GPA 3.16 Can I get a job as a new grad

by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist) Educator Columnist Innovator Expert Nurse

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

Hi Nurse Beth,

I'm a nursing student who will graduate in December.  For several reasons, my GPA is bad - 3.16. I know when I graduate, I can increase it, however, it is still low. As you know, it is the residency applications season. I  applied to 4 programs in Houston and 3 in Austin.  ED was my first choice followed by ICU and IMCU.  I don't know what happened, but from those 7 programs I got rejected from 5 of them!  They don't offer other departments; they rejected me totally!

I interviewed in one program for ICU in two locations and got rejected too! I prepared my answers and practiced them several times, dressed well, and did everything I could, but it did not work.

One hospital system accepted me without an interview! The next day they sent me their acceptance letter to one of their ED department. At the beginning, I was happy and I said I'm done with the applications just to figure out the bitter fact.  After reading and asking, it turns out that this is one of the worst programs nation wide. Everything you can imagine: understaffed, low pay, careless management, unsafe patients to nurse ratio, in addition to two years commitment, and if you terminate the contact before, you have to pay them $10k!

I'm now in a very critical situation. Do I have to be realistic and take what I got, as it is the only job offered to me? Or continue looking for other programs with low chance of getting accepted due to the low GPA?

Dear Nursing Student,

Don't take a job in one of the worst programs nationwide that hired you without an interview. There's always other options.

As far as your GPA, you will hear lots of experienced nurses say "GPA doesn't matter, I get hired wherever I apply". Unfortunately, they are talking about themselves and their hiring experiences as experienced nurses, not as you- a new grad.  

All resident programs have screening criteria and many include GPA. If you think about it, what else do they have to screen a new grad? Here's an example from one hospital. Applicants are graded on an 8 point scale. They get 1 point for completing the application correctly, 1-3 points for their application essay, up to 3 points for community volunteer work, and 1 point for GPA>3.75.

Is every program's screening criteria the same? Of course not. Each facility creates its own to manage hundreds of applicants. You will never know how much your low GPA counted against you. And at this point, your GPA is a moot point. It is what it is. 

So let's talk about things that are under your control. Interviewing, for one. Here's the thing- you think you interviewed well, but it's likely you did not.

Despite your GPA, you were selected for an interview- and you were not called back. This means there is room for improvement in your interviewing skills. For you it is extremely important to understand what will be asked, and what the hiring manager is looking for in an applicant. My book "Your Last Nursing to land your first nursing job" tells you what will be asked, what not to say, what to say, how to turn a negative into a positive, what to wear, and much more, all from a hiring nurse manager's point of view. It shows you how to improve your resume, and how to write an effective cover letter or essay. You need this. There are some articles here that address bits and pieces of this information, but if at all possible, give yourself the best chance to succeed and read it all.

This is your job now- landing a job! You have a narrow window. Pull out all the stops.

You are looking in the Austin and Houston areas, where else are you looking? Are you able to re-locate? Cast a wider net. Consider more rural areas with less competition. Remember, landing your first job is all-important. After 1-2 years, you can have your pick of locales.

Do you have reference letters from your clinical instructors? Clinical instructors have ties to local hospitals and are influential.

When doing clinicals, did you network with any charge nurses who could put in a good word for you? Identify everyone in your network who could help you and let them know you are job searching.

Good luck to you, time is still on your side!

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth



guineapignurse, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med surg, psych. Has 5 years experience. 23 Posts

Your first job might also not be in the hospital. My first job was in a long term care facility that I did my final clinical rotation in. After being there for a few months I moved over 1,000 miles away to be closer to family and I took a job at a psych hospital which I loved. After a year there I thought I had to get some acute care experience so I went to a subacute rehab facility as a stepping stone to acute care which I have been in  for a year and realized its not where I want to be. 

I am telling you this because even if you don’t get  into a residency program you might find something else you like and you can always try going back to the hospital. My journey as a nurse the first few years may not look ideal on paper but I found where I want to be and learned a lot in the different settings. Long term care taught me time management and psych taught me empathy and how to form healthy patient relationships. Yes I may not be good at starting IVs but I learned other skills. Also maybe look at interviewing for the med surg floor at the hospitals if thats possible because once you get in to the hospital and have some experience then transferring units might be easier. I have a new grad co worker who started on my surgical floor and she is transferring to the ED very soon.



836 Posts

I’d definitely cast your net wider. In addition to other locales, I’d suggest other areas of nursing. I’m not familiar with the job market in Texas, but where I am, we can’t even find people to apply!  The ICU/ED/IMCU are usually on the top of the list for new grads interested in working in a hospital. So, those areas can be more selective. Apply to med surg, and try again in a year. That time will not be wasted, as many skills transfer to the ICU/ED. 

I graduated several years ago with a 4.0 in my ADN program. I was told hospitals don’t hire ADN grads. I started in a rehab and worked on my BSN. I got a job on a med surg floor when I finished and a couple years later, I transferred to the ICU. In all those years, no one has asked me my GPA. It might help for your first job, but after that, it’s not a consideration. At most, it’s a bump in the road; it’s not a road block.