work, you can get a temp job in the meantime. The temp job should let you work in a way that allows your strengths to shine and challenges you enough to grow as a professional (source).

Connect With Professionals in Your Industry

According to a survey from LendEdu, 91% of students say connections mattered the most when obtaining internships. In other words, it appears that nine times out of 10, who you know matters more than what you know (source).

If you don’t already have connections within your industry, follow these tips:

  • Connect to people on LinkedIn whose work you admire.
  • Establish genuine rapport with your connections. It’s not a good look to ask your contacts outright whether they have an internship for you. Instead, show sincere interest in their brand, ideas, and what they stand for.
  • Show that you’re someone worthy of their endorsement. If your connections have something to offer you, show them that you have something to offer in return. Ask them to check out your portfolio, for example, and they might be impressed enough to give you a referral.

Explain Your Low GPA in Your Cover Letter.

If a company’s application process allows you to submit a cover letter, you can use that as an opportunity to put a positive spin on your low GPA (source).

For example, if your grades were mediocre because you were juggling a full-time job to support yourself, you can emphasize what you learned from your full-time job and how it relates to the internship you’re applying for. 

If your GPA got pulled down because of a difficult professor in a subject not relevant to the internship, it’s okay to admit why you had difficulties as long as you highlight that you excelled in the subjects that matter (source).

Final Thoughts

A good GPA will always help your chances of landing an internship. However, a low GPA won’t necessarily be a dealbreaker. If you play your cards right, not only will you land an internship despite your GPA, but you’ll also go a long way down the line as a working professional. 

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