November 20, 2018

Will the Big 4 Take a “Late Bloomer” with a Low Undergrad GPA?

Today from the mailbag we have a Big 4 hopeful that – like many of you – enjoyed the splendors of undergrad life to the detriment of their GPA and want to know if this will dash their Big 4 hopes and dreams.

If you’ve got questions about your career, a problem at work (romantic, political or otherwise) or what you should have for lunch, shoot us an email at [email protected]. We will ignore pension accounting questions with extreme prejudice.

Back to our friend:

I just started an MSA program this summer after graduating with a BA in Economics. My cumulative undergrad GPA was 2.78, which is certainly not helping me attain my goal of Big 4 employment. I’ve been told that talking to recruiters now would be certain career death and I’m hoping on using the “late bloomer” story whenever I do begin the recruiting process. I can honestly say my attitude towards academics has improved tremendously over the past year or so. In the two graduate summer classes I’ve taken so far, I’m pulling a 3.85 GPA.

My question is, how long will it take for my improved academic performance to become substantial evidence of my matured academic attitude? Should I hold off on fall recruiting? Go for an internship instead of FT? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

While a 2.78 isn’t the end of the world, you are correct in your thinking that most Big 4 recruiters will turn their nose up at you. That being said, talking to recruiters is not “certain career death.” Quite the opposite, in fact. The more face time you get with these Big 4 types, the more they will remember you. Your “late bloomer” story certainly holds water now but you admit that you’ve only taken two classes. If you can maintain the GPA, then great, you’ll be in good shape. And yes, recruiters will see this is as a positive direction. If you revert to your keg standing ways (some people never get over it) then hopefully your guessing skills on exams have gotten better.

In the meantime, here are a couple of things you can do to hopefully marginalize that 2.78:

List your summer course GPA on your resume – leave the undergrad GPA off, but be honest if and when you’re asked about it.
Major GPA vs. Cumulative GPA – We’re assuming the 2.78 is your overall, or cumulative, GPA. Calculate your major-specific GPA (the classes that differentiate you from another business degree) – if it is above a 3.0, list it on your resume.

The problem with your situation, Late Bloomer, is that you don’t know what the thought process of the Big 4 recruiters, employees and partners that you meet are. Some of them may love you and others will take one look at your undergrad GPA and will respond not with “no” but “hell no.” Typically when a recruiting team is split on a candidate, the hierarchy trumps and if you didn’t impress the pants off that partner, you’ll be out.

Considering all that, you should absolutely attend the fall recruiting events and meet as many different firms and make as many contacts as possible. Also, be realistic with them – it’s okay to admit that you faltered a bit during your undergrad – just know that you’re going to have to prove it to them in the long run that you can keep things on the up and up.

Whether or not you should go for an internship or FT is your call. Will you be graduating in spring or summer of ’11? Then going for full time is probably the best move, regardless of the not-so-stellar undergrad GPA. If your MSA program can be stretched out, go for the internship. Even if you don’t get it, you’ll make plenty of contacts in the Big 4 so that when recruiting comes around for next year, you’ll be a familiar face and the recruiters will get a sense that you’re committed to academics and that you are a solid candidate for their firm.

Today from the mailbag we have a Big 4 hopeful that – like many of you – enjoyed the splendors of undergrad life to the detriment of their GPA and want to know if this will dash their Big 4 hopes and dreams.

If you’ve got questions about your career, a problem at work (romantic, political or otherwise) or what you should have for lunch, shoot us an email at [email protected]. We will ignore pension accounting questions with extreme prejudice.

Back to our friend:

I just started an MSA program this summer after graduating with a BA in Economics. My cumulative undergrad GPA was 2.78, which is certainly not helping me attain my goal of Big 4 employment. I’ve been told that talking to recruiters now would be certain career death and I’m hoping on using the “late bloomer” story whenever I do begin the recruiting process. I can honestly say my attitude towards academics has improved tremendously over the past year or so. In the two graduate summer classes I’ve taken so far, I’m pulling a 3.85 GPA.

My question is, how long will it take for my improved academic performance to become substantial evidence of my matured academic attitude? Should I hold off on fall recruiting? Go for an internship instead of FT? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

While a 2.78 isn’t the end of the world, you are correct in your thinking that most Big 4 recruiters will turn their nose up at you. That being said, talking to recruiters is not “certain career death.” Quite the opposite, in fact. The more face time you get with these Big 4 types, the more they will remember you. Your “late bloomer” story certainly holds water now but you admit that you’ve only taken two classes. If you can maintain the GPA, then great, you’ll be in good shape. And yes, recruiters will see this is as a positive direction. If you revert to your keg standing ways (some people never get over it) then hopefully your guessing skills on exams have gotten better.

In the meantime, here are a couple of things you can do to hopefully marginalize that 2.78:

List your summer course GPA on your resume – leave the undergrad GPA off, but be honest if and when you’re asked about it.
Major GPA vs. Cumulative GPA – We’re assuming the 2.78 is your overall, or cumulative, GPA. Calculate your major-specific GPA (the classes that differentiate you from another business degree) – if it is above a 3.0, list it on your resume.

The problem with your situation, Late Bloomer, is that you don’t know what the thought process of the Big 4 recruiters, employees and partners that you meet are. Some of them may love you and others will take one look at your undergrad GPA and will respond not with “no” but “hell no.” Typically when a recruiting team is split on a candidate, the hierarchy trumps and if you didn’t impress the pants off that partner, you’ll be out.

Considering all that, you should absolutely attend the fall recruiting events and meet as many different firms and make as many contacts as possible. Also, be realistic with them – it’s okay to admit that you faltered a bit during your undergrad – just know that you’re going to have to prove it to them in the long run that you can keep things on the up and up.

Whether or not you should go for an internship or FT is your call. Will you be graduating in spring or summer of ’11? Then going for full time is probably the best move, regardless of the not-so-stellar undergrad GPA. If your MSA program can be stretched out, go for the internship. Even if you don’t get it, you’ll make plenty of contacts in the Big 4 so that when recruiting comes around for next year, you’ll be a familiar face and the recruiters will get a sense that you’re committed to academics and that you are a solid candidate for their firm.

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