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I'm currently studying Computer Engineering and my cumulative GPA across 50+ credits hours is 2.98. Obviously this is very poor and looks bad on my resume. My major GPA on the other hand is a 4.0, but I have only taken 4 credit hours in the field of Computer Engineering. This is because I have taken so many classes from related fields, like Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, as well as classes required for all engineering degrees (math, chemistry, physics...). The reason my GPA is so poor mostly stems from math/physics classes, but in my EE, CpE, and CS classes I have gotten mostly A's. My university breaks out the major GPA on my transcript separately and my transcript lists my major GPA as a 4.0.

Recently when I was at a career fair, a recruiter told me that it would be wise for me to list my major GPA instead of my cumulative GPA, as this would make me come across much better. When he said this, he did not know that I only have 4 credits in my actual major. So that leads to my question, since I have so few credits in my major, would it still be appropriate to list my Major GPA instead of my cumulative?

Also a related question: If I do end up including my cumulative GPA, would it be frowned upon to round 2.98 up to 3.0?

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    Are none of these other classes in related fields part of your major? It's pretty common for one's major to consist of classes from multiple different departments (particularly if computer science, math, electrical engineering, and computer engineering are four different departments at your university). I'd expect that your major would include most of those math & physics classes unless, say, you used to be a physics major that took a bunch of physics classes that you won't be using for your new degree. – Justin Cave Sep 24 '15 at 19:31
  • They are all courses required for my major, but they are not "in" my major of Computer Engineering, according to my university anyways. My transcript from the school lists my Major GPA as a 4.0 – Andrew Bischoff Sep 24 '15 at 19:37
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    Do not round your cumulative GPA especially not from less than 3.0 up. If a company asks for a transcript and it shows that you lied, you will get disqualified for the position. – HLGEM Sep 24 '15 at 20:02
  • As you get closer to your degree you will have more credits in your department. If the transcripts lists both then I think you should do the same on the resume. Clearly list the better first. – paparazzo Sep 24 '15 at 20:08
  • @HLGEM - You've got to round the GPA somewhere and I don't see any particular reason to say that one decimal place is any less truthful than two or three. I'd have no issue if someone used 3.0 rather than 2.98 or 3.5 rather than 3.4981. If you couldn't ever round up, you'd have to trunc your GPA rather than rounding which doesn't seem sensible. If you "rounded" from 2.91 to 3.0 or 2.98 to 3.00 that would be problematic. – Justin Cave Sep 24 '15 at 20:13
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Since your university breaks out your "Major GPA", you're certainly free to use that number. If you do, however, be aware that it would be misleading if anyone decided to drill in to that number. In addition to the fact that it only constitutes one class at the moment, most people would expect that your major GPA would include most if not all of the science and math classes that you need for an engineering degree. The fact that your university apparently doesn't will likely give people a false impression. Most people would expect that your major GPA would exclude various humanities classes as well as classes that you took as part of some prior major (for example, if you took a bunch of advanced physics as part of a physics major before changing your major to computer engineering).

You have to make the calculation of whether a correct but misleading bit of information on your resume is going to help you more than it hurts. My bias would be that it would tend to hurt you-- people are likely to drill in to that number and are likely to be disappointed when they get more details. But realistically, it might get you interviews that you wouldn't otherwise get where you at least have a chance to make a good impression. My bias would be to leave your GPA off your resume entirely. But listing your major GPA instead of or in addition to your cumulative GPA would be acceptable.

  • Thank you for your input. What would your opinion be on including both GPA's on a resume? Probably listing Major GPA first and then the cumulative GPA. Would this be beneficial? – Andrew Bischoff Sep 24 '15 at 20:01
  • @AndrewBischoff - They're both correct so you're certainly within your rights to do so. If I saw those two numbers, I would expect that you either did extremely poorly in your humanities classes or that you did a bunch of work in a different major before switching. If you explained that your university didn't count math & physics classes required for an engineering degree as part of your major GPA, you did poorly in those, and you only had one class that counted as your major, I'd be disappointed. – Justin Cave Sep 24 '15 at 20:05
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    My 2 cents, is to wait until you've taken a couple of semesters in a given field. When I was applying to positions as an undergrad, I was informed from my University's career center to only list my GPA if it is 3.0 at minimum and above. As Justin said, it is a trade-off between a misleading signal (Excellent GPA in CSE) and comprehensive signal (2.98 GPA cumulative). Put yourself in the shoes of a recruiter. What would you feel about a person who did this? Would you hire him/her? – Frank FYC Sep 24 '15 at 20:08
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This early in your college career, I would suggest simply leaving off the GPA. If you are required to provide it (as part of an online job/internship application, for example), I would stick with the cumulative GPA, without rounding up. I know it doesn't look as good, but it doesn't look as bad as being misleading, and if I were a recruiter, that's what I would consider both of your "make it look better" options to be:

  1. Rounding Up
    As mentioned in the comments, rounding up from 2.XX to 3.XX represents a whole grade letter higher, on average. That is much more significant than the two-hundredths of a point really is, but that's how people interpret GPA numbers.

  2. Use Major GPA
    You only have four credits in your major. That is hardly representative of your academic abilities, or broader abilities in the field. It just isn't enough to base a judgment on, and I think it would be quickly identified as the attempt to boost your "stats" that it is. Bumping your GPA from 2.98 to 3.0 has a greater impact than someone rounding from 3.38 to 3.4, and this may get your application tossed.

I know it is a tough spot to be in, because I have been there too. Unfortunately I think you're stuck there for now, and that the best way forward is to leave it off so you can explain it in person when asked. When compelled to provide it on an application, be upfront about it. If you can write a killer cover letter, you may be able to overcome it sooner than you expect.

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