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I failed two subjects in uni in my first year, one computer science and one maths (they were first year courses). My GPA is fine. Will this affect my employment opportunities down the track?

I am a law student, and in law your GPA — and most importantly, transcript — are essential for landing decent jobs. If you have a failed subject, you will not be accepted at high-level firms and decent mid-level firms. All this to say, I'm pretty sure the transcript requirements for law have warped my understanding of what it is like in other fields.

I want to eventually go for a software engineering job with some defense companies, but I am not looking to work at companies like Google.

Essentially and realistically, do employers in computer science and software engineering care about transcripts? Do they even look at them? I have a portfolio on the side with some decent stuff in it, so would that make up for any potential issues?

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    I'm curious how can you fail a subject and still graduate? At my university (and AFAIK, all universities in the Netherlands), failing a subject means you have to retake the exam until you have a passing grade, so in the end there wouldn't be a failed subject. Nov 6, 2023 at 14:22
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    @MarkRotteveel, some Universities may show the failure and the successful retake, so that could raise a red flag
    – cdkMoose
    Nov 6, 2023 at 22:13
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    @MarkRotteveel: That sort of thing is very variable between different university systems (see here for more such things). In many systems, only some courses are compulsory, and other courses a student takes are called elective; the requirements for a degree in subject X might look like “take compulsory courses X1, X2, X3, X4, and at least six other courses, including at least four from subject X”. Failing elective courses isn’t blocking, so long as the student passes enough other courses to satisfy the requirements overall.
    – PLL
    Nov 7, 2023 at 11:37
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    @PLL My university also had electives, but if you failed one, you had to replace it with another one (or retake the exam), though of course, if you replaced the failed one with another elective, the failing grade would end up on your transcript, just not on the list of courses/subjects for your degree. Nov 7, 2023 at 12:00
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    @MarkRotteveel the rules are different in different countries and across universities; in many countries even with a successful retake the fail will be on your transcript + retake might be capped; some allow a grace fail, especially in your first year or if your average across all subjects is a pass. In UK (where I studied) retakes are capped at 40% (lowest passing grade) + it will say in the transcript that it was your second attempt, i.e. you failed the first time
    – AnnaAG
    Nov 7, 2023 at 12:11

11 Answers 11

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You mentioned that you failed the 2 courses during your first year in college. So, you still have 3 more years to improve your GPA. Good luck.

You don't need to have a perfect GPA to get a job in the IT world.


If you have zero years of work experiences, employers will likely use your GPA and internship experiences as 2 of the many tools to evaluate your hiring chance. Don't worry too much if you don't do well in 1 or 2 classes in college because the interviewers will have a chance to test your real knowledge during the real interview process.

If you have great internship experience, that will look wonderful to potential employers. Try to earn for some internship experiences before graduation.


Later on, when you have 5+ years of real work experiences in the industry, then employers don't care about your GPA, and they will mainly care about the real-world job skills that you gain during those working years.


Edit: My answer is based on my work experience in the US.

Generally, employers will have to look at your GPA and internship experience if you don't have any real work experiences.

But, they will unlikely ask you to send them your academic transcripts. In the US, I have never seen any company asking college students to send them the academic transcripts because that would be too tedious and employers don't have time to look at the transcripts.

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    As someone who does interviews for a tech company, we've never delved into transcripts, although I think H.R. does do a minor bit of screening in terms of asking the college to cross-check the GPA/attendance. Personally, if an early failure did come up, I might actually take it favorably if an interviewee could explain what happened and how they fixed it (assuming it wasn't "both my parents died in a tragic go-kart accident that year and I just couldn't focus on Differential Equations"). Setbacks are going to happen. It's good to learn how people deal with them. Nov 6, 2023 at 17:29
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    I had one employer ask for my college transcript 30 years after graduation. Be prepared with alternatives. Nov 6, 2023 at 18:25
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    "employers don't have time to look at the transcripts" Ymmv, but, personally, I found that examining transcripts saves me time: It allows me to skip over candidates who have terrible grades in the subjects that matter most for the job they applied for. You can skim over a lot of transcripts in the time saved by not having to do one single in-person interview.
    – Heinzi
    Nov 6, 2023 at 19:24
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    @Heinzi - It could be more about interest than time. Unless you're hiring someone straight out of college, their transcripts tend to lack relevance. If you reject, say, a successful 30-something with a decade of applicable experience because they failed a course or two when they were 20, you're probably not doing yourself any favors.
    – aroth
    Nov 7, 2023 at 0:35
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    @seg I'm not in the US either, and it's common to go to university before starting a job. There are basically two views why college is useful: one is that provides theoretical background that is not required in everyday work but is valuable in difficult situations, and the other is that it is just proof that the person can work on difficult and boring tasks and get them done no matter which field. In the first case the grades can be seen as proof that the person understands the subject, in the second just that they can work hard for non-immediate rewards.
    – ojs
    Nov 7, 2023 at 17:02
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This probably doesn't apply to the industry as a whole, and this is based.

As someone who has had the unfortunate experience of interviewing a lot of Covid-19 graduates.

I have found that GPA is relatively meaningless. I interviewed four people with perfect or close to perfect GPAs who couldn't tell their ** from their **.

They didn't know basic software engineering concepts such as what pointers, mutability, inheritance, polymorphism, or encapsulation is... We didn't ask, but I personally wondered if they knew what a variable was. They struggled mightily with basic structures such as building a linked list. All of it was "something that I don't remember now, but we covered it in class". (bit of advice, never, under any circumstances use that phrase).

We also interviewed someone who had a very bad GPA, but who could answer these basic questions with good explanations. Guess who we hired?

I will admit that this is not true of every single company FAANG (I guess MAANG now) companies have so many applicants that they have to filter by something. As it reduces the size of their applicant pile. But so long as you apply at a company that doesn't have 100 applicants for every job opening, your GPA shouldn't hold you back.

TLDR: Your GPA doesn't matter to most companies. Maybe you won't be able to work at your dream company... But as long as you know the material, you will be able to get a job, and then use that as a stepping stone. It will look better if you get better grades and avoid failing classes in the future, but I cannot emphasize this enough: learn the material and apply it. Use it. Don't forget it the second your class is done.

As an aside, I have been in the same boat that you are, actually. I did a lot worse than you, if I am being honest, and lost a full ride scholarship because of poor life decisions. It took me an extra year to graduate because of those failed classes, but I was able to come back from that, and I now have job at an amazing company. I do have some academic advice, because I have been there:

  1. Don't study for tests. Instead read the text books every single day. Give each class at least 1 hour of time (outside of time spent on homework/projects) every single day. So that your degree is not a meaningless piece of paper, because you don't know anything that your degree claims that you should know. Study so that you know how to do things. And so that you don't need to cram before a test in order to pass. You will retain very little of what you crammed to learn. Consistent and constant learning/repetition will help you in the long term, as your classes build off of previous classes.

  2. Stop skipping class. I know most college classes don't have mandatory attendance, and are boring. Also, also, who thought 7 am was a good time for class? But I promise you that if you go to class every day, in person. And take notes with a pen/paper (don't use your computer). You will be surprised at how much better you do how much easier the class is.

  3. Turn off your phone... You know what I mean; be present and engaged. Learning is hard work, and requires active participation.

  4. Don't take too many classes. I know you just failed to classes and are now panicking "I am not going to graduate when I planned, I need to take more classes to make it up....." Don't do that; it is okay to take less classes, if it allows you to do a better job. It is okay to graduate in 5 or 6 years instead of 4... Most STEM students take 5 years to graduate, despite what your college advisor would have you believe. It's okay. Math is hard, and computer science is hard... You can do this.

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    No, not MAANG. It's MAANA Nov 7, 2023 at 0:03
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    @Job_September_2020: It all started with FAANG, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google. But then Facebook became Meta, and Google became Alphabet. Nov 7, 2023 at 0:26
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    Addendum: "Maybe you won't be able to work at your dream company yet". If GPA is relevant in any capacity it is only early in your career, before you have professional experience. Once you have 5+ years in the real world it's unlikely any company will be looking at GPA. Nov 7, 2023 at 6:32
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    It's still FAANG, in all but the most semi-formal situations. You don't decide on how people will call you, they decide on that. Alphabet still advertises their jobs as Google. Meta is still Facebook with a Second Life clone tacked on.
    – Therac
    Nov 7, 2023 at 16:31
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    Hopefully, Oracle will step up its game to become MANGO
    – Qwokker
    Nov 8, 2023 at 13:57
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In the US, no. All that matters if you can do the job. Many employers will do the contract to hire thing, that is hire you as a contractor, and let you go early if you prove to not have the skills.

I don't think I ever even verified my degree with an employer.

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    Unfortunately, you need to get through the screening process in order to talk with the people performing the tasks. The people performing the tasks are the ones who don't care about GPA, but whether you can do the tasks assigned to you. Nov 6, 2023 at 18:27
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Want to eventually go for a software engineering job with some defense companies

The work that defense companies do tends to involve more scientific programming, so they may care about the mathematics grades. It depends on the role. For a QA role, it might not matter.

Once you're hired, you will have the opportunity to demonstrate your skills. For example, even though you failed a maths course, if you demonstrate that you have some relevant maths knowledge, you can move into other assignments and roles.

The key is that once you land that first job, it's unlikely any manager or company will ever care about your grades again.

ETA: I just noticed that the failed grades were in your first year, so they probably won't matter. Hiring managers understand that the first year can be a big adjustment. Your later grades will show that you matured and dealt with the challenge.

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Answering from the UK.

In 2005 I was in my second year of a BA in Philosophy and Computing.

The first year of my degree did not count towards my final degree, and in my second year I failed my Data Structures, Algorithms and Complexity module. Miserably. 5%. I had to wait for the first 30 minutes to be up so I could leave. It was bad.

I resat and then passed it with a score in the 80%s but the grade was capped at 40%.

Since then I have a had a near 20 year career across several companies as a permanent member of staff, a contractor and now as a consultant. I have been a Tester, Developer, Senior Developer, Team Lead and am now an Architect.

Never in any of the interviews I've attended or the 100s I've conducted has the transcript been discussed. As an interviewer I'm actually interested in where candidates have failed, because the hardest lessons are where you learn the most, about the work and about yourself. I use my failed module as an example of where I really learned how to study and the habits from the resit set me up to succeed in my final year.

There may be some jobs where every test that you did at university counts, but the vast majority of places will "hire for attitude, train for aptitude". Frankly, anywhere that would demand perfection and rule me out for failing a module at university wouldn't be the right fit for me and I'd be happy not to continue in that application process.

One of the most technically talented, good to work with and successful JavaScript engineers I know doesn't have a degree.

So, don't sweat it, learn from it what you can and apply that going forward.

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    As a UK, now retired, employee, I cannot recall at any time ever having to justify my degree or grade and most certainly never any modules or the thesis I wrote. Most employers want to tick a box that the person has a degree sure, but that is the limit. They are more interested in what 3 or 4 years spent at that institution turned you into. In my case I learned how to communicate and operate well in sales and marketing in engineering based companies and nothing to do with my Biology degree and my thesis written in 1975 on The Ontogeny of Food Choices in Day Old Chicks!
    – Nikki
    Nov 9, 2023 at 20:56
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First-year classes may be ignored, since you were still learning how to be a college student and passing subsequent classes provides some evidence that you did, in fact, eventually learn the material. Also, freshmen are notorious for overloading themselves, and for not knowing when dropping a class would be the better part of valor (though to be honest I took Entirely Too Long to learn that last...). This is one reason some schools run the entire freshman year as pass/fail.

If your grades are good in subsequent years and more advanced topics in your specific field, I'd hope you could count on employers allowing for this. Certainly that used to be the case.

In these days of machine scoring of resumes, I'm not sure how to make sure employers read that far. But I'm sure your school's placement office can tell you how to write your application to achieve that. Ask them; that sort of guidance is exactly what they are supposed to be experts in.

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I've been working as a software developer for the past 11 years and have had numerous jobs, spending an extraordinary amount of time looking for work. I also spent most of the 15 years before that (while working as a computer repair tech) looking for work as a software developer.

In my experience, the majority of hiring managers don't care about grades. They only care about how much experience you have and if you have at least a bachelors degree. And, many times, that doesn't matter either.

What matters is how well you interview. If you perfectly answer every question they ask, have massive energy to work for them, if you boost their ego enough, if you don't contradict or disagree with them, and accept less money than others applying for the same position, you might get a job. Maybe.

So really, it doesn't matter what you know or how well you do it, it just matters if you fit their usually narrowly defined ideal of an employee. Even if you get the job, you might not be able to keep it due to the sometimes unreasonable demands. Most US states are "right to work" jurisdictions, so your employer can fire you for pretty much any or no reason at all, and they will tell you generic excuses for why they let you go so they don't have to deal with any legal ramifications for the real reason they let you go. Similarly, they will not hire you while not giving you any reason at all. They will just "ghost" you after the interview or any other pre-employment procedures you had to go through.

And none of that has anything to do with what grades you got in school.

Rather than asking for grades, you are more likely to have to take pre-employment technical tests/assessments, write code for an example project, have a separate technical interview, supply a link to a code repository (like GitHub), include a link to an online portfolio and/or take non-technical "personality" tests. All that will likely be taken into account far more than any grades you get in school.

If I were to give you any truly actionable advice, I'd say to stick with a job in law and work your way into writing software for your employer. You'll likely have fewer problems getting a job that way. You'll also gain the professional experience that's required of nearly every software development job. (Don't ask me how else to get professional experience writing software if you can't get a job writing software without already having professional experience.)

Full disclosure:

I've worked dozens of jobs as a software developer and as a computer repair tech, only to be let go for a variety of reasons that made little sense at the time, such as: economic downturn, lack of work, asking too many questions, not asking enough questions, and not fitting into the department culture. There we probably a dozen other "reasons" that had nothing to do with my work ethic (except those times when I apparently worked myself out of a job).

This includes contracts, contracts to hire, and direct hire positions.

Also, I've been looking for a new job since April. In that time, I estimate that I've read thousands of job descriptions and applied to between 600 and 900 jobs. The current job market for software developers is not good. And that goes triple for anyone with less than 5 years professional experience. Then there's the arms-length list of requirements that (even with my range of skills and experience) seems to keep anyone from getting a job who doesn't also spend +8 hours a day outside of work learning new skills that their current job will never teach them, since employers now seem to expect employees to 100% match the job description, and then some. Employers apparently don't want to teach skills anymore.

Even though employers want you to learn skills on your own and possibly work on open-source projects to demonstrate your skills, none of that really matters to a hiring manager since it's not actual work experience.

Oh, and even though managers might suggest working on an open-source project to gain more experience, you probably shouldn't get "caught" doing this while having a job (even on your own time), since your employer might take that as competing against them or leaking proprietary information. Not only could you lose your job, but you might get sued. Even if the suit is a false claim, you could still be left with massive legal debt.

In all the interviews I've had over the last +25 years, I can't remember a single manager asking me what grades I got in school, even when I was still in school. I think there might have been one manager that asked if they could query my schools for transcripts, but that was more for making sure I actually went to the school, rather than for any specific grades. I know the interviews I had for my first software development job didn't ask for grades.

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It's not quite as simple as "I failed a class", there are lots of different ways that can happen and they can be handled differently. Here's what I've observed from both sides of the interview desk (large US companies, but not the "big 5").

  • Fail a course, then re-take it and do well - I doubt many people would care. Sometimes your grade has nothing to do with your learning (I had a class whose final exam started an hour after the 9/11 attacks hit. The whole class was more than a bit distracted and did poorly, thankfully the prof was sympathetic). You went back and demonstrated your mastery of the material, so I as an employer wouldn't particularly care about the initial failure.
  • Fail an early course in a series - Say you bombed Calculus 1, but then earned an A in Calculus 2 and 3. You clearly know the material or you wouldn't have been able to do that. I'd chalk that one up to external factors and wouldn't care about that one either.
  • Fail an irrelevant class - Failed your badminton elective? I don't care at all.
  • Changes in major - Maybe you started out as a music major, failed a bunch of theory classes, then changed your major to engineering. I don't care about those old classes at all. If nothing else, it proves to me that you know how to identify your limitations, cut your losses, and continue improving yourself.
  • Fail a lot of classes - Generally a red flag. This can tell me that you have a habit of overloading yourself, or that you handle heavy workloads poorly, or don't take your responsibilities seriously. I'd ask about it in the phone screen because sometimes there can be a good explanation (dropped out late in the semester to care for a sick relative), but most likely this person would go to the bottom of the candidate list.
  • Fail a class in your major with no retake - This might raise an eyebrow in some cases. That wouldn't be enough for me to reject someone, but I might ask them about it in an interview. Sometimes there's a good reason (course no longer offered). You can tell a lot about a candidate based on how they answer a question like this.
  • Fail a class directly related to the job - Let's say I'm hiring someone to work on my AI engine. If you sell yourself on your resume as an expert in neural networks and deep learning but your transcript shows a failing grade in your computational intelligence course, then I'd consider that a big red flag. I'd question whether I could believe anything on your resume, and would most likely toss your application and move on.

Note: "failed" here also covers "had a really-bad-but-technically-passing grade".

Some employers will automatically ignore any grades outside your major (good or bad). Some employers are more concerned with whether a course appears on your transcript or not and less about what the actual grade was. Employers are also aware that some institutions grade on a curve, and thus your grade might not be an accurate reflection of your knowledge.

You talk about software engineering specifically. The scope, quality, and rigor of software engineering and computer science programs varies wildly between institutions. Interviewers don't tend to put a lot of stock in your grades. They might check to see if you graduated from a program that had the proper accreditation, but beyond that they tend to test your skills directly. They'll give you a coding test, or ask you to walk through a problem on a whiteboard. Observing your thought processes will tell them more than your transcript ever would.

There's also somewhat of a different standard for people like yourself who follow very non-traditional career paths (software engineering via law school). You expect those people to come in looking different than the other candidates. You still want them to be able to demonstrate a particular set of basic skills, but at the same time understand that they'll have a very unique skill set and point of view that naturally won't fit into your standard candidate framework.

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I'm going to answer this from the perspective of someone in Australia who has been working a software job for 8 years now. I failed 3 subjects throughout my course and had to retake them (yes that appears on your transcript). However I also was never asked for a copy of my transcript when applying for my job. so its not as big of a deal as you might think it is, if your uni offers some sort of work placement (as mine did) as part of your course I suggest taking it as an employer is going to care a lot more about the fact that you have experience in the relevant field than failing a couple of subject.

There may be jobs that ask for your transcript but if they were first year subjects that you failed you could spin it as the transition from highschool to university and how it helped you learn to be more responsible for your own work.

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In CS, most people that join my company as developers or cloud-, DevOps or CI/CD engineers get quite little head start from uni. The technologies we use are just too new to already be in the curriculum. Yes, it's great to have a good education, but the topics taught there - in my experience - do not often have great impact on everyday life in a real-world team.

Hence, as someone performing interviews and deciding on applicants myself, I look at the complete package. I might quickly glance over your uni results but only if there is something utterly glaring will I even notice it. Individual marks or courses would be quite irrelevant to me.

If you managed to do a bachelor or a masters degree, then that is indication enough that you have the willpower to do a somewhat difficult, long-term task; it also shows that you are interested enough in the topic that you won't quit after 3 weeks in the office if it turns out it's "not for you".

In your specific case: What I might do is to simply ask, in the interview, what happened there. And even your answer will not really be that important for me (i.e., I don't really care if you failed those courses due to external circumstances or because you borked them yourself - after all, school and uni are more or less play environments still, and in my experience it's totally normal for people still being in their growing phases; especially at the beginning).

What I will notice and look for is how you react, and how you present yourself in that interview situation. I.e. if your face floods red, you start stammering or obviously lying or anything like that. Or, conversely, if you give a totally nonchalant, fluid answer that shows mastery of the situation. This will tell me something about yourself, which in turn might or might not influence the result, depending on which position you are applying for.

Anecdote time:

You don't give your age, but in my country you could be as young as 17 years in your first semester of uni. Basically a child! You have all the freedom in the world to experiment with things and occasionally fail at something.

I studied CS myself and got great marks almost everywhere (with almost zero effort because, frankly, I knew much of the topics from own experimentation since a child; and the new-to-me topics where great fun and hence easy to digest); I flunked exactly one course. This course was actually a specialty of mine - I failed because I never visited the classes once and the prof was annoyed that I took the verbal test with her never having seen me before. She asked questions in a way that had nothing to do with the content, but mostly with her presentations (i.e., very very specific, detailed questions about how she explained certain things, which there is no chance to guess right unless you were there, and which certainly had nothing whatsoever to do with the knowledge itself). I repeated that test with a different prof and got "A" marks. Go figure.

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I think you bark up the totally wrong tree. You still are years away from graduating - your main problem is not a failed course or two, it is having skills that are marketable AT ALL in a time where junior developer positions will get scarce. 3-5 years is when IT will start being shrunk, brutally, by artificial intelligence - but for junior positions it is already starting. It is not "AI replaces a worker", it is "AI makes everyone more productive, so WE NEED LESS PEOPLE". There is a way to push that backward - but it is not passing every course, it is making sure you have the right skillset. Which will help you - but the ladder is breaking, likely in 2024. With AI now being able to see (i.e. analyse a screenshot of a photoshop drawing of a website or UI) and with context windows large enough to fit specs and guidelines - the 2 moderators now are training (which will soon be handled) and price (which, again, is soon handled with very different hardware coming in 2024). So, the ladder is broken - the lower rungs are being eliminated in 2024/2025, with only more experienced or very talented people going to have an easy survival for the more and more scarce jobs.

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