Do Grades Matter?

This year, I spoke at the SAVMA Symposium about internship and how to maximize your chances to get them.  I got a surprising number of questions about grades. “I hear some programs care about grades a lot.” “Do programs look at your transcripts?”  “Our classes are these amalgamated courses so we don’t get many different grades. Will that hurt my chances?” I was largely not prepared to answer these questions, because they confuse me.  Before I get to that, let me address the concerns.

“Do grades matter?”  Yes. This will vary by program and individual evaluator, but almost all will make a note of grades and/or class rank.  When I evaluate interns, if they are in the bottom quarter or the top 3 of the class rank, I make a little note. I look at the rest of the application and base my decision largely on everything else.  

I use class rank to cue me to what to look for.  If a candidate is in the bottom quarter and the letter of intent is poorly constructed and the letters of reference and not very laudatory, I would probably give them a low score.  If they are in the top 3 and the letter of intent is boastful and the letters of references do not mention they are easy to work with, I would probably also score them low.

“Do grades in specific courses matter?”  Unlikely. It’s possible residencies may look at the grade you got in their discipline in vet school, but looking through transcripts is usually not very illuminating and is time-consuming.  Again, individuals may vary- maybe the ophthalmologist on the selection committee makes sure every applicant at least got a “B” in the ophtho course in vet school. But I believe this is unlikely.

“What do I do if my grades are not good?”  “What programs care about good grades?” “What if my school gives one grade for the whole semester?”  “Do programs look at your undergrad grades?” These are the questions that confuse me.  If you don’t have good grades, that’s in the past.  You can’t do anything about it. You can’t know what programs care about grades, so apply where you want.  If your school gives you a single grade for the whole semester, you can’t do anything about that.  If programs look at your undergrad grades, you can’t affect that.

Stop.  Worrying.  If you are in your pre-clinical years, yes, obviously study and try to do well.  But if it is in the past, there’s nothing to be done about it. Follow the advice I give on How to be Successful.  Be an RFHB. Aim for Zero. Show Up. All of that you can affect. The grades you got before, you cannot affect.  

So, don’t think about them.  Focus on what you can control now, which is the future.  As C-3PO told Chewie, “He made a fair move, screaming about it can’t help you.”  Screaming about what happened in the past can’t help you. Please stop.

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