Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Education kudos on resume

Joel, I recently (part time over several years) completed my Masters.  I'm proud of the achievement and ended up at the top of my class, but for whatever reason they don't designate summa/magna/cum laude for graduate degrees (only undergraduate).

So, the question for Joel is, would you (as an employer) think it was vain to list the GPA next to the degree on my resume, or a worthwhile addition that shows good performance?

I'm particular curious since I looked at your resume once (when I first found JoS) and noticed you listed your GPA.

I also, of course, highlight my years of real-world work and I'm proud of the projects I've finished, but outside of the occasional "atta-boy" award, you can't exactly show whether you were a top performer or not.

proud, but not wanting to be vain
Tuesday, April 27, 2004

GPA is very valuable on a resume. I would put SAT and GRE scores if you have good ones, too. A resume is NOT the place to worry about too much bragging. In fact when I see a resume without a GPA I generally assume the applicant got lousy grades.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Tuesday, April 27, 2004

At the grad school level, good schools will expect you to do the necessary work. They will assume that you matured and you are there because you chose to.

Even though grad classes do have grade letters A, B and C, you will notice that they don't do shades of letters (A+, B-) the way undergrad classes do. Furthermore, you have to realize most grad classes will either give you As and pass you for doing the required work, or fail you completely since you didn't do what you were supposed to do. T

Therefore, in most cases you really shouldn't have a GPA of less than 4.0 if you got your masters and PhD.

grunt
Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Yea, you don't ever get less than B in a grad class.  Seems stupid really, why have A-D if you're not going to use them? It just inflates the overall GPA, but that's a whole different debate.

Even though A's are much more common in graduate classes, a 4.0 is far from a given.  Of the folks I know graduating, I'm the only one to achieve it.  It's something I wanted to show, but was nervous about.  So, I'm happy to see at least one employer (Joel) thinks it's worth touting.

proud, but not wanting to be vain
Tuesday, April 27, 2004

>> "A resume is NOT the place to worry about too much bragging."

...May be a bit off-topic, but since you brought up bragging, should you put membership in high IQ societies?  Seems like it might relate to 'smart & gets things done" - or at least it might relate to 'smart'.  What about a degree in Philosophy from a prestigious department?  I've been warned to NEVER list the Philosophy degree next to my BSCS.

Dave
Tuesday, April 27, 2004

I've never listed my GPA on my resume, but I do list that I graduated with honors, and also that I'm a member of the Tau Beta Pi National Engineering Honor Society (kind of like Phi Beta Kappa, except for engineers).  Do you think that's sufficient, or should I actually go digging through old documents to figure out what my college GPA was so I can put it on there?

Eric J. Bowersox
Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Yes, go dig through old documents. I'm serious -- most of the resumes I get have GPAs and I really do assume a low GPA if you leave it off.

High-IQ societies like Mensa have a reputation for attracting quacks and dorks. Mentioning such things may put some people off. I suppose you could put it in the "Personal" section at the bottom as if it were a hobby.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Tuesday, April 27, 2004

I've never put my GPA, nor have I ever been asked about it.

SAT scores are a good idea, tho - I mean, sure they were from 1983, but if you can never brag too much... [g]

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Do we _really_ have to get into what SAT scores represent and what they don't represent?

If we are going to put down our SAT scores, how about our IQ level? And might as well add the EQ level too since that's the new "in" thing... 

grunt
Tuesday, April 27, 2004

"High-IQ societies like Mensa have a reputation for attracting quacks and dorks. "

Ah...got rejected did we?

.
Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Oh dern. My SAT wasn't that great, I don't know if was the party I went to the night before that contributed. Generally across the board I was at about the 80th percentile. Is that too low? If not can I just say that my average ranking on test scores throughout the years I attended school put me in the 80th percentile rank? I hope that everyone above that went into Medicine and Law or REAL Engineering. And I can't really put my College GPA as I'm a drop out. Dern again.  Gosh darn. I gotta admit that I reckon I'm as smart as most people I meet which might just say I'm incompetent and don't know it or all the really smart people are elsewhere.  Funny thing though, one impetus to go into computing was that I used to play a lot of chess in NYC when I was a bum. A lot of the guys I played chess with were programmers. They earned a lot of money and I reckoned that if I could beat them in chess I ought to go into programming. Should I put my chess rating on my resume?

must remain anonymous
Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Forever?  I've heard employers only care about things like GPAs for 3-5 years after graduation.  I'm inclined to leave mine off, because it's not super-high (though not really low, either), and I've been out for >3 years.

(Besides the question of what GPAs actually mean, there's the question of how comparable they are.  Even the different colleges within my university seemed to have different grading policies.)

anonymous
Tuesday, April 27, 2004

>> "High-IQ societies like Mensa have a reputation for attracting quacks and dorks."

Quacks and dorks?  Do you mean, kinda' like software engineering? ;-)

Dave
Tuesday, April 27, 2004

I'm with Joel, list the GPA.  I'm reading resumes right now, and it's a blank mark (not a black mark, but a blank mark!) against you when it's not listed.  I'm going to ask for a transcript anyway (if you get that far), so why not show it up front?

I agree that grade inflation and relativity is a problem, but GPA is indicative of smarts + sustained effort and attitude over several years, and as such is very valuable.

Biotech coder
Tuesday, April 27, 2004

I am serious about the IQ thing. Why not show off if you got a high one, right?

grunt
Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Aren't there about a billion IQ tests out there?  I don't think it is as standard as people think.

And I agree about Mensa, seems like it is for people who would rather celebrate their smartness than actually accomplish anything.  Would Albert Einstein have been in mensa?  Or any professors or smart people of note?  I read a NY Times article about it and basically concluded that Mensa was just a group of people who liked to solve a certain class of interesting puzzles, analogous to a group of people that liked to, say, collect stamps.  Those kind of little puzzles that are on their tests rarely have anything to do with real life intelligence or success.

And this is not about sour grapes -- never tried to get into any mensa-like thing.  I think my IQ is around 140, and I got a 1580 on my SATs.

Roose
Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Hey, I found your website Roose!

http://www.geocities.com/Pentagon/Barracks/8889/me.htm

,
Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Whaddaya mean, that guy only has an IQ of 132?

Roose
Tuesday, April 27, 2004

You need 147 for Mensa...

JBreffni
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

No, go look at www.mensa.org.  You need to be in the top 2% percentile on any number of intelligence tests.

Considering there are almost 300 million people in the US, that is 6 million people that automatically qualify for Mensa.

So being in Mensa basically means very little.  That is far less selective than, say, the group of people who went to Ivy League Universities, or top 50 universities, or are professional athletes or musicians, or who hold more than x patents, or are self-made millionaires, etc.

On the Mensa website it says there are some 100,000 Mensans in 100 countries throughout the world.  Let's consider say 1 billion people out of 6 or so billion (to weed out those who are too poor to be in Mensa, for example).  Out of those, 20 million qualify for Mensa.  That means that roughly 0.5% of people who qualify for Mensa care to join.

It would be a lot more interesting if the cutoff was something like 99.99% percentile rather than 98%.  It would also be a lot more interesting if intelligence tests really meant very much.

(Also, accusing Joel of getting rejected from Mensa for bashing Mensa is pretty hilarious for a number of reasons... )

Roose
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Mensa has a reputation of being for people who are intelligent but don't have the jobs that prove it, so they do puzzles to show how smart they are.

Physics professors and so on don't join Mensa.


Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Grades in graduate school can mean something or not depending on the school and what degree you ended up with. For someone with a PHD they probably mean nothing--the quality of your thesis is all important.

In any case, regardless of the school, in the sciences at least, they usually mean nothing after you pass your PHD qualifying exams and you start working on your thesis. As I recall (it was a long time ago) once you passed your qualifying exams, it was implicitly assumed you would be getting an automatic "A" in a course (well some profs gave out a "P" if the professor was weird grade wise). This was true even if you didn't show up for  the class! The point of course was everyone knew that what mattered now was what kind of thesis you wrote. Before you passed your quals or if you were in a masters program, grades had *much* more meaning but as I recall any grade less than a B meant you basically failed the course or at least ticked off the prof by not showing up (my usual problem :-))

Gary Cornell
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Just to add my two penn'oth, I'd advise you to put it on, although being a Brit I'm used to quite a different system. 

Basically we do graded subject specific exams from age 16 onwards.  Whilst  I'd love to give a direct comparison of the skill levels required I don't know enough about the US  system to do so honestly.  The *current* system goes:
16 - GCSEs (academic qualification) or GNVQ (vocational / skills based). These replaced O-level & CSE in the late 80s
17 - AS level (last 3 years or so) or Advanced GNVQ
18 - A level
18+ degree etc.  Degrees are graded as 1st , upper 2nd, lower 2nd or 3rd class honours or as a pass.  I've no idea how Masters or PhDs are graded.

The usual advice I'd give to someone starting out in the job market is to put all of your grades down.  As you get more experience the grades (and early exams) drop off the list.  To be blunt no employer is going to care that I got a 'C' in O-level Geology in 1982.

a cynic writes...
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Like others, I've gotten the impression that people who join Mensa are generally eager to broadcast the message "Look at meeeee, I'm soooo smart". The fact that they're so eager to broadcast that is something of a red flag to me from a social-skills perspective. And no, it's not sour grapes on my part. In fact I've occasionally considered joining one of the more selective organizations like the Triple Nine Society (I easily meet the qualification requirements), but it just seems so crass and frankly pointless. I've had no shortage of opportunities to get to know plenty of smart people that I meet through normal channels, so I've never really felt like there's a reason to join one of these groups aside from the bragging rights, and that just seems lame.

(Anonymous For Once)
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Come on though, be fair to Mensans. My dad joined back in the '80s. I had been thinking of joining, but based on the content of their newsletter, I decided not to bother. Dad let his membership lapse too because it didn't help him to meet people he liked or found interesting.

However, one thing that struck me was the number of people who'd grown up thinking they were dumb, through a combination of being poor/working class (in Britain, especially, the assumption is that working class people are not very bright) and the fact that they didn't think exactly the same way that other people did. Mensa offered them their first chance to reconsider their opinions of themselves and start using their gifts.

Fernanda Stickpot
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

I'd recommend against including SATs in general, just on the fact that the test has changed dramatically over the years (the baseline has moved substantially) and is getting ready to change again. It'd be apples-to-oranges for many candidates.

Ben Scofield
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Many studies suggest that SAT/GRE scores have a high correlation with IQ.  Therefore, listing a high SAT/GRE score is roughly equivalent to listing Mensa - only I took the SAT twenty years ago and took the Mensa exam last year. 

Also, I paid a heck of a lot less to join Mensa than I would have wasted supporting ETS.  BTW, there seems to be a lot of talk about evil, money-grubbing monopolies on JoS - may I suggest that ETS is the foulest, most disgusting monopoly on the planet. 

Dave
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

ETS is nothing compared to TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). They bill you $130 for a lousy test that only checks whether you can understand the most simple spoken English and write a small 1-2 page essay in 30 min.

The SAT is no so much about how smart you are as it is about whether you get things done fast, can make educated guesses and are able to pick out the questions you can answer correctly.

The correlation people see between IQ and SAT maybe come from the fact that the tests are closely related (Maybe they test the same). Finally it's worth noting that high intelligence <=> high IQ isn't always a true statement.

Peter Monsson
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Spoken like someone who doesn't test well.  :)

Have you considered that the ability to 'play' a test is itself an indication of intelligence?  Clearly not everyone can do it.  Clearly most can't.

</someone who has always scored in the top 1% on standardized tests>

muppet from electric-chipmunk
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Last semester, I had a grad. class where about 1/3 of the class got Cs, and I'm in a class this semester where that might happen. What schools did y'all go to? sheesh ;)

&#1588;&#1587;&#1740;&#1576;
Wednesday, April 28, 2004


If you (or your dad) have the right friends at the right places, you don't need no stinkin' resume or SAT scores...

Just look at who has been in charge for the past 4 years. The man can't even form meaningful sentences using actual words (loves to create new ones though) and he is supposedly a Harvard graduate!  I'd love to see his SAT scores. Oh wait... He knows how to fix things!

Anyway... Everyone knows SATs are about how many greek roots you know, how fast you can read and how competent you are with Algebra. Getting a good score is definitely an achievement but it hardly proves you are brilliant. I've seen many morons who got a great score, but can barely get by in their daily lives. SAT scores are a great indication of how much common sense you have.

A score of 400 is hardly impressive, but I wouldn't judge anyone based on their SAT scores.

By the way, I'd love to see one of those studies you mentioned about IQ being related to SAT scores. A bunch of morons who got good scores on SATs must have conducted that study! Hopefully not with taxpayers' money...

grunt
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Personally, I'd like to see society move to a system where your first SAT score (there are no "do-overs" in life, after all) is branded or tattooed on your forehead. It would make interviewing candidates (and life in general) so much more efficient.

Rob VH
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Along with how many times you attended and how much you paid  for SAT "prep" classes.

mike
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Ever watched the movie "Gattaca"?

You don't need an SAT tattoo... All you need is to give the interviewer a drop of blood. From that, he can see your "potential" although he can't tell whether you'll reach it or not.

Thank god we don't have the technology just yet, but we are getting there soon. Scary!

grunt
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Just watch out if you put your SAT scores; the SAT is changing next year, with a new section for a new total score of 2400.  So, in a few years someone unfamiliar with the old scale may see your 1600 and think you're a total bozo.

Joe Ganley
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

In my first job out of college, my boss kept his Mensa membership plaque prominently displayed in his office. I later found out he had never graduated from college, so he looked at his Mensa membership as a way proving to everyone that he was intellectually capable.

So it isn’t just those that are job hunting that worry about these issues, even a manager may be looking at ways to show off to candidates and employees.

Michael
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

grunt: according to Wikipedia's article about our fearless leader: "Although he had an SAT score of 1206, 200 points below that of the average Yale freshman of 1970, he benefitted from an admissions policy which gave preference to the children of alumni (his score was at roughly the 70th percentile nationwide)."

yale sucks!
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

> grunt: according to Wikipedia's article about our fearless
> leader: "Although he had an SAT score of 1206, 200
> points below that of the average Yale freshman of 1970,
> he benefitted from an admissions policy which gave
> preference to the children of alumni (his score was at
> roughly the 70th percentile nationwide)."

My apologies goes to Harvard uni and its alumni, students, faculty, etc... I meant to say Yale.

I am sure Harvard has a similar admissions policy though.

Well, good thing we are liberating others since we have the highest standards of equality, democracy and fairness!  :)

grunt
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

"I agree that grade inflation and relativity is a problem, but GPA is indicative of smarts + sustained effort and attitude over several years, and as such is very valuable."

It may be an indication of smarts, but only compared to other people who took the same classes.  We all know plenty of people who got better grades than us because they took easy-cheesy courses.  Now I speak 4 languages and studied almost as much math as a math major, and they know how to weave baskets.  So I'm kind of putting my faith in the system that people reading transcripts actually look at the college and coursework and not just the number at the bottom of the page.

Also, people tend to do much better in subjects that really interest them.  While usually we all manage to find such a subject, we don't all find it right away.  GPAs seem to be weighted in favor of people who knew from day 1 exactly what they wanted to do; those of us who had to search for it often have a much more checkered transcript.

anonymous
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

1206? Did they score the SAT differently back then?

billm
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

I will say the same as I tell any recruiter who calls me up - if after more than ten years professional experience a potential employer wants to know what grades I got at University I wouldn't be happy working there, it probably attracts quacks and dorks.


Thursday, April 29, 2004

I'm surprised anyone would equate a lack of GPA on a resume with "lousy grades".  I'm 11 years out of college -- I'm not about to list my GPA or SAT scores on my resume  -- at this point, they're about as relevant to my job as my bowling score.  Perhaps if I were fresh out of college, I'd consider it (although in that case, I still wouldn't list an SAT score, even if it were perfect; it's totally irrelevant to my job performance, IMO).  I do list that I graduated cum laude, which seems like just the right amount of detail for a resume.

What it comes down to is the particular biases of the interviewer.  Joel may think a lack of GPA is a sign of lousy grades.  The next guy may think that having a GPA listed is a sign of insecurity about your experience.  You have to do what you think is right, because someone calling the shots will always make a snap (and often, wrong) judgement based on the available information.

Mr. Nobody
Thursday, April 29, 2004

>I did graduate cum laude

That's precisely why I asked.  That seems to only be available as an undergrad, not a graduate.  So, if I want to put an equivalent gold star by my graduate degree, the only thing I can put is my GPA.

SAT scores seem, well, lame.  How someone did in grad/undergrad taking classes *about* their chosen profession seems relevant.  How someone did on their SAT only seems relevant if they are really lacking any more recent proof of ability.

proud, but not wanting to be vain
Thursday, April 29, 2004

About the Mensa thingie...

Mensa is most valuable for people who don't get a chance to meet and mingle with other bright minds through their usual work or academic channels. So it really isn't very useful for software developers, professional musicians, or physics professors.

Ifyou happen to be bright but haven't chosen to pursue a field where you meet other bright people on a regular basis, it is very helpful to have a social venue for meeting people that share some of your interests.

As for the "look at me, I'm smart" knock against Mensa, how many people do the very same thing with their degree or their job developing software?

:-)

Not a Mensa Member
Thursday, April 29, 2004

I have always sided with Mr. Nobody on this issue -- do you really want to work for someone who doesn't know the meaning of "cum laude"?  Of course, automated processing changes the game; not having a GPA listed will exclude your resume from those "GPA >= 3.0" queries.

James
Thursday, April 29, 2004

"What it comes down to is the particular biases of the interviewer.  Joel may think a lack of GPA is a sign of lousy grades.  The next guy may think that having a GPA listed is a sign of insecurity about your experience."

Exactly.  I used to list GPA on my resume back when I was a fresh graduate.  I wouldn't do it now because it would look tacky.  And SAT scores!!?? C'mon! That's been over a decade!  I don't even remember what my SAT scores were!

When I was thinking about going to grad school recently, I had taken the GRE and got good scores.  But I wouldn't put that on my resume either because it's irrelevant, it screams no experience, and it would be just plain tacky.  Why don't I put down how much I can bench press, or how fast I can run the mile while I'm at it?!

Immature programmer
Thursday, April 29, 2004

"Should I put my chess rating on my resume?"

Actually, I think that would be kinda cool to see on a resume, even though I don't play chess.

Jim Rankin
Thursday, April 29, 2004

I agree with the issue that automated resume processing raises.

I want to be included in the >= 3.0 GPA group when someone parses my resume.

What I'm planning on doing is showing the GPA for the last degree obtained (e.g. If I got a 4.0 on my masters, I don't think it's relevant any longer what I got on my BS - assuming similar field of course)

Never have been too impressed with the SAT, especially considering the way they "recenter" it every couple of years.

As a side note - I believe Mensa takes GRE scores as an admission proof, but not SATs after 1996(?) because of the "re-centering".

I'm not sure whether to list GRE scores or not - while it's typical for an engineer to score well on Quant. and Analytical, it's more rare to do that and score well on verbal. I'm thinking that the "hey, I have strong math/analytical AND verbal skills" might be worthwhile...

James Southard
Thursday, April 29, 2004

Speaking of automated resume processing, did anyone else read the story recently (don't have a link, sorry), about the applicant who found out some company was flagging his resume as suspected spam precisely because he graduated "cum laude"? I think he decided to change it to "with honors" to escape the wrath of brain-dead filters...

John C.
Thursday, April 29, 2004

"I want to be included in the >= 3.0 GPA group when someone parses my resume."

No you don't.  You want to be included in the group where someone would know of personally when they compile the resume.  "Hey!  That's Bob from the Google Geek Group Gathering.  He's pretty damn smart.  Hmm... maybe I should call him up!"

Networking, man.  It WORKS. 

-T.J.
Thursday, April 29, 2004

While I'm kind of proud of my SAT score (1470), I took the dang test in the late '80s. (Sheesh, I feel old.) Not what I would call relevant.

I don't remember my college GPA; it was enough to get me a 'cum laude', but again, this was 10 years ago. How is it relevant now?

My twin sister graduated college summa cum laude, but she's never really worked in any technical field, and she hasn't worked at all since she got married (yes, I'm envious). Yet again, what relevance does her college GPA have to any employer?

Martha
Thursday, April 29, 2004

James - I don't know what 'cum laude' means - but then UK degrees are graded differently (see above).  Could you give me a rough & ready explaination?   

a cynic writes...
Friday, April 30, 2004

Cynic - Cum laude is some kind of porn actress thing. I guess the louder they are the better.


Friday, April 30, 2004

Cynic...as usual, my cross-cultural sensitivity is lacking.  Nearly all US universities grant bachelor's degrees with "Latin honors", with the following levels:

cum laude: with honor
magna cum laude: with great honor
summa cum laude: with highest honor

Latin honors are usually based on overall grades, although each university sets up its own system.  At my undergrad university, there were set cutoffs, but other schools use class-rank percentiles (either within your class or against a historical standard) or put more weight on the last two years of grades.

James
Friday, April 30, 2004

Thanks -  my guess was summa = 1st class honours, magna = upper 2nd and cum laude = lower 2nd  so I wasn't far off. 

a cynic writes...
Friday, April 30, 2004

Maybe I'll have to request an official transcript from UCSB, then.

Incidentally, Tau Beta Pi is not like Mensa.  To be nominated, you have to be in either the top eighth of the class in your junior year, or top fifth in your senior year, as calculated from your academic record.  (I got in in my junior year, but it's at least partly due to the fact that I knew the guy who was the president of our school's chapter.  I asked him if CS majors from the College of Engineering were eligible, and he came back saying, "Not only are they eligible, but, turns out, you're on the list of people we're inviting for membership."  Otherwise, I'd never have known the organization existed.)

Eric J. Bowersox (TBP - CA Sigma '90)
Friday, April 30, 2004

"Networking, man.  It WORKS."

So, which is it - are you trying to sell me on Friendster, or sell me a CCNA boot camp? :D

I agree about the networking - but when I was hired on to my current position, my signing bonus and starting salary were determined by GPA. (That's government for you)

James Southard
Friday, April 30, 2004

GPAs are useful in certain situations. I definitely list my GPA with my degree--it is an undergraduate degree in Math/Computer Science. I also list my class rank, because it is fairly decent and it gives folks a good idea of my performance as compared to my peers. Since I graduated almost 10 years ago, I will not provide my transcript.

(Caveat: I have not been in a graduate program; I have never interviewed a person with a doctorate for a job.) On the other end of the spectrum, I would never care about someone's GPA from a doctoral program. To judge a candidate with a doctorate, you should be able to review their research and publications.  My understanding is that in a doctoral program, grades generally mean the following:

A -> You are doing just fine
B -> You better buckle down and work a heck of a lot harder if you want to stay in the program
C -> You should drop out or we will kick you out.

I think master's programs are somewhere in the middle. I have always thought that a standalone master's degree indicates a level of professional competency. Grades are important, but not as important as they are in undergraduate study. (By a standalone master's degree, I mean one that is not achieved in the course of doctoral study.)

I would not interview a recent graduate of a bachelor's program who did not list their GPA on their resume without an explanation. I may or may not consider a candidate from a master's program who did not list their GPA. It depends on the school and the other items on the resume.

Sam Greenfield
Saturday, May 01, 2004

"I would not interview a recent graduate of a bachelor's program who did not list their GPA on their resume without an explanation."

So very absolute. This means that if you saw
"BSCS MIT 2001"

Just like that on a resume you would stop reading and toss it, right? It doesn't matter what the rest of the resume looks like, you're not going to even scan it, because the applicant did not list a GPA.

I'm honestly curious.

Philo

Philo
Sunday, May 02, 2004

I don't know. I'm probably being a bit too harsh. But hell, if they are just going to write that, then I gotta wonder what is on the rest of their resume. Do they have such amazing work experience that their educational experience just isn't that important? And, if they choose not to list something like "cum laude" or their class rank or their GPA, are they trying to hide something? A resume is not the place for modesty.

Sam Greenfield
Sunday, May 02, 2004

(While tooting my own horn will make me sound like an a-hole that no sane person would want to work with, I'll make an exception here for illustrative purposes...)

"They have such amazing work experience that their educational experience just isn't that important?"

I do.  And far more rare than experience, skill.

Besides... I paid my way through university working for peanuts as a programmer at a shop willing to take a chance. I didn't care at all about grades because I knew nobody would ever see them, since I already had the skill and talent to get a job on any team with people smart enough to know what matters.  It was not uncommon for me to lose days in the library studying something wholly outside the curriculum that fascinated me more than something I might have had a test on that week or project due on.  I also worked pretty hard in a number of student organizations on campus, which was illuminating and enriching.  And not just these things, which are easy to justify, but as I worked hard, I played hard sometimes too, which isn't so justifiable.  I just didn't care about the grades short of letting them go so low I'd be asked to leave, and it showed.

In some ways I paid a price, having to later learn things I skipped at the university-appointed time.  But I wouldn't trade my path for any other, especially not the path of the mechanistic Followers pursuing their little pats on the head each term, many without much learning at all.  My university experience was far richer than most, and I got everything from it I went in for and more, grades be damned.

But later I'd lay my skill, talent, and experience against anybody's, particularly against someone so weak as to think something not especially hard they spent four years achieving 20 years ago has any relevance today.  If somebody asked me about grades in an interview, there's a good chance that if I was feeling especially randy that day I'd mock them mercilessly.

discoverer
Sunday, May 02, 2004

Not harsh.  Foolish.

Anybody who thinks grades are a measure of anything important watch ABC Primetime this week?

Candy As
Sunday, May 02, 2004

Discoverer, I think you may have misunderstood what I wrote. You wrote, "But later I'd lay my skill, talent, and experience against anybody's, particularly against someone so weak as to think something not especially hard they spent four years achieving 20 years ago has any relevance today."

Both of my comments were regarding _recent_ graduates, and I should have reiterated this in my second comment. It's not clear to me that someone with 20 years of experience after school needs to list their educational history at all, let alone their GPA. Is there a good reason for a recent graduate from an undergraduate program not to list their GPA on a resume?

Sam Greenfield
Monday, May 03, 2004

discoverer

what a load of arrogant, self-stroking BS

Studying curriculum guided material at "the University appointed time" would have been mutually exclusive with pursuing studies in your own interests?  Sounds like you were a rebel without a cause or a clue, to me.

It's all very well and good that you are an accomplished genius, but paying money for (or worse, paying someone else's money for) an education that you then deliberately show an utter disdain and lack of regard for is worse than assinine.

I'd kill for the opportunity to get into school full time, now.  As it stands, I'm a high school dropout who managed to teach himself quite a bit about programming, and now I'm a Senior Programmer at a major metro hospital raking in quite a good salary.

Still, I'd love to have had the opportunity to have gone to school -- and I surely wouldn't have squandered the experience or the money spent on it -- trying to prove what a badass I was.  "Look at me, I'm so on another plane over here."

Please.

muppet from electric-chipmunk
Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Muppet, what's stopping you?

I gathered a couple thousand or so from restaurant work in high school, and off I went.  (20 years ago.  State school in the US.  In-state tuition.  Your price may vary.)  The programming job I found later kept the ball rolling, but I made no more doing that -- peanuts, remember -- than my buddies who worked at gas stations or McDonalds.  I wager that a year's savings from your quite good salary could afford you the same, provided you don't mind living like a pauper while a student.  (e.g.  No car.  No toys or new clothes.  Cramped, dilapidated shared apartments.  Very cheap food.)

Worth every cent and every minor sacrifice.  Changed my life, my personality, and my mental model of the world for the better.  (And it was the complete immersion among many humans outside my childhood milieu -- other students, professors, townies, and assorted ne'er-do-wells -- and the rich daily interactions and long discussions that made the greatest impact, not just the coursework.)

discoverer
Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Oh, and muppet...

In rereading your post, I find an itch to answer some of your specific questions and points.  [Apologies to other readers if this is an abuse of the page.  I hope it has some relevance to the discussion, even though the details are merely anecdotal of my own educational choices and experiences.  Certainly in my view, positions such as muppet's lie at the heart of the misconceptions that this topic started from, and are the purpose I initially posted.  So please forgive my elaboration.]

Would studying curriculum have been mutually exclusive with pursuing studies in my own interests?  Strictly speaking, no.  They were not truly mutually exclusive for me.  And frankly even my own studies were occasionally related to the curriculum, or tangents inspired by it.  Sometimes.  More often they had no bearing whatsoever.  But I was being very literal when I wrote that I would lose days in the library -- in at 8am, emerging at 1 or 2 am, repeat, repeat, often surviving on candybars and corn chips when I remembered to eat, the occasional drool-soaked nap on the desk of a reading cubby.  "Oh crap, I had a linear algebra exam day before yesterday.  Oops."  Passion doesn't always leave enough attention for practical matters.

Utter disdain and lack of regard for the education?  No.  The official curriculum was also an important component of those years, and I gained immeasurably from it despite giving short shrift to grades.  The coursework simply wasn't always my primary goal, nor would it be if I could, now two decades later, choose again for the young me.

Squandered?  Certainly not.  It appears, muppet, you assume I went to university to buy credentials and a specific course of training.  I would have assured you from the very first day that I did not.  (There are very good trade schools for that.)  I paid for a right to immerse myself full-time in an academic, social, and political *environment*, to have easy access to good minds and good ideas and good facilities.  My goal was to live in a place that could enrich my spirit and shape my mind, not to pour specific things into my brain or slap a label on on my skull.  I put myself in with that simple design, and I got what I paid my own time and money for.  Whether you would pay for the same is no concern to me, now or then.  As your aims are your own, so were mine.

discoverer
Tuesday, May 04, 2004

> I hope it has some relevance to the discussion

It sure does. If you come across personally as you do here I for one would never offer you a job.


Wednesday, May 05, 2004

>If you come across personally as you do here I for one would never offer you a job.

Why?

All he's done here is give a reasonable description of what 'higher' education means to him.

Eudoxus
Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Disco: I'd hire you.
And I guess I wouldn't hire the type that says they wouldn't hire you.
Maybe it's my Hispanic background. Some contempt for authority and disregard of rules is welcome.
And yes I do hire. My firm has currently four people; it could easily grow to 12 or 15 if I wanted to (I just don't think it would be fun doing it, and maybe I would be a lousy manager at that level).

Xandro
Friday, May 07, 2004

If someone has a Masters then I'd hope they'd have some kind of thesis published.  If I cared about the Masters qualification (which I doubt I would), I'd scan the thesis.

Grades, marks, qualifications and what have you are sometimes relevant but only for a short period in a working life, perhaps five years at most.

For someone with more temporal experience than that I'd be looking for some evidence of continuing training or skills development.  But they'd rarely have grades or marks associated with them.

Simon Lucy
Friday, May 07, 2004

> Why?

You mean "why not". Because, to me, he comes across as an arrogant ****fit.


Monday, May 10, 2004

> Disco: I'd hire you.
> And I guess I wouldn't hire the type that says they wouldn't hire you.

I don't think I would hire anyone who wouldn't hire someone over a posting here. Furthermore, "I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member." (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Mike Green
Monday, May 10, 2004

Sorry I'm already in that club, room for only one inside.

Simon Lucy
Monday, May 10, 2004

Ironic that the word mensa, in spanish, stands for "dumb female".

Steve-O
Tuesday, May 11, 2004

The word "Mensa" is Latin for "Table". Originally the organisation was going to be named "Mens", which is latin for "Mind", but an "a" was appended to pacify those who thought that the name was sexist.

Incidentally, I joined Mensa at 14 and scored the highest possible result on their tests (IQ178). Later in life I let my membership lapse because the magazine was pretty trashy. I never attended any meetings.

Jacob Martin
Friday, May 21, 2004

The GPA shows how you perform at a typical work task: make "an indicator of performance" that is to some degree related to performance look good. As such, it is highly relevant for a potential employer - and it doesn't matter how long ago it was. Fundamentally, people don't change that much - twenty years or not.

Yes, the GPA is a very imperfect measure (it better have been - mine is about one grade worse than I'd like to think it could have been if I had focused more on that and less on extracurricular activities). But - what isn't? As an employee, you will, for example, be asked to deliver software to spec - not your own, not what you define your work should be, but what the customer or your boss wants. Of course, what these people want is just as imperfect as what the university wanted from you for a good GPA. But the real skill, then as now, is to deliver what they want and still do the best that can be done (especially if there is a difference between the two - that's what everybody is looking for: people who can resolve such differences not by confrontation - going off on their own tangent while ignoring the rest of the world - but by performance - giving them what they want and at the same time delivering the best solution to the problem as they see it).

"I don't like the test so I'm not going to compete" is a very easy way of dealing with competition, or with others' desire to be able to see just how good you really are.

Markus K
Thursday, June 10, 2004

Have any of you taken the ASVAB? If so I would like to know what you made of it.  As for my test scores: AFQT = 99, GT=129  IQ = 135 (Stanford Binet), Undergrad GPA (Physics) 2.67.

Cheers,

Martin

Martin W. Hynes
Friday, June 25, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home