My college counselor told me this: "Your application (resume and essay) is most important - probably 50% of what you will be evaluated on. 25% of the decision is based on SAT score, and 25% will be based on GPA."
A friend working for a competitive investment bank told me this: "We don't read the resume or application if the GPA is below 3.5."
I cannot believe that GPA holds so much weight. It communicates such a small piece of information. And it is so often misleading.
It doesn't take into account that Some Classes are harder than others. If two Econ majors may have the same GPA, one may have supplemented the major with courses in math and english. Another may have taken all other classes in underwater basket weaving? Even if you think these two students are equally impressive, they are certainly quite different - this is not reflected in GPA.
GPA doesn't take into account that Some teachers are harder than others.
Beyond that, GPA favors those who are risk adverse. Some People Suck at things... and do them anyway - I took spanish for 14 years. Spanish was consistently my worst grade, yet I stuck it out because I wanted to get fluent. Last year I studied abroad in Argentina and realized this dream. My GPA suffered tremendously in the process.
Finally, GPA Doesn't Capture Trends or show Growth: Take, for example, the three students below. They took the same classes, at the same school, in the same major. And all earned a 3.5 GPA. Their GPAs over time are here:
The three students all have the same GPA. On a resume, these students look identical. But they aren't.
Student 1 is a high achieving student. But she appears to do badly in the fall - maybe this is due to a fall sport or time commitment.
Student 2 started out earning grades below a B average. However he appears to have grown over 4 years and is now earning straight As.
Student 3 looks to have gotten a bit lazy, or overextended herself sophomore and junior year.
The Bottom Line:
To employers: GPA holds a lot more weight than it should. Ask for a full transcript - not GPA. By placing so much weight on GPA you are not selecting the best candidates. You are discriminating against risk takers and those who push their personal limits.
To Students: Take classes that are interesting to you. Challenge yourself. Get shitty grades if you need to. Then be able to explain why.
This tells you nothing
GPA: 3.5 - Upward Trend
Econ - 10 classes: 3.5 GPA
Span - 6 classes: 3.0 GPA
Writing Intensive - 5 classes: GPA 3.8
History - 4 classes: GPA 3.2
This tells you more.