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Is it true that the best performing employees are people who used to have a top GPA in college?

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  • There's an old saying in the Financial sector. "A students work for B students at companies owned by C students" Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 12:40
  • How is this not opinion based?
    – Ronnie W
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 13:41
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    This isn't a duplicate - that question is focused on whether having it on your resume is good to get you in the door; this question is about long term success.
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 21:39

2 Answers 2

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Short answer:

No

As for the long answer: there are probably libraries full of books about this. You can read some of them. GPA (or any kind of grades) are certainly an indicator, but you cannot reliably predict anything from them.

I have personally witnessed the top performing employee in a company never having been to college. Go figure.

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  • This is the right answer. Education sharpens the tools, but it is the quality of the craftsman that delivers great products.
    – John
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 10:17
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    When I was a student I actively tried to do as little work as possible to get a passing grade. The reason for this is because my education system rarely gave a higher grade than 8/10 no matter how good your products are. Also, when I did produce a good product, it'd get dismissed within the next day. On the other hand, now that I'm employed I get motivated to work extra hard. your work equals future promotions and salary. so obviously this is a HUGE motivator.
    – Migz
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 10:54
  • If the Internet had been turned in as a class project, it would have received an "F", as would every program I've written in the field. School teaches theory Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 12:55
  • This is anecdotal evidence. -1.
    – Ronnie W
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 13:41
  • @RonnieW. Please note that the anecdote is really just that, an anecdote. May answer is "No, and it's complicated, so please go buy a book and read the primary sources".
    – nvoigt
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 14:06
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No, not necessarily.

Here is a formal study that finds minimal correlation between GPA and adult success. To quote in part,

The average correlation between grade average and a composite success criterion was .18, a small effect. Correlations between grade average and eight other criteria of adult achievement were also small, ranging from .09 to .20. Correlational effects were larger in military settings and for studies conducted prior to 1950. The results of this meta-analysis may be somewhat discouraging to those who place a great deal of importance on the predictive value of grades.

Companies who are performing analytics are starting to find the same thing - Google, for example, is starting to discount GPA as a hiring factor once someone's two years out of school as described in this Atlantic Monthly article.

I spoke with managers at a lot of companies who are using advanced analytics to reevaluate and reshape their hiring, and nearly all of them told me that their research is leading them toward pools of candidates who didn’t attend college—for tech jobs, for high-end sales positions, for some managerial roles.

This will of course differ by the type of job in question (e.g. higher education and the military), and to a degree since some organizations select for college/GPA there is a self-fulfilling correlation to success in those organizations.

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  • Excellent link, full of insights. Thanks a lot. +1, of course.
    – gazzz0x2z
    Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 9:14

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