Twentysomething: Why I regret getting straight A’s in college
This is a guest post from Jon Morrow, who is 25 years old. His blog is On Moneymaking.
By Jon Morrow – I nearly killed myself in college to get straight A’s. Well, almost straight A’s. I graduated with 37 A’s and 3 B’s for a GPA of 3.921. At the time, I thought I was hot stuff. Now I wonder if it wasn’t a waste of time. Let me explain:
1. No one has ever asked about my GPA.
I was told that having a high GPA would open all kinds of doors for me. But you know what? I interviewed with lots of companies, received a total of 14 job offers after graduation, and none of the companies asked about it. They were much more impressed with stuff like serving as Chief of Staff for the student government and starting a radio station run by 200 volunteers.
I suppose a college recruiter from a Fortune 500 company might ask, but honestly, I can’t see any employer hiring a straight-A student over someone with five years of relevant work experience. It might tip the scale in a competitive situation, but in most cases, I haven’t seen that grades are really that important to employers.
2. I didn’t sleep.
Unless you’re a super genius, getting 37 A’s is hard work. For me, it was an obsession. Anything less than an A+ on any assignment was unacceptable. I’d study for 60-80 hours a week, and if I didn’t get the highest grade in class, I’d put in 100 hours the next week.
Translation: I didn’t sleep much. From my freshman to junior year, I averaged about six hours a night. By my senior year though, I was only getting 3-5 per night, even on weekends. I was drinking a 2 liter bottle of Mountain Dew and 2-3 energy drinks per day just to stay awake. Not only is that unhealthy, but it’s not particularly fun either.
3. I’ve forgotten 95% of it.
I majored in English Literature and minored in Communication Theory. The main reason I chose those subjects was I thought they would teach me how to write and speak, two skills that would serve me well for the rest of my life.
Boy, was I stupid. Instead, I spent all my time reading classic literature and memorizing vague, pseudoscientific communication theories. Neither are useful at all, and I’ve forgotten at least 95% of it.
I’d guess the same is true for most college graduates. Tell me, what’s the point of spending 60-80 hours a week learning things that you immediately forget?
4. I didn’t have time for people.
Being in the student government and running a radio station, I had lots of opportunities to build a huge network. But I didn’t have time. Between studying and doing my job, I had to prioritize the people I wanted to develop relationships with and narrow it down to the handful who could help me the most.
That’s no way to go through school. College isn’t so much a training ground for entering the work place as a sandbox for figuring out who you are and how you relate to other people. You develop your social skills and forge relationships with people that might be colleagues for the rest of your life.
If I could do it all over again, I would spend less time in the library and more time at parties. I would have 50 friends, not 3. I would be known for “the guy that knows everyone,” not “the smartest guy in class.” Not only because it would’ve been more fun, but because I would still be friends with most of those people now and would have access to the networks they’ve developed over the last four years.
5. Work experience is more valuable.
In retrospect, I could’ve probably spent 20-30 hours a week on my studies and gotten B’s. That would’ve freed up 30-70 hours a week, depending on the course load. When I think of all of the things that I could’ve done with those hours, I just shake my head.
If there’s one thing graduates lack, it’s relevant work experience. If you want to be a freelance writer, you’re much better off writing articles for magazines and interning with a publishing company than working your tail off to get straight A’s. The experience makes you more valuable to future employers and usually results in a paycheck with a few more digits on it.
What about Graduate School?
If you’re getting your masters, going to law school, or becoming a doctor, then you’ll need all 37 of those A’s to get into the best school possible, and you can safely disregard this entire post. Just be sure that you follow through. I thought I would go to law school, and then I found out what a miserable career it is and how little it actually pays. All of those good grades are now going to waste.
It also comes down to the question, “What’s the most effective use of your time?” If you can’t imagine living without an advanced degree from an Ivy League school, then reading until your eyes fall out and sleeping on a table in the library is a perfectly defensible lifestyle.
On the other hand, if you want to get a job and make as much money as possible, then good grades aren’t going to help you as your teachers and parents might have you believe. You’re better making powerful friends, building a killer resume and generally having the time of your life on your parent’s dime.
Jon Morrow’s blog is On Moneymaking.
Once you’re done with college, what should you focus on next? It’s clear your grades don’t matter, but what does matter? The most important thing after you graduate college is to treat your 20s like they matter. This is not practice. This is your life. And here: How to Make Your 20s Count.
You can still go to grad school w/ B's. Maybe not to the top ones, but then again, as long as you love what you are doing, that won't be so relevant.
You shouldn't be aiming for making money. You should be aiming for making yourself happy as a person over the years with your job. Or else, you will be asking yourself in 20 years why did you want to make so much money, just like you are asking now why did you want to get all those As.
Good point about grad schools. Just like perfect grades, getting into the perfect school isn't everything.
Also, I don't think money and happiness are mutually exclusive. You can be happy with or without it. Money does, however, give you a greater range of choices, which might make it easier for you to find your ideal lifestyle.
it’s kind of funny, but I have the exact opposite regrets about college. I WAS that girl “that everyone knew” and I did spend more time hanging out with friends than in the library. and I feel like it was a waste of money. So even though you feel like you’ve forgotten everything, you’re only 22 – maybe it’ll come back to you later on. :) Maybe you’ll remember things as you get older that you didn’t even know you knew – and you’ll trace it back to your college education. Getting good grades and spending those thousands mom & dad paid (or scholarships/loans paid) on studying and learning everything you can – to me, that’s not a waste.
But what do I know, I had a B-/C average! (ha)
though I do agree, no one has ever ONCE asked about my grades, so perhaps none of it’s worth it. I also haven’t seen one example (so far) in my work life that shows me my college degree means anything.
Hey its probably that way everywhere my dad is in a high managing spot but he only had 2 years of colledge says he forgot most of it and that you barly remeber the crap, he works as an electrical enginner on crap that could kill someone and he trains the other guys, he said the stuffs worthless he got all a’s worked his butt of all he said that matters is how long you go cause he cant go up any higher because he doesnt have 4 years but besides that he says its just experiance and he worked at IBM too he says that companies are diffrent usally so really you just gota learn when you get there
Amen to that. I’ve passed my whole college making good connexions (read: party) in the dorms and the great social skills I’ve aquired are worth much more then any grade.
I also share your experience that nobody has ever asked about my grades. In my case its a good thing because I used to say “D for DIPLOMA” so you can guess what my grades look like.
On arranged interviews for graduates I even passed straight-A students for top jobs because I was seen as much more “functional” socially and potentially a better team player.
Besides, nobody in the work force even has a clue about what you learn in College. Heck, my first job I was working with an ex car mechanic. How could he ever tell if I got A or D in anything?
“You're better making powerful friends, building a killer résumé, and generally having the time of your life on your parent's dime.”
I do so hate when my generation speaks like this. Not everyone’s parents are shoveling money at them to pay for college. I’d even say that for most, such a thing isn’t much more than a fantasy. For plenty, college is an expensive, one-shot opportunity that will serve as a door out of a pretty nasty future. Everyone should have fun and find themselves and all that crap, but it’s not all gumdrops and puppy dogs paid for by someone else.
Right? Some of us have to pay for college OURSELVES. Right now, I’m usually either working or doing school related activity, with my time spent with my boyfriend an indulgence. I also only get 5-6 hours of sleep…and I don’t party. I hate people sometimes…
I agree 100% with this article. College isnt about grades since grades dont build our society. When you graduate your goal in the real world is to make a company more money, to educate people, to care for the sick, whatever your doing, its not going to be a cramming for tests like you did in college and getting no sleep. Its good to care about your studies but studying doesnt pay bills nor does it satisfy the needs of others which is what reality is about. College is really about learning and expanding your horizons and figuring out the possibilities of what your capable of.
Although I partially do agree with some of the people here, I find some of you as just plain lazy. For example, a gentleman mentioned grades not contributing to society. Getting great grades means amazing work ethic, amazing work ethic means (if you keep that motivation) SUCCESS! Most people want to be lazy and not work to their full potential. It is not all about good grades, but for most that can pull off a 4.0, they are going places. I have been a part of the whole party/social scene and must say that it is complete BS if you think it builds any skills. Yes the socializing and building character is important BUT! that does not occur at a house party, or a bar. True networking is accomplished through other means (such as student groups etc.) I spent my last three years partying only to regret it. Grow up, get motivated and get working!
I have found that *where* I graduated has been relevant a handful of times; the grades I got there, not once. (I didn’t apply to graduate school.)
Even if you’re focused on academics (as opposed to extracurricular activities or just having fun), it’s important to distinguish between the goals of getting high grades and learning useful things.
With mixed feelings, I sent this post to my daughter this morning. Achievement, perspective, excellence, fullness, choices, freedom, responsibility, love, life. It’s a lot for the young to master during their first venture away from home.
Well said. You know what though, I think the biggest test in college/university is how quickly you learn the statement you’ve made about “…good grades aren't going to help you…”. I know people who years later still don’t realise that it’s who you are that will get you somewhere not what grade you get.
Grades will get your foot in the door but people skills are what will help you in all aspects of life. Everyone is looking at you thinking “How will working with you benefit me?”
As I read this essay I thought, “This must be a liberal arts major.” I was right.
I majored in Chemistry. I worked my butt off for four years. I envied those English and Poli Sci majors who lounged around on the lawns, played frisbee, and built homecoming-parade floats while I slaved away in the lab all afternoon.
Funny thing! I didn’t forget the material. Last year I taught the same university classes I had taken 40 years before (updated, of course).
Being a goof-off in college doesn’t pay for everyone, Jon.
getting fun in college will surely depend on the subject you are undertaking. i take dental surgery and i think it is only a crazy student that will forget to spend almost 80% of their whole school life in books and clinics. no, not unless you are ready for discontinuation in freshman year. nevertheless it is all about time management and self planning!
Some good advice – especially the work experience part. Many 20somethings need to understand that work experience is not just a string of resume entries – rather, it is a string of actual accomplishments that made a tangible difference for their employers.
Did you ever think that you got 14 job offers because of your GPA? Maybe they would not have even let you in the door for an interview without a good GPA. Why would they then need to ask about it if it is on your resume to begin with?
One really bad piece of advice – sponging off of the parents. As a parent of one college grad and another in her junior year, I find it appalling that after parents invest in their child’s education that they in any way have the entitlement to soak off of Mom and Dad so they can live it up. I sent my kids to college so they could learn that enjoyment of life comes not as an entitlement, but is the result of what one earns for themselves.
Why should my children get to drive luxury cars, party it up, and travel when these are the things we as parents sacrificed in our early adult years in the name of our kids being able to go to college and have the opportunity to become self-sufficient? This is absolute selfishness. If any of my kids ever came home, they would be paying room/board/expenses equivalent to what it would cost them to live on their own as a disincentive to consider it an option after a six figure investment in their education.
Yeah, growing up sucks, but, we all have to do it sometime. It’s an eat what you kill world, and that is not changing anytime soon.
Steve, you make a great point about how as parents you make a lot of sacrifices in the name of your kids – too many to even count (not that you keep score). It was no free ride for me, and my mom and dad were definitely not ‘connected.’ As a result, it is up to me to turn tide for my kids and let me tell you it is tough (2 FT jobs, never sleep, baby on the way). And this is despite graduating college (and getting a masters). So, kiddos if you have the luxury to ‘party’ a bit in school you can thank dear old mom and dad for giving you a competitive starting point – and you can bet that they got old and boring by doing the things that it takes to put you where you are.
However, I am 27 years old and I can definitely identify with Jon. I agree with the sandbox analogy and think that college students underestimate the significance of this ‘trial’ period. I say as long as you have the opportunity (and money earned, not given), and it will not permanently damage your future, then try it. At least then you will not have to live with the ‘what if’s?’ because life comes at you fast and you can’t always take a ‘make up.’
I was a math/civil engineering major and I too spent many 20-hour days studying to get that great GPA. I didn’t have much of a social life to speak of, although I was involved in various honor societies. After working for 4 years I have found that I could have gotten to my current point (data monkey working for people with 20+ years experience by day, pizza delivery driver by night)-using half the energy. nobody really cares how smart you were in school – you have to create ‘perceived’ value for them. Otherwise you will be known as a ‘book-smart’ person who cant get the job done.
With that said, i do think that if I had toned it down a bit on the studies, maybe I would have had time to develop a more well-rounded social network (and possibly get more relevant work experience). If the network panned out then maybe ‘party friends’ could have became clients one day. My opinion is that the association with these friends would have been strategically much more valuable (and comforting!) to me than the ability to prove that every vector space has a basis, or how to solve second-order partial differential equations. I have not needed 1/4 of the stuff I learned in school, and I work in a technical profession. I know that sounds rough, but really, the company only cares about bottom line, and if your network allows you to land a $1M project then you have solidified your position more than any clever (smart) design could have. So my conclusion is that yes, grades can matter, but I think the social network is a much more powerful tool when it comes to making money in the workforce.
Interesting points! I graduated summa cum laude with a 3.93 (with a degree in English). Although I don’t regret working hard and making top grades (I ended up going on to get my masters and am hoping to pursue a Ph.D.), I can definitely see your points.
Grades matter less than relationships and, unfortunately, sometimes students are left to choose between the two. I wonder what it would look like if a university decided to revolutionize their structure to focus more on developing student leaders and communicators than purely developing student scholars.
Revolutionize their structure and focus more on developing leaders? Not everybody feels like being a leader. I, personally, wouldn’t want such a system to be shoved down my throat. College isn’t about ‘finding yourself’ or ‘becoming a leader’. It’s about acquiring the necessary skills for a future profession. Not everyone’s future profession is to be a leader. I’m not saying social skills aren’t important, they are, but it’s not the whole point of college. Social skills are something a person must figure out for oneself. My point being, college isn’t a social event. It is a valuable (and often 1-shot) opportunity to become educated and ready for a future career.
Many don’t realize that college was never about professions but learning. Professions are what vocational schools/training are for. Vocational schools should be encouraged as much as uni’s.
I’m glad you mentioned that you could have gotten B’s and still had a life. To often students hear that “grades aren’t as important as experience” and somehow translate that into “grades don’t matter at all.”
As someone who is still in college, I so strongly agree with you.
Even as an engineering major, as long as you can pull a minimum of a 3.0 no doors are closed. From there on its all about your abilities and your relevant experience.
I wish that someone told me this when I started college, I’d probably have actually done better in school and I would definitely have been much happier.
While I agree with the point that you could’ve gotten B’s and had a more fulfilling college experience and a gotten a ‘good job’ to boot, I have to wonder what jobs you were applying for where no one asked about your GPA. Did you have it on your resume so that there was no need for anyone to ask? As a graduate of an Ivy League school where top companies came to recruit, you couldn’t even get your foot in the door without stating your GPA in on-campus recruiting, and if you didn’t go use on-campus recruiting, it still came up in some way, shape or form during interviews.
I think the best advice to glean from your post is that students should strive to achieve balance, not blow off their work entirely because that presents a whole different set of issues.
I couldn’t agree more.
I have a few comments on this.
1. I got straight As in college and had plenty of time for people. I even had a double major, studied abroad, and ran a successful non-profit. I’m not sure why you had trouble doing this.
2. Plenty of people asked me about my GPA even when applying for jobs where it wouldn’t have mattered. I have to wonder what type of jobs you were applying for.
3. I slept a lot. Probably more than I do now. And I got As all the time. Sure, I pulled an all-nighter here and there, but it wasn’t obsessive.
4. I agree that work experience is more valuable, but I don’t think you should sell short the value of having a solid educational bedrock.
And maybe you went to an easier college..? Maybe you went to a college of the same difficulty but had easier classes…? (Different people have different experiences, don’t judge others based off of yours.)
And maybe you went to an easier college..? Maybe you went to a college of the same difficulty but had easier classes…? (Different people have different experiences, don’t judge others based off of yours.)
And maybe you went to an easier college..? Maybe you went to a college of the same difficulty but had easier classes…? (Different people have different experiences, don’t judge others based off of yours.)
Some people work faster than others. Acting like everyone should have no problem keeping up with school, work, friends, and “their non-profit” makes you look an arrogant douchebag, which you probably are.
We’re all really impressed.
Your last comment also assumes that everyone was fortunate enough to have their parents pay for their education.
I paid for and continue to pay for my education. So partying it up was only going to cost me.
Fair point. I, too, tried making great grades in school. I didn’t do quite as well as you, I graduated with Magna Cum Laude, not Summa which I think 3.9 would have been at my school. :) However, I found out that my graduate position I held while in school- my boss who hired me for that position told me years later when I was leaving that he felt anyone could do the job, so he chose the candidate with the highest GPA. He saw that I graduate with honors in Undergrad and so he chose me! I had no idea good grades had paid off at all. All I had been told was that employers looked for grades and had never experienced that. So, it was nice to know he actually was judging on criteria I had! Who knew! I was glad he told me so as well.
Posts like this are exactly why I have decided to stop reading this blog. My fellow twenty-somethings all sound like driveling, self-centered, spoiled idiots and they are somehow being passed off as experts.
maybe it depends on your major or career path? when i graduated college and was looking for that first job, grades were a determining factor. no one asked for specifics, but my GPA was asked for more than once. and i was never given interviews based on the fact that my GPA was merely average.
My goodness…what ever happened to learning for the sake of learning? Knowlegde for personal growth? You do not sound like an English major…
I can’t say I agree with you, Jon. I majored in History because I loved it, and I learned to write and research and I still remember a lot of it too. And I find it incredibly useful to know a lot of history, because there’s a great “story” aspect to it, and it gives me plenty to talk to people about at parties, etc. What I learned was critical thinking, which applies in all aspects of life.
I have to say that an education is the most important thing. Hopefully your education teaches or trains you to think logically – and make decisions based on limited information. And college offers two types of connections – the party connectiona and the academic connection. Will they blur – sure, but what you write about is exactly what Penelope writes about for the work force. Balance is everything and it seems like your college time was very unbalanced. A ‘B’ average with plenty of network connections/friends will do much more than straight A’s…I do agree with that. I just don’t want the wrong impression going to freshmen that partying is more important than grades. Make sure you can think things through as well.
Geezus, this blog is unbelievable. I give up, I can’t read another one of these posts or a Penelope “personal issues” post again. You know what one of the points of a well-rounded liberal arts education is? To become a well-rounded, interesting person – “it’s irrelevant, I forgot it…” SO FRACKING WHAT. You’ll forget a lot in life, that doesn’t mean that the experiences are worthless. Good luck building a career on “dude, the Wii is so frickin’ righteous…”
If this is where our culture is going, dumb, shallow, conclusory and lazy, then God help us all. We’ll be deserving whatever we get.
And to rebut one of your ending conclusions, law can be miserable and low paying but it sure isn’t for everyone. I found my niche, made parter, love what I do, and have a good living. Generalizing from your feelings and limited experiences to an entire professional is immature and, again, ignorant.
And with this I’m going back to the adult publications, for good.
You need to not let your feelings cloud your thinking especially since you criticize against “generalizing from limited experience to an entire profession.” You obviously can’t see that you are guilty of what you disapprove because you are in fact generalizing that “another one of these posts or a Penelope personal issues post” are all the same.
This is the reason why you want to leave them and “go back to adult publications, for good.” You need to go back to college and learn critical thinking skills. You said you studied law? “God help us all.”
If you are such a successful lawyer, then how come you cant even spell partner. You would think if you were something you would at least know how to spell it. And get off your tirade and look around a little everyone cant make partner. It is terrible to pay that much money, go to school that long, and get paid that little; thats if you even get a job. 86% of Law grads 10 years ago are still in debt today. 63% of law grads last year are either without a job, or have a job that they could have gotten without a law degree, this year.
“If you are such a successful lawyer, then how come you cant even spell partner.”
Was this written by a middle school-er? You lost me and “look around a little everyone cant make partner”…is that even a sentence?
For lots of people in demanding majors, getting A’s and having a life is totally manageable. It wasn’t for Jon. But the fact that he had a hard time doesn’t seem like a terribly valuable piece of information for the rest of us. Having a life and getting some rest is important, but so is doing the best you can at the things you think are priorities. The ability to put a lot effort into something that’s hard and sustain that effort for the long term is certainly something I look for in an employee.
How are things going for you now is the question? The reality about your higher education is that you are now equipped to decifer what is the best route for you to take and which is the one to avoid.
Don’t beat yourself up too much, if you wish things were different then don’t make the same mistakes twice. Go out now and make those things happen in your life that you think you have missed out on.
Stop crying, half of those so called networks you think that you have missed out on are busy doing what they do trying to make it each day too. Look at your success, you are a guest blogger on one of my favorite sites in all of the internet. I say you are already a success.
I used to stress about grades until I heard the phrase “shoot for the B” on Cartalk in my 2nd year. The Cartalk guys aren’t exactly the bastions of academia but the advice struck a chord in me. The gist is that A’s are really hard and C’s mean you aren’t trying hard enough but B’s are attainable by anyone willing to put in a reasonable amount of effort without killing themselves. In some classes that meant I only went to about half the classes, some classes I had to go to more. I spent the rest of the time working to pay for school and learning all the stuff I was really going to need once I was out. I feel that I’m more well rounded because of it.
That’s a great approach, Todd. It allows you to have more money while going to
college, graduate with less debt, build a better résumé, and develop a better
feel for what type of career you’ll enjoy. Thanks for commenting.
the worst thing to say is that gpa dosen’t matter
i’m sure it got u in the door to those interviews and of course they dont ask u once ur interviewed wut ur gpa is cuz you’ve been screened. its the first tell on whether a person works hard consistently for 4 years in college and adds to some technical version of is this kid smart of not.
This is a great post. I was the guy on the other side of the coin, however. My mom died my freshman year and I felt sorry for myself and did not study as much as I should have. My grades sucked, but since my mom had just died, nobody seemed to care. For the next few years I just drifted by with a bunch of C’s (oh, some higher grades, but some lower too).
I was in a fraternity and developed a great network of friends who are still a huge part of my life today. I learned a lot about people, enough that I have written two books on networking and I am a professional speaker on the topic of business and personal relationships. Nobody has cared about my grades, and I have had an interesting (although eclectic) career.
I think the answer lies in the middle. I do wish I had been a better student. I was smart enough to get better grades, I was just adrift. But my dreams of law school died because I did not have the proper grades to be a candidate for a good law school.
Thus, the trick is to do both. Get good grades (I agree, killing yourself for straight A’s is not the best plan), but also take advantage of the unique social enviornment that college allows. If you can do both (decent grades and a good social experience), then you get to make your own choices later on.
Your GPA is not as important as some think…but dont totally skate through either!
Good grades do matter if you’re on an academic scholarship. That’s the only way I could pay for school because I came from a poor family. I **had** to keep a 3.5 just for survival. Many poorer students or those on scholarships will find this is the case.
Yep, that’s an excellent reason to get good grades. Really, the point of
my post isn’t that good grades are bad. They aren’t. You just need
to think about what they’re actually getting you and whether or not it’s worth
“Posts like this are exactly why I have decided to stop reading this blog. My fellow twenty-somethings all sound like driveling, self-centered, spoiled idiots and they are somehow being passed off as experts.”
I agree and I second.
People seem to think that just because grades don’t mean everything to your success and personal fulfillment doesn’t mean that they don’t matter at all.
Employers/interviewers have seen my grades at all stages in my career and I have routinely received comments and reactions which show that they are important at least to an extent.
One time I was at an on-campus interview that fell right after many of the interviewees had just received grades in a class that directly related to the job. The interviewer asked me what I got, I honestly told him that I received a D and the interviewer’s attitude changed at that point. I explained that this was a particluarly hard test and that the class average was actually 55% (ie a D) and I had scored a 54%. He wanted to recruit people who are competitive and are willing to do whatever it takes to complete a task despite other people’s reactions or difficulties.
I ended up graduating in the more rigourous Honors program at my college but with only a 3.19 GPA overall. I regret deciding to go into the Honors program since it meant harder courses and more work and basically hurt my overall GPA.
Also, I have forgotten 99% of what I learned in my liberal arts classes but I use the information from my Business classes everyday. I regret not studying harder in those classes.
College is about learning to learn. What you actually learn is not the important part, even though you may learn something usefull.
that is silly
“I majored in English Literature and minored in Communication Theory….I spent all my time reading… literature and memorizing… communication theories.”
Maybe you should have studied logic.
You don’t have to get perfect grades to get into grad school. I was a B-average student, but luckily got into a top grad school. Because the drop out rate is something like 50% even at top grad schools, it’s increasingly more important for admissions to look for students who will stick with it through thick and thin, and know what they are getting themselves into. You do have to work hard through out the whole academic career, but it’s more important to know what you are getting out of it. Ask “why”, like why are you taking this class? What am I getting out of it? what is the point of it. If the course is a required core class, why is it considered core(especially when a number of professors and others in the field have defined the course as core!) and what is the lesson from it? This helps to define your interest, whether you will like the field, and whether grad school is the right choice. After college, I told myself I had enough of school. But after reflecting on the lessons of college, and seeing how it applies to the real world, I realized why I wanted to go back to grad school – to find the answer to some deeper questions.
Jon, it sounds like your studies were a bit joyless to you. I was a straight-A college student too (well, 2 B’s) but I LOVED my two majors. I picked subjects I was interested in, and the studying didn’t seem as much like work.
True, I’ve forgotten much of what I’ve learned (liberal arts) but I totally agree with Kate: “What I [really] learned was critical thinking, which applies in all aspects of life.”
Plus, the close relationships I made with professors and deans have lasted through the years. They have served as references, mentors, and friends. I don’t think I would have made the same connection with then had I not been so involved in the material.
Oh – and I went on to law school. I wasn’t planning that during undergrad, but I was glad to have the option. Shouldn’t we encourage young people to live their lives so that as many doors are open as possible?
Jon, I empathize with you. You made a valid point (with caveats, of course) and now all of these sniveling whiners come out of the woodwork to defend those sleepless nights and missed dates just to ace their exam on Christopher Marlowe’s “The Jew of Malta.” Still others claim that you’re missing the point. You made a simple claim: that getting As really isn’t that important, and anyone with a smidgen of common sense knows that you’re correct, unless — and here’s that caveat — unless you plan on going to a snobby ivy league school or if you plan to work in a competitive, highly technical field. No one likes to be told that they’ve wasted their time, but that’s essentially what it amounts to. As for myself, I’ve gone through college (computer science) with all As (except for two Bs). And now I realize that I too wasted my time. All of my potential employers practically laughed at me when I tried to tout my academic record. By the way, I didn’t go to college on my parents’ dime. I paid for every penny of it, and I think that’s what makes this post sound like it’s coming from an undeserving gen-Xer.
It’s funny how most of the people who agree with this article have a 3.9 – 4.0 GPA and still have the nerve to say to people it’s “okay” if you achieve less than that. You do NOT have any personal experience with looking for a job/ opportunity with a low GPA so don’t go around telling people what it’s like! Obviously from the various comments here people are constantly getting asked what their GPA is at Job interviews. If not, it’s on their resume! You might have had an experience where GPA didn’t matter. Good for you! But that’s not how it’s like for everyone. Sorry to say. Now wake up and smell the roses! People want/ gain different things out of their college careers. If they want to go to learn how to think critically – that’s okay. If they have the time & money to go just for partying – that’s okay too! It can be either one way or another, but don’t go about making a set way for people to experience college. This article just made me want to try even harder in college because I know what I want to get out of it. No matter what you have the option of having the best of both worlds (I don’t care where you go to school) partying, making friends & having good grades is POSSIBLE! Stop making excuses.
Reality is, people just want to see you have a college degree. They don’t care what it is, or how good your GPA was.
Every interview I ever had went like this?
You have your degree?
> Yes, I got a a BS in…[cut off]
Yea, whatever, what experience do you have outside of academic activities?
If you don’t have experience by the time your done with college, your in trouble. Internships, whatever, make sure you have them. And notice I said “Internships” not “Internship”. That’s intentional. Mandatory more than 1 semester/summer if you want to be taken seriously and not laughed out the office.
I got a 4.0 and I don’t regret it at all. I still partied and had fun, I just took my academics seriously too. I had every opportunity after college to do whatever I wanted and I’m glad that I kept my options open by doing well. Would I have freaked out if my grades were lower? Probably — but I also would have realized that perfection isn’t a useful goal in and of itself.
Who cares if the people around you aren’t fawning all over you for your grades? Get over yourself! Maybe the value of your education is in learning things for the right reasons, not trying to crawl to the top of the ladder. If you think that working hard and learning are worthless without external approval, then you really shouldn’t bother working on your grades.
On the other hand, those of us with a work ethic and a drive to learn things (that we aren’t just going to forget in two weeks) will probably keep on doing what comes naturally — our best. And if “my best” happens to include perfect grades, I am not going to complain.
“The Cartalk guys aren't exactly the bastions of academia but the advice struck a chord in me.”
Actually both of the hosts have extremely good educations. Ray has a degree in general science from MIT and Tom has a degree in chemical engineering from MIT and an MBA and DBA from the BU Graduate School of Management.
As a computer science major, I have a different take on this. I never took my grades that seriously (although I wound up with a 3.2) because, even though the classes I took for my major were useful, they didn’t apply that specifically to what I wanted to do when I graduated. I never suspected that any company would even ask about my GPA during interviews. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The first question asked at my first five interviews (Google, Microsoft, Apple, IBM, and Amazon) was, “What was your GPA?” The google interviewer’s demeanor even changed when I mentioned my GPA.
That said, I’m sure the matter of GPA probably depends on your major and career path. From what I’ve heard, however, the issue of GPA becomes less and less of a concern after ones first job.
I was a (mostly) straight-A student in college and I don’t regret it one bit. For me it was a watershed life event to move away from my parents and succeed on my own, even if just at school. I found it extremely empowering to be both independent and successful.
But it sounds to me like Mr. Morrow was a bit of an extreme overachiever. I had a 4.0 GPA for four semesters and then discovered that I didn’t have a great social life. I had one semester where, among other things, I came out and partied a lot and had a 2.75 GPA (a C+! Shocker!).
After that I “got by” with 3.5-3.9 per semester and still graduated Summa Cum Laude; and I was a much happier person for it. The obsession with tip-tip-tip-top grades is definitely unhealthy. It strips you of your willingness to deal with the ambiguity that’s inherent to real life; assignments tend to be rather deterministic and boxed-in.
But for me, I do still secretly believe that people who graduated — at least in my field — with less than stellar grades were just lazy. Call it bias; we’re all guilty of it. :)
When I applied for my current job, I was asked for my GPA. Fortunately, I have a 3.7, which is pretty good for the college I attended and was enough for graduating with honors. At my college people pulled all-nighters and gave up on social lives just to pass. What social lives they did have usually consisted of studying together, with maybe one party a term.
I am doing engineering , I work my back side off, still live at home and have been commuting 80 miles everyday.
I am in my third year ( and I totally regret not being social).I work too hard and have no social life. My only social life is in the class room. And also when studying together before exams. I got highest grades for first 2 years- almost have got bad health I worked that hard to get them grades in the first two years account for nothing and now when they do-in my final year- I am burned out and performing terribly. I have wasted college and 3 years of my life.
“I sent my kids to college so they could learn that enjoyment of life comes not as an entitlement, but is the result of what one earns for themselves. … Yeah, growing up sucks, but, we all have to do it sometime. It's an eat what you kill world, and that is not changing anytime soon.”
I agree, and that’s exactly why I don’t want to have any children.
I do disagree with the first point you made (and I apologize if my point is repetitive). No one ever asked about your GPA because most likely every recruiter ALREADY KNEW your GPA when you gave them your resume. You don’t get into the door of a job interview without your resume, and you don’t make a resume these days (especially if you’ve just graduated) without putting your GPA on there.
People were more interested in talking with you about your Chief of Staff position and your radio show, because there’s not too much to talk about regarding grades (except if they say, “Hey. Nice GPA”). But believe me, recruiters notice the hard work you put into college, and I wouldn’t discount anyone who works towards an “A” average in college.
That’s my two cents anyway.
You only put your GPA on your resume if it doesn’t suck. If you leave it off, I have never known anybody to ask.
Going to college is not supposed to prepare you for a career. It is for learning. We can change what the meaning of higher education is (and I think we are doing that) but it’s not career camp. That point needs to be made very clear to students graduating from high school. I think this post is trying to say that in a roundabout way but it comes off as sort of negating the learning experience or the feeling of accomplishment you can get from attaining stellar grades, which is unfortunate.
I went to college thinking that if I did well, it would set me up for my career. I’ve learned that, while they intersect at certain points, your education and your work life are not one and the same.
As someone who has interviewed lots of graduates for many years your first point about interviews misses the point: good grades may be a big part of the reason why you get selected for an interview, but they won’t be the subject of the interview itself.
My grandfather was the CEO of a major civil engineering firm. My family always jokes about his approach to hiring and grades. He used to say, “If I had the choice, I’d always hire the guy who got B’s before the guy who got A’s. If I thought they could both do the job, I knew the guy who got B’s had a much better grasp on the “real world” than the guy who kept his nose in the books to get those A’s.” This was in the 70’s and although a lot has changed since then, the general idea remains the same: Lots of people can do the job, but employers want people who are well rounded.
I also worked extremely hard to get straight As. I don’t regret it. I would have been miserable with crappy grades. If nothing else, it’s given me a strong work ethic.
I was fortunate that my program had a co-op element. It really helped me keep things in perspective.
Here’s another perspective on this: If you set a goal of getting straight A’s and being the best student in your classes — and fulfilled that goal — that’s an amazing achievement.
That is something to be proud of, and that no one can take away from you. As you said, unless you’re pure genius, this took perseverance, priority setting and a four-year commitment to achieving the goal. You can use this in a job interview if they ask about achievement.
And, I wouldn’t be so sure that you forgot everything. You probably had to write essays, make arguments, articulate your ideas, etc. Sometimes it’s not what you learned but the process learning how to learn that makes college valuable.
I agree w/Kate on the value of a liberal arts degree (I did Eng. Lit., too, and minored in women’s studies and philosophy…and I “only” made Magna.)
I spent the first year of my management career being paranoid that I couldn’t talk the talk because I didn’t get that business degree. Then I realized that all that Shakespeare that I read for the love of it was giving me insight into people. The rhetoric and logic, I drew upon to build my business cases, and the critical thinking…well, let’s just say that it’s possible to get a business degree without picking that up along the way.
(Not that all B.A’s have it, either; more to say that no degree program has a lock on teaching the basic skills it takes to get the job done.)
Yes, the networking will give you a jump start on a successful career…if your goal is to maximize power and influence by conventional and/or social metrics; i.e. optimize yourself for fast promotability.
However, seems like in that case you’d be trading one type of “outward” success (straight A’s) for another (influential member of business community; quick promotions). Six of one, half a dozen the other, I would think.
For my part, je ne regrette rien.
If you managed to graduate with an English degree and did not, proudly, learn any critical thinking skills, CONGRATULATIONS! You must have also not noticed that you went to a crappy college.
I feel sorry for you. I learned a lot in college… and I have an English degree. Oh yeah, I graduated with a 4.0 GPA from a better school than you attended. How do I know that? I learned more than you did. Most people with lower GPAs probably learned more than you did.