On one side, I just want to get a degree with a 3.0 GPA. On the other side, my parents want more than just a 3.

Now here's the thing. I program with a passion. I spend day and night programming. And I ace all my programming courses. However, I do terrible on all my elective courses -- such as writing, history, and all that stuff -- which only leaves me with a 3.1 to 3.2 GPA. And my parents want more.

They think that university is like high school, where you need super-stellar grades to get to the next level. But they don't realize that good enough grades will land me a job.

And they don't realize that a programmer needs to practice to become good at programming, and that having good skills is what will land a job in a nice software development company.

Thankfully, though, they don't threaten to beat me with a baseball bat or anything like that. They just occasionally give me the little "tsk-tsk". But even that little "tsk-tsk" makes me feel guilty for opening up an IDE. And on top of that, I procrastinate because of that feeling of guilt.

So now, I want to come clean with them. I want to know what's a good way to do that.


OK, so now, I realized, I should aim for higher grades, as some have suggested below.

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    What makes you so sure you know more than your parents about the workplace?
    – JohnFx
    Mar 14, 2011 at 23:35
  • What MADE me so sure that I knew more than my parents about the workplace was that they don't have a degree in the field of software development. But now, I'm convinced that I don't know more, and most probably, my parents know more.
    – Sal Rahman
    Mar 14, 2011 at 23:43
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    A little advice from a 40 year old who also doubted his parents fiercely in his teens. They are right about a lot more than you think. Times change, but there are a lot of immutable facts of life that remain constant. They have experience being a teenager, you don't have experience as an adult.
    – JohnFx
    Mar 14, 2011 at 23:59
  • While your parents are willing to support you, give them the respect or listening to them, and bring in in the grades. It is very little effort, and tt will be surprisingly soon when the time comes to discuss with them if pleasing them was best or not.
    – Apalala
    Mar 15, 2011 at 0:15
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    Really when does your employer ask what your grades were like? They look at the degree and where it's from. They will have interview questions. There may be some places that will look into what your GPA is, but thats highly unlikely. The only time where this may matter is coming straight out of college without doing any kind of internship or other professional employment. I for have worked for a fortune 500 company without having a BS, although i almost have it. So it really doesn't matter as much as it would seem, most of the time.
    – Matt
    Mar 15, 2011 at 3:58

9 Answers 9


Ok, I was the same way. All I wanted to do was program, and I was doing ok in my other classes so I didn't care. However, to get your choice of jobs you should do as well as you can. If you have a specific field you want to get in to, they will be looking for the best students. Studying hard and getting good grades even in subjects that don't matter to your career shows diligence. This work ethic will translate into strong performance at a job, since you've learned to discipline yourself.

Employers don't want people who float. They want employees who in the time they work for the company will work hard and get things done! The only indicator they have of this in new graduates really is their GPA. High CS grades and lower other grades tend to indicate that the person only works hard on things they like. An "average" IT programmer doesn't always get to do fun stuff. For example, I don't like to deal with databases, but my current job often requires me to hunt down discrepancies in the database. It's not a fun job; I'd much rather be bug hunting or coding new apps. But it has to be done, and done just as well as your favorite work!

I'd encourage you to set your sights high. Do your best, and that will help ensure a great first job and set the tone for a solid career.

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    Yes. Your grades are the measure of your ability to cope with the tasks at hand, even if your desire was to move on to something else.
    – Apalala
    Mar 15, 2011 at 0:14
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    Another thing: if it's down between two candidates, all things being equal except grades, I'll hire the person with the better grades. Especially if it looks like they had to do a lot of writing for other subjects. If they write well, and quickly, they can help out with documenting things.
    – LGriffel
    Mar 15, 2011 at 22:07

Your grades won't matter at all after you get the first job, and a 3.0 is perfectly respectable.

However, if you can't write and communicate well, that will matter! Those other courses also give you skills you need to be an effective programmer.

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    I can't vote this one up enough... I really wish that I had learned to communicate better, and I know I'm not the only one. It doesn't matter if you're the smartest person around, if you can't communicate your idea to another person, you may as well not know it... Mar 15, 2011 at 0:16
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    This is why student orgs and user groups are so valuable. They give you a chance to learn to be comfortable presenting to people. It isn't all written communication that you need. (Not that written communication isn't invaluable, too.) Mar 15, 2011 at 3:33

I'm going to come down on your parents' side on this one. Lots of people know how to write code. If you want to be good, you need a broader outlook on life than just writing code, and a large part of that is learning more outside of/beyond the narrow horizons of writing code.

When you get down to it, most of what good coders do is analyze how processes are carried out by a company (typically a company, anyway) and find more efficient processes. For those processes to be more efficient, however, they need to be able to understand and relate to the people who carry out those processes. Most of the horrible systems that gave computers a bad name in the '60s and '70s were written by people who knew how to code well -- but were utterly clueless about the human factors involved in using that software.

There's one other thing to keep in mind: while getting a job is certainly important, it's not all there is to life. Prepare yourself for life, not just work.

  • 1
    Now I came to my senses. I know that getting a job is important to life, but I also always knew that to prepare for life is as equally as important. I always listen to my professors for my elective courses with deep interest, but I never really applied any special care to the assignments. I would always just hold them off until the last minute. Your answer just inadvertently reminded me of having strong self-discipline.
    – Sal Rahman
    Mar 14, 2011 at 23:20

Gotta side with your parents here, unfortunately.

Good programmers need to practice programming. But the best place to practice programming is in a good job. Your goal is to get that good job. Trust me, I've interviewed enough from both sides of the aisle and have seen many former students going to the job market. Job interviews don't really focus on your ability to program. They focus on the stuff you do at school.

Moreover, top companies first look at your GPA. In fact, most of them have a GPA threshold below which they won't consider you for internships and first interviews. At this GPA, you fall below the cut for many companies, especially if you're not in a top school.

You don't want to just land a job (though sometimes, if things are desperate, you do). You want to land a good job. Or you want to land a job with such a good company that other companies will interview you just because that company was willing to hire you.

It's not PC, but companies and women are not that different - they'll be more interesting in hiring/dating you if you've already been with someone more attractive :)


Translate it to yourself this way. When you get a job, you will get asked to do assignments that you really don't care to do. But you are going to have to do them anyways, they are your job. Right now, University is your "job". Those elective classes are the tasks you don't want to do. Yeah, you can float by and just pass them with a good enough grade, and that will get you in the door somewhere eventually. But if you are willing to to that in your "job" now, then you are going to have the same attitude when you get hired into a real job.

Another thing to consider, when the employer has 2 people and one position, and you can both code, who is he/she going to hire, the person with the 3.1 gpa, or the person who pushed themselves to a 3.5? My bet is they will go for the 3.5....


How well have you told your parents of your dreams in terms of getting a job? They may want higher grades in case you want to go on to graduate school where it could almost be required to have high grades. Another side here is to recognize what are you trying to get from those electives as in theory there could be some similar to programming courses that may work as better electives,e.g. philosophy if that is possible.


Your question made me think of my high school and college days and the arguments I had with my father over grades :(

I was thinking exactly like you. When I was in high school, one subject that I really connected with was Mathematics. I did well in Mathematics but not that good in the rest. This thought of caring to learn only the stuff I liked somehow got embedded into my brain without even me realizing it. And that reflects in your attitude, which is way more important than any technical skill you can acquire. I realized my mistake and corrected myself during college. One thing I have learnt from that experience is that - you might end up liking those things we think are not that interesting (or don't like) if you simply give it a try and approach it with open mind.


Landing a job is nothing. You can have a butt-sucking job right away, and feel miserable for the rest of your life. Finding your way in life means everything.

Everyone knows that grades cannot accurately measure the intellect or motivation! But it's the way it's done, and it's the best we've implemented so far. If you learn to live with it, it shouldn't bother you more than the occasional flu shot.

The likes of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are the exceptions, and not the norms, and be sure that they very well understood the rules of the game, and the chances at breaking them, before they did. Not everyone of is the kind of guy for an all-in bet.

In general, and in history, people have greater chances of success on whatever they endeavor upon the support and trust of their entourage, with family being the closest one.


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    +1 for "Landing a job is nothing. You can have a butt-sucking job right away, and feels miserable for the rest of your life. Finding your way in life means everything.". Very true. Mar 15, 2011 at 3:41

Only a fool thinks a GPA does not have an impact when getting a job. You can get a job all right, but not necessarily the best. If you graduate from CS with a 3.0 GPA, you must likely suck at programming (or at best, you are not as good as you think.) Very, very, very few people can actually claim with truth on their side to be good programmers while having had a less than stellar GPA. Geniuses are few and far between.

I've personally witnessed people not getting the jobs they want in programming for not having a good GPA. I know. I've seen it.

So yeah, you can get a job all right. A good GPA, however, will open doors in programming that a 3.0 GPA never will.

So, how do you tell your parents that landing a job is all that counts? Simple. Just tell them. It won't make it any more true, though, regardless how much you believe i

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