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What’s the value of a 4.0?

December 15, 2011

There’s a friend of mine (let’s call him “Bob”) who went to Georgia Tech to enter the video game industry. As discussed in this New York Times interview with Rich DeMillo, the Computational Media degree was specifically designed with video game companies in mind. Knowing this, he traveled out-of-state to attend Tech, because this was the place where he could go to get a job in the field he wanted to enter. So he worked hard, got summer internships, and ended up graduating with a perfect GPA – a 4.0.

Naturally, he thought that he should be proud of this accomplishment – after all, he did everything that Georgia Tech asked of him. And with the video game industry continuing to grow, he had no reason to expect anything other than a satisfactory career. Maybe he wouldn’t work for EA or Blizzard right away, but he had no reason to think he would have any trouble finding a job.

After 30+ rejection notices from a wide array of game companies, well, he’s changed his mind.

Yes, there’s any number of other factors that could be at play in this scenario. You could argue that he’s not a good communicator, or not a team player, or didn’t have a good portfolio. If these are the case, however, how did he get a 4.0? You have to build all of these things if you want to get good grades; you can’t get an A on your capstone if you’re bad at working with groups (one would hope). And it can be argued that there are other skills that the GPA doesn’t evaluate – but if these skills are necessary to succeed in industry, then why don’t we evaluate them?

So: here is a student who got a perfect 4.0 in a technical major specifically targeted for video game companies; and when he applied for work at 30+ entry-level positions in this growing industry, he was rejected from all of them.

My question is this: if this is what happens to somebody who gets perfect grades, what is the value of a GPA?

Food for thought.

-Steve

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