Unless you happened to have the most amazing and prestigious internship / experience, your GPA would make or break your chances at such firms.
At the same time, we knew from internships at those types of firms that what you do / work on VS what you do at a school, varies a lot. Most knew that you didn't really need to have a 4.0 understanding of your topics to do the jr. work at an investment bank. But you still need stellar grades to land those jobs!
This, in turn, lead to a culture of test-taking and "gaming the system" rather than learning. Students would take the "easiest" and most predictable classes to maximize their grades, and would religiously study for exams rather than fully soak up the course material (because as it happens, a lot of professors liked to keep their exams fairly standardized and similar).
And, of course, if students were desperate, they'd get other people to do their school work. Writing essays, doing homework, even hiring people to do their exams, with fake ID, etc.
When I studied Engineering, however, I didn't see much of this culture. The Engineering jobs didn't have the same stringent requirements for jobs - well, not most at least.
So those are my observations. The more importance you put on grades, the more cheating and focused studying seems to appear.
edit: Also, when a college degree stops being a certification/vetting of knowledge, work ethics, and persistence, and rather becomes a mere formality to for work, people will start treating it differently. I've heard classmates say things like "It's no big deal if you don't know x and y, you'll learn it through work anyway", which seems like a bad sign to me.
The reason we defaulted to the GPA was exactly because it was so easy to do the work.
Let me explain.
When we visited a school (usually Columbia or NYU for me) we had 100s, usually over a 1000, resumes. When I talked to the students, they were all bright, smart, interesting and motivated. From their resumes I got the impression any of them could do the job. And yet we had to pick maybe 10-30 from the school for that summer. (Keep in mind we recruited from many schools for many different positions).
So you have 1000 resumes and they all seem smart and interesting and you have to pick 10. What do you do?
The GPA is a great way to numerically and “objectively” make a cut. Then when you see a typo and maybe you can exclude that one and so on.
The reason you have to rely on these non predictive elements is exactly because everyone signals well on the predictive elements.
It sounds like a great opportunity for an experiment. Say you have 20 slots, pick 10 using the GPA/nitpick method, and 10 at random, and then compare the results 5 or 10 years later.
i made this same point recently using the nba for illustration: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20848444
I numbered each resume without reading it and drew lots. We had 6 people interview ~30 people for 10 slots. Each person had 15 minutes to talk. Candidates were out of the running if 3 people said “no”. We stopped when we had 10 people.
It worked out pretty good, but made HR angry. We ended up with 2 bozos, but the rest were pretty great.
I worked at another place years ago where we would mentor call center agents to become DBAs and Unix people. Those folks were all awesome, and a few had GEDs only. One of them called me to thank me for the opportunity, he just became a CIO!
Personally, if you have the time, you can mentor and get better results from a marginally qualified, engaged candidate than a person with the right credentials.
You would think the tech industry, with its endless graveyard of technically-superior-but-undermarketed or under-supported products would recognize this.
Random somehow seems even more unfair and arbitrary.
Lol. You obviously were not talking to them very much. Half of elite grads are boring dullards these days. They lack confidence and originality. They only bother with "projects" when they think those projects make great resume items. They never attempt anything that they think might fail. Someone who has never bombed a class or exam, never reached too far, doesn't have enough experience yet. Also, if typos on resumes cause you to drop applicants then you are missing out on great people. You think any of the kids who hire resume writers have typos? A typo is evidence that the applicant actually wrote it themselves. That's a plus imho.
The legal field has a trick in interviews, but it is applicable to any field: Ask the applicant to tell a story about something they saw happen. The one who could put a narrative together on the fly, the one that could organize their thoughts as they spoke, those are the people you want. Unless you are hiring ditch diggers, effective communication means more than base skills, let alone typo avoidance.
Sounds like exactly what large consulting and banking institutions are looking for.
They want fresh grads they can put through their corporate training program, send the most sycophantic to a top MBA program, chew them up (albeit with great pay) for 10 years and throw most of them away, keeping a few as partners.
Even in tech jobs, the narrow scope of jobs for compliance reasons enables all sorts of wacky. I had a buddy who basically performed a single task related to zoning SAN volumes and made an obscene salary for doing so.
GPA correlates to a personality that the function in the bureaucracy.
just keep rolling the dice; you'll get a bite eventually. I got an internship that lead to my first full-time job when I had a 2.4 GPA. I just happened to have experience with relevant tech that was rare in the area and they gave me a shot.
So while what you say is true, my potential network is necessarily limited. Working in retail, I still met plenty of people who wouldn't even let me assist them because of my race. I think this may go beyond personal qualities.
None of this is of course considered cheating, but a number of people skate past projects all the time. I do agree though, that once it gets to job interviews, those people typically fare less well.
Of course in engineering, some people would still try to focus on the easiest classes to fulfill the requirements and maximize their GPA, but GPA only seemed to really matter if you were going to grad school. Other than that, anything 3.0+ is good enough to get an interview for an internship.
I was never assigned a group project in college that I didn't feel was a complete waste of time, but this situation is actually pretty easy to avoid if the professor cares.
one of my professors would require group members to individually submit reviews of their teammates with each milestone on the project. basically "did they do their fair share, less, or more?" if on average your team felt you went above and beyond the call of duty, your individual grade would be the group grade multiplied by r > 1, and the opposite if everyone felt you were a slacker. the scores were normalized so if everyone rated each other as exceptional, r would just be 1. it didn't make the distribution of work perfect, but it made everyone pretty interested in at least appearing to contribute.
I've seen the cutoff for more desirable engineering jobs being 3.5, which is also basically the cutoff for competitive grad schools. The real distinguishing factor at that point is what kind of lab work / extracurricular projects you've produced, and it's a lot harder to hide behind a group then.
When I studied engineering I saw almost the same culture. Firms were looking for the same students with similar GPAs and sadly I was not one of them. I distinctly remember going to the campus job fair and having my resume repeatedly being put into the "maybe" pile. My academic work wasn't amazing but my extracurriculars were a few engineering project competitions. But the recruiters never looked past the GPA requirements.
I would say IT and CS is far more democratic. I've met far more software engineers who don't have a traditional CS background but managed to hustle their way in somehow.
The reputable firms usually had a more or less firm cut-off around 3.0, while smaller firms were more lenient.
Most reputable finance and consulting firms wouldn't even look at your CV unless you had a 3.5
I think CS firms are more forgiving, and care less about credentialism. Obviously you'll have some, but if you're a kick-ass developer with a portfolio to show, most companies are willing to take a look. I think a lot of firms understand that they're missing out on excellent non-traditional hires, because HR and old hiring practices have been gatekeeping them away.
Microsoft was the first big tech firm I ever spoke with, and interviewed for, and they said that as long as you had taken at least one class in data structures, you were welcome to the interview - didn't mater if you had studied history or CS.
Of all my friends who graduated as engineers half are in IT or software engineering at this point. There traditional engineering careers were awe fully short for the amount of effort put in.
Maybe things have changed but I was very disappointed.
(If academic performance is relevant I had a GPA equivalent of 4.0 or 3.6 depending on how it was measured, about a 96% average across my classes)
If I could see you solve problems with code in a got repo with history, and you can solve a problem live for me on a laptop or whiteboard, I don’t need to approximate your ability through coursework because I have more directly measured it. This gets fuzzier for non-entry level qualities, but they don’t really teach those in schools anyways. I always tell people in school to lean heavily into their projects.
If you got stuck in a section that was dominated by a particular group of students, you were screwed because the class had a hard curve and the group openly and blatantly cheated.
We had a faculty mentor from a different department sit in and witness what happened in an midterm, and escalated it to the administration, who made an accommodation for us.
Sounds like the cause of pretty much every banking scandal ever, from Nick Leeson, to Libor, to the subprime crisis to Wells Fargo to...
We are not really different from 'those types of employers'
I used to do consulting / tutoring for programming. Tutoring was $50 per hour, consulting was $100 per hour. Probably 50% of the students I tutored asked me to write programs for them. I’d tell them my consulting rate, in an attempt to persuade them against this path and most wouldn’t bat an eye.
Cheating is way more common than people think.
It isn't. In the mid-1970s I worked in the office of a company that sold term papers to students. We had a huge catalog of them, on about every conceivable topic. And we weren't the only company in that particular business.
It wasn't a particularly lucractive business, and the guy who owned the company closed it fairly quickly. He was an interesting guy - after that company, he spent a year or so developing a solution that would fade denim in your washing machine (I worked for him in that company as well), which he sold for a bundle (at the time) to a major detergent company. Later he became a mover and shaker in the autograph/original document field.
How does this play out after school? These students obviously have no passion for programming and are probably just there for the money after school. But once they get that job--and I'm not even sure they can land that FAANG job they want; you're not going to cram your way to being a competent whiteboard coder--do they just hope they'll just stumble into a job where they don't do much work, and the work isn't very difficult, and are ok with getting fired from every other job?
Usually these folks are savvy, come in and latch on to someone’s work and pivot quickly into a more abstract role or management role. Sometimes they are even good at those roles.
I mean, it is pretty unfair to the kids who actually do honest work. if enough people cheat and get near perfect scores, it makes it hard for the instructor to understand what a reasonable two week project is. grades are also (unfortunately) pretty important for internships.
on the other hand, sometimes people who cheat are really bad at it. in one of the courses I TA'd, there were two groups of 3-4 students who would always sit together in labs. they would always turn in nearly identical labs and homeworks, including all the same mistakes! it looked like the only differences came from transcription errors. I never bothered to report them because they failed all the assignments anyway.
There's no unfairness to an honest student who gets just as much out of a course with or without cheaters. Perhaps more if I'm not trying to put together complicated "gotcha" assignments and tests to catch potential cheaters.
Besides, I didn't say I ignored cheating. My fault if I gave that impression. I put in reasonable effort to look out for it, but don't obsess over it. if it went on without me finding out then by definition it wasn't something I could act on, and neither I nor the honest students were the ones losing time and money.
first of all, I don't mean to criticize you personally.
I'm not talking about adding or removing topics/depth to or from a course semester to semester based on the group of kids. in aggregate though, I think you'll definitely notice that the topics covered in a particular class vary a lot from school to school based on the expectations they have for the students. there's a lot more depth in a data structures course at a tech school than in the same class at some liberal arts school's vestigial cs department. if, instead of having brighter students, a school actually just has a much larger proportion of effective cheaters, the professors might unknowingly assign too much work to complete honestly. you personally might not change your assignments much, but I'm not sure how you could prevent this drift from occurring across an entire department over the span of a decade.
> There's no unfairness to an honest student who gets just as much out of a course with or without cheaters.
this depends on what you think the point of college is. if it's strictly about mastery of material for its own sake, sure, cheating only hurts the cheater. unfortunately, most students don't just go to college for the pleasure of learning. they go because they believe it will help them get a job. when you apply to your first internship, your GPA likely one of most important things on your resume. it is very much unfair to be competing against people who didn't earn theirs honestly. if a cheater takes your spot in the recruiting pipeline, you're out for this round. the company isn't going to call you up out of the blue because they realized the other person is an incompetent clown halfway through the summer.
I have a niece who has two masters degrees(literature and screenplay writing) and she has never hit it big with her own writing but she works helping exchange students polish their application essays and the money from that pays her bills and lets her write creatively and she gets by with relatively small income from her creative works.
Do those assessing the applications care if the applicants have had this type and extent of help?
I never used such a service, but I do see the appeal. I did kind of similar things, in my own way, to reduce time spent on courses I didn't like (skipping class, skipping or skimming material, exam cramming). Not saying it's a good thing, and it probably hurts one's already poor work ethic, but life is short and I don't really blame them that much.
the most time-efficient strategy for studying that I found in college was simply retyping all the bullets from the powerpoints 2-3 times. I didn't understand what I was writing, but I basically trained myself to be a "chinese room" for test questions. I got As on all the tests for classes I didn't care about this way.
Since I've never written an analytical essay outside of school, I avoid assigning them in favor of projects connected to students' lives.
Maybe that's why my students' homework assignments get them covered in the Washington Post, WSJ, Forbes, Inc, and lead to them speaking in TEDx and Harvard, and in Y Combinator, funded by Zuckerberg and Eric Schmidt.
Agreed that essays are overused but I'm just surprised to hear you downplay them so much.
I had a coworker who had a reputation for long emails. It was clear, based on hallway comments, that no one was reading them. People don't appear to have much tolerance for essays unless there's good reason for it.
SUBJECT: Put the action statement in the subject line, starting tomorrow
Your colleagues read your emails in sequence. You care that they have read the action statement so they can follow up or disagree. Putting it first will get it read.
Put the action statement in the subject line, starting tomorrow. You can also repeat it at the end.
If you have a better suggestion, let me know today please.
Learning how to write well is important, but I didn't feel that any of the lit classes I took helped greatly.
Large numbers of students in colleges shouldn't be there.
Who buys a paper? A lazy child of the ruling class.
I used to pay for some of my books each semester by just burning through all the low hanging "do my intro to CS homework" posts on job sites. $10-$20 a pop for a few minutes of effort.
My friend's school that inspired me is Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. He's given TEDx talks and keynotes online:
So absolutely there are cynical grade chasers, and worse those that pay their way to do it. But a very large portion are not. You probably just don't know it because they aren't loudly bragging about how they got the easiest professor, coasted to an A, plagiarizes a paper without getting caught, etc. They're just doing the work.
It was so bad that in one class at my son's high school, the kids were turning in great homework but failing the in class tests, so the parents protested and had the homework's weight increased (and test weight decreased) in the computation of the overall grade -- and had the change made in the middle of the year!
I was quite naïve and was shocked by this. I'd gone to schools where where external tutors or essay-writers weren’t really viable.
Will the students who purchased these essays go on to build bridges, rockets to the moon, cure cancer? Hah...
Interestingly, there is probably little or no supply of German, Dutch, Scandinavian bootleg essay mills.
The biggest hurdle over here seems to be get accepted to your study or college of choice - because as our system is, the only thing that counts during admission are your grades from HS or Undergrad. We have no interviews, essays, entrance exams, etc. only your GPA.
And on top of your GPA, some studies require a certain grade in specific classes. For example, to get admitted to the top Engineering school, you'd need a 3.0 in AP Math classes from HS (well, translated to American equivalent).
I'm still active on some homework forums, and I've been contacted quite a few times by posters that want to pay me for doing their homework, and even exams, because they needed to pass a minimum grade.
And in college / universities, there's an equivalent to the US "frat files" system, where senior students hand down previous HW and exam solutions to junior students.
Some were even accused of crimes against humanity after they were done with rocket work.
When Nazi scientists were imprisoned after WWII, they were secretly recorded as saying they could not believe Americans had built the A-bomb. Even though the Germans had the scientific knowledge, in-fighting and jealousy prevented them from cooperating. They never could have mustered the resources, coordination and leadership required to achieve a practical bomb. For example, the precise refining of tons of ore to get uranium.
This is probably the reason why you never see your final exam or even other exams after you take it during the exam period.
Back when I studied the school would openly distribute old exams - complete with solutions.
And no, not everyone got an A despite this, and yes, I still remember my maths (helped someone the other day, I guess it is about 15 years since last time touched it.)
Sadly, btw. Students aren't paying $30,000 per year for 23-year-old living in poverty to grade their work and do half the teaching and a checked-out professor focused on research with no passion of teaching.
Having graduated from a program with ~60% dropout rate by the second year, I appreciate the quality control side of things, but the number of professors I had to had any sort of passion for teaching was sadly low.
High dropout rates might actually be a good sign - everyone gets to try out, and if they don't manage it's time for them to go do something else. It beats overzealous gatekeeping.
Near the end durring capstone people wrote the most useless wordy documents because they had just spent 4 years learning how to draw small simple ideas out into paragraphs instead of comming up with enough ideas to fill a paragraph. It's not surprising that many of them are hiring other people to write them, the whole exercise seems silly.
They liked to work late, often talking on the phone...within a few days we realized that they were discussing the work with someone on the phone, who had probably been on the phone screen and probably had a day job. The employee couldn’t program at all, and was employed by us about a week total.
I don’t know how they made it through the interview process but the VP of engineering immediately revamped the hiring process!
At some point cheating will catch up to you, I hope. But some people manage to go a very long way by being total cheats.
That's just the human (or maybe cultural) drive to compete. The problem is it turns into an arms race that starts with training (but the training can become overwhelming) and leads to performance-enhancing drugs (could be steroids, could be Adderall). Where do you draw the line? 4 hours of studying? Educational summer camp? 12 year olds taking the SAT? Practically mandatory extra-curriculars?
At least on the academic side, obviously smart students who just missed the cutoff for elite schools still do fine, but it's hard to tell kid who has to go to UCLA because they didn't get into Harvard that it affects their opportunities less than they'd think.
Not much of that can be bought from outside and even if you did it wouldn't help you much because it all had to be defended in a viva voce.
I suppose you could buy the notes but the final quantum mechanics exam was pretty much of the character take what you have studied and answer questions that had not been discussed in the course. If you weren't familiar with the notes then I think you would have struggled as in fact many of my contemporaries did.
Well my tutor did assign me a project to be done in the long vacation after my second year but he didn't 'mark' it, we discussed it and I had to defend my conclusions. It didn't affect any grades anyway because the uni didn't do grades. There were end of year exams to check that you were keeping up but the class of your degree depended only on the final and the final year project report and its associated viva.
The writer I stuck with for the semester was excellent. She was very well written, followed instructions well, and always delivered on time. I'm sure she was making good money doing it. If anything she was under charging.