I am doing an 5-year Integrated Master's degree (3-year Bachelor + 2-year Master) on Physics in Europe. Aiming for a thesis in Quantum Computation/Information. I am currently on the 4th year and have a "good" overall grade (84%).

However, due to health issues, I failed to perform well on my 6th semester (the last of the Bachelor), almost failing half of the courses. I got 50%-60% on 4 of them.

So I am faced with a dilemma:

  • Should I focus on finishing my degree on time, potentially having to either manage doing a thesis and improving some grades at the same time, or settle for those low grades and just move on?


  • Should I focus on improving my grades and achieving the ones I know I am capable of, potentially getting to ~88%, with the disadvantage of having to delay/prolong my thesis to a 11th semester?

This might be a very close call and depend on a lot of factors, but I am interested in knowing, in general, which option gives me the highest chance of success in going for a top-tier job in industry, either related or not to research (like IBM's or Google's Quantum Lab, or some other not focusing on research).

I am aware that usually these require a PhD, which I also intend on pursuing.

  • I posted this here since I am particularly interested in hearing what this community has to say about the best option for an industry career. – João Bravo Jun 20 '19 at 13:38
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    I would also appreciate constructive criticism, instead of plain downvotes. – João Bravo Jun 20 '19 at 13:41
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    In your field, here in the US at a least, your grade will matter. – Mister Positive Jun 20 '19 at 13:56
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    On the academic side, the academia stack exchange can probably help you better. Might be better to change this question to be about the "high-end industry" side, and post the "getting a PhD" side of the question over there. Honestly, truly top-tier jobs in research (especially in a field like Physics, rather than one like Computing) are likely to require a PhD anyway. – Ben Barden Jun 20 '19 at 14:07
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    I don't know about europe in general, but at least in France grades are never considered, only your diploma. (there may be some specific fields that ask for your grades, I've never heard of any though) – Aserre Jun 20 '19 at 14:39

When it comes to industry, I would be surprised if anyone would pay too much attention to your grades rather than your skills and maybe your degree. Much more so when your grades are considerably lower in a certain semester and you have a valid explanation. My experience was that my company only asked for my detailed documents for my university, containing grades and everything, more than two months after I was already hired. And even then, I am pretty sure it was just a formality, not because they mattered in any way. They were also not very good grades. I am a software engineer in Eastern Europe, for context. I can't advise on the academical side. Usually this stuff is more important there, but again, having a bad semester for objective reasons should not be seen as such a big problem.

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  • I see what you mean. I would expect companies like the ones I mentioned to have to be quite selective due to the number of proposals they receive. Sometimes, they will only interview out-of-uni candidates above a certain grade. – João Bravo Jun 20 '19 at 13:45
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    I edited my response a little. Having only one bad semester is also an important factor. Most reviewers will probably presume it was just an exception. That, if the recruiting process is not too automated. – Junkrat Jun 20 '19 at 13:51
  • So, overall, you would be on the side of finishing the degree on time? – João Bravo Jun 20 '19 at 13:54
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    Well that depends. I would advise you to pick the option that develops your skills the best. Would you benefit from an extra semester, or would you rather finish early and gain experience with an internship or some specialized courses? – Junkrat Jun 20 '19 at 14:37
  • I think that there is a timing element to this, too. When looking at a fresh graduate I care moderately about their GPA, since that's the best metric I have for their capabilities and they are far less likely to have professional experience I can use to differentiate them from other candidates. For someone with years of professional experience their grades are an old and incomplete indicator. I don't care at all about degrees being finished on time. The university awarded the degree, so the candidate meets their standard for competence - that they took more calendar time isn't info I can use. – Upper_Case Jun 20 '19 at 16:03

Grades - Matters to future employers. High grades mean higher job offers, low grades can prevent you from getting offers in the first place.

Finishing on time - Only matters as far as how much debt you'll walk out of college with. And as Sarbus states it may be a secondary concern to your graduating from college in the first place

Good luck.

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  • Thank you for the input. In Portugal, the fees are quite "low", at least compared to America/Great Britain. So one semester, for me, would not be a big monetary problem. There seems to be a slight contradiction between you and @Sarbus but I understand both points. – João Bravo Jun 20 '19 at 13:57
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    High grades mean higher job offers, low grades can prevent you from getting offers in the first place. backing up this statement with a reference would greatly improve this answer. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jun 20 '19 at 15:08
  • I disagree (but I won't downvote). Some companies may be interested in your GPA. I work at a very large technology as my first job out of college and my GPA was pretty bad, 2.7 out of 4.0. Before I had this job, I did have some interviews where they asked me about my GPA. I asked my boss why he never asked for my GPA and he said, "I was more worried about your passion for technology rather than your GPA. The fact that you have an engineering degree makes you qualified to be an engineer and I won't doubt your professors' decisions on letting you graduate." – user82352 Jun 20 '19 at 22:05

When I interview people, my focus is completely on their skillset, and time to graduation is largely irrelevant.

Being "on time" will not earn you any points, highlighting the fact will get you a negative score because it suggests that your priorities might be misplaced: university is the time to acquire and hone skills, not an obstacle to be passed quickly with the minimum effort required to get the piece of paper.

Taking longer for health reasons is a positive in my book, because awareness of personal limits is a very important soft skill. You will be able to identify warning signs earlier than "straight shooter" peers who lack this experience, which gives me a longer planning horizon because I don't have to deal with sudden crises.

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  • Anyone that judges an applicant on the fact it took somebody 5 years instead of 4 years to get a degree, isn't a company I want to work for. At the end of my degree it took me 9 years to graduate. I took me 3 and half years at Junior College before I went to a University for another 4 years. I ended up with 2 Bleachers degrees (Computer Science and Computer Engineering) with 160+ credits. I focused on understanding the material then finishing "on time". I later went on to finish a MBA in 12 months with a 4.0 GPA from a private college. – Donald Jun 20 '19 at 17:33

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