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.

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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

281 replies
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  1. Steve
    Steve says:

    “Boy, was I stupid.  Instead, I spent all my time reading classic literature”

    What the heck did you think you would spend your time doing as an English major? Seriously. There’s a lot that’s stupid about this article, but this one is probably tops.

    Why you expected to make any money as an English major, no matter how great your grades were, is beyond me. The only reason to strive for great grades as a liberal arts major is to get into a great grad school… obviously you didn’t do your homework on going to college.

    Getting good grades is definitely not a waste of time if you’re a math/science major. In fact, if you’re a math/science major, the vast majority of engineering/science employers WILL ask for your grades.

    • acb
      acb says:

      I’m at work, trying really hard not to laugh at all the comments you’ve made Steve. Good times… you’re funny.

  2. Anoop Mohan
    Anoop Mohan says:

    Getting a low GPA means you are bad at learning the subject. Period. You maybe good at some other stuff.
    for example, if you know how to make a v8 and there is a test on the same subject, you WILL get atleast a B grade in the exam. If you dont, you do not know v8
    thanks

  3. Guest
    Guest says:

    Where in God’s name did you go to college? I studied for 2 hours a night on weekends and 1.5 on weekdays and got a 3.93 majoring in Math with a minor in CS, taking advanced coursework and graduating in the normal 4 years.

    Where did I go? This little place called… Harvard, about 10 years ago.

    • Regular Joe
      Regular Joe says:

      Go fuck yourself. Not everyone is a genius.

      Besides I would rather know that people don’t talk about how much they hate me because of what a stuck up prick I am than go to harvard and graduate with a 3.93

  4. Jessiquoi
    Jessiquoi says:

    Why does everyone hate this article? I thought it was insightful. Also, reading through the comments, why did people assume this was a woman?

  5. Alison Cummings
    Alison Cummings says:

    Jon,

    Nearing its fourth anniversary, and this post is *still* getting comments.

    I have to say how happy I am to come across it. As a fellow major in English Lit, and one-time grade-driven under grad, I identified totally. And what a relief to learn somebody else out there had a similar experience.

    Thanks for putting into words what I couldn’t. And for making me laugh.

    (Wow – who knew English majors could attract so much wrath.)

  6. Fukyu
    Fukyu says:

    The fact that you chose a degree in English Literature means you are, at most, borderline retarded. If I was the Human Resources manager of, say, a computer software firm, I would want to know what education and experience you have in regards to computer programming and information technology, not how you relate yourself to the characters in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Not only do you not get a job with a stupidasshole degree like that, you are likely to get made fun of for having chosen that career path. You might consider leaving that information “off” of your resume. I think you will have better luck.

  7. Linds
    Linds says:

    as a freshman in college my GPA most definatly matters, my goal is to get into the second best graduate school for human resources and the GPA weighs the most on admissions. GPA matters, it depends on the major and field of course but when it comes to getting into grad and med schools your GPA can kill any chance of getting in. and yes, I pay for college myself the only thing my mother has contributed is support to do well.

  8. harry
    harry says:

    I and Senb has been together for 2 years. We both put our capital together to open a supermarket and since then we have been living happily without any problem. I always discuss about marriage with John but he replies me with, we will soon get married. I was surprise on Friday evening when i was in my brother’s house, SEND called me on phone and told me that we can no longer carry on with the relationship because he has find himself a rich a lady whom he want to get married to. I shocked and hospitalize for 4 days. I was so tired and tried to take my life because i truly love him. All the investment was opened in his name and signature and i am left with nothing. One Sunday evening when i was searching online for help, i was directed to ayelalashrine@gmail.com. I contacted him and he told me what i need to provide for he to bring back my happiness. I never believe in him because he was requesting for money which i don’t have, i discussed it with my brother and he decided to assist me because he wants the best for me. I sent him what was required of me by the temple and four days after i contacted him, John came back begging for my forgiveness. I was so surprise that it worked. I and Harry are happily married today and i won Dr. Moon my happiness. If anyone need to be happy in any circumstance, i will advise you to contact ayelalashrine@gmail.com

  9. Anon
    Anon says:

    For the most part grades are meaningless… I finish my last two years of undergrad with 3.9 GPA while taking all upper division biology courses. After graduating, I applied to over 200 jobs within a years time to which I told I was overqualified because of my high GPA so I was not hired. The only thing the high GPA helped with me was getting into graduate school for a Master’s despite (scoring VERY BAD in the GREs!) As someone who has gotten the highest grades in nearly all my classes at least once (including Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry) it means nothing… I applied three times to Medical School and yet to be accepted!

    What I learned, do what you like. All I know and like now is reading and studying hence I continue to do so. Once I get my Masters its time a get a life!! ahahha

    Moral of the story: moderation. Get decent grades, have fun. My first two years of college, all I did was fut around and it was worth it!

    Good grades help with:
    -graduate school acceptance
    -scholarships etc
    -other than that pointless
    -just personal pride to say I did it!

    Get work experience:
    -network
    -blah blah you know the rest

    Alright!

  10. Regular Joe
    Regular Joe says:

    You were never asked about your GPA? That is only because your GPA was so high. Every resume you submitted immediately was pushed through to hiring decision maker because of your GPA.

    I have a 3.12 and I have been told flat out in interviews that I must not have worked hard enough in college. And that my GPA was working against me. I KID YOU NOT! I have had this happen in 2 different interviews in 2 different industries.

    I earned my degree worked hard to learn. That is what my professors, parents, advisors, and internship supervisors told me to do. Learn as much as you can GPA is secondary to the usable knowledge you can demonstrate, they told me. Well I graduate in May; I have applied to 150 jobs. I have received responses from 5 jobs all to let me know I did not qualify. 2 for not enough experience (which I am supposed to get how? I am looking for my introductory employment. I got a degree for a career let me start somewhere.) 2 for low GPA. The last one was because I had 2 speeding tickets in the past 2 years. They said that their insurance policy wouldn’t let them hire such a risky asset.

    So cry me a river. Oh no my 3.912 GPA didn’t get me compliments every time I applied to a job. I worked hard too, I earned my degree. And now I am left with 4 years wasted, $115,000 in debt, and unqualified to warrant full-time employment in any Marketing career. Thanks a lot, the mistakes of our parents and grandparents is coming back to kill the future of us the children. You all have proven your ability to work, but because you screwed up the world economy so frickin bad now I have to compete with you for jobs that I obviously can’t compete for.

  11. Stephanie
    Stephanie says:

    If you had not gotten the As, you would have seriously regretted it. You did the right thing by studying hard.

    I worked so hard in high school and college that when I got to medical school I just stopped caring. I got C’s in med school and now I am paying for it. Hard. It is not fun. I failed boards and might not match into a residency. I am also losing my motivation to become a doctor but I am $200,000 in debt with no way to pay that back now.

    I do agree it would have been wise to have some more friends that have branched out in sucessful careers to build a network though. But not partying and drinking, as you claim.

    Everything in moderation, guys.

  12. Jess
    Jess says:

    I live in the UK. Most jobs require a 2:1 (the top end of a second class degree.) You need those grades for a job that pays well here.

  13. Taylor
    Taylor says:

    This is why people in college fail out. Save your comments for yourself. If students go into school thinking they don’t need to get good grades then they won’t. And typically those who don’t get good grades, don’t succeed in the workforce. Your post is completely offending to college students and those who actually care about their education. Obviously it was a waste on you.
    As for me, I need a good GPA to get the job I want so I don’t become just another bum in America.

  14. Gage C
    Gage C says:

    Well tell me how to make 37 A’s in college. I can live with w/e comes after it. I mean hey I would rather waste time learning something.

  15. Zip
    Zip says:

    I’ve hired hundreds over the years and don’t even look at the education section of their resume… Maybe as a successful dropout I’m biased against school, but I don’t think so. I just don’t see how it contributes to being a smart employee who can figure things out, and as mentioned in the article has a large network.

    I hire people based on what they’ve done and the size of their network and what that network says about them.

    If I need an MBA, I’ll hire one. And incidentally, the only MBA I hired ended up suing my company after being fired for incompetence.

    Personally I see a degree and attendant lack of experience as setting someone back at least 4 years. I see them as a much less mature candidate.

    • Alyson
      Alyson says:

      Do you realize how immature this comes off? It seems narcissistic, unethical, and suiting to the individual. Education makes a tremendous difference. It helps establish impulse control, empathy, ethics, respect, critical thinking, etc. it also helps an individual to remember those who helped build the fields of study. Plutocracy is the problem in America. What happened to merit?

  16. sidhu
    sidhu says:

    your major was easy, anyway. try majoring in business and getting that GPA, getting A’s in business classes is freakin’ tough!

  17. Brigid
    Brigid says:

    Wow, is this a pre-recession piece. I went to an Ivy League college and graduated with a 3.45 GPA. It has taken me 15 months to find a job, 12 months just to even get an interview for a paid position. Every kid I know who graduated cum laude and above did not have any problem finding employment within a few months after graduation. I really wish I had gotten better grades.

    Also, in Asia your grades count until you’re about forty years old. I have to submit my high school grades when I apply for jobs in Asia.

  18. David
    David says:

    I am a freshman. I achieved a 4.0 my first semester. And will likely continue down that path this semester and the years to come. To be honest with you my goal is to become valedictorian of my class. People say that social skills lack. But I must say I know a lot of people I speak with on a consistent basis. I don’t party often. Maybe once a month? And I have like 5 or 6 beers. I’m a Software Engineering major and through my dedication to studies I have honestly developed passions. Whether that be math, or programming, or even playing poker…. I do things that make me happy, I enjoy studying for 6 hours on a Sunday night. Why? Because when I walk out of the library I am hit with a natural high. I then go home, eat, log on to check facebook, only to see kids getting completely trashed at “raves”. I want to comment and say “you’re fucking cool aren’t you?” But I really don’t care that much. In fact watching others fail and complain just adds to my high i spoke of earlier even more. I want to get involved in things I enjoy. The computer science club and the fitness/bodybuilding club at my school are definitely of interest to me. I look forward to my first internship, or perhaps a product of mine that I one day develop. Anybody questioning whether or not to become academically oriented look no further. Median salary starting for my degree is around 60k. That sounds pretty good considering my mom and dad don’t have shit. They’ll die with no money. I want nice clothes, a car, I want to meet someone and eventually get married. Have a kid.

    That being said to try and convince people to not shoot for the 4.0 is a joke. I feel that because of my 4.0 I will develop a strong work ethic and skills pertaining to my future jobs. I will then get said job, and hopefully excel! If I pushed myself for a 4.0 in college I don’t see why I couldn’t push myself even harder for a company. I want money. I honestly for the first time in my life feel smarter than the majority of people surrounding me. My head is screwed on tight. AND I KNOW IT.

  19. Ren
    Ren says:

    Hey, I happened to see this through searching
    The thing is, I get straight As, and I might be thinking what my life would be if I had a different life, say, if I socialize a lot
    Well, let me tell you this, it’s truth that no one ever ask your grade, true, true!!!!!
    And people don’t appreciate you much because of your grade because you are like the one that is standing so high that no one else can reach you
    But the thing is, YOU DO NOT LEARN TO MAKE PEOPLE APPRECIATE YOU, you learn for yourself, to make yourself a better person.Who the heck are they? When in the future you compare yourself with others, you obviously know more. And what about those who socialize a lot? They are not necessarily be achieving, while you might be
    Well, I have to admit that I will still be thinking what my life would be if I choose to socialize
    But who knows? This is my path, I choose this, and people who have chosen it have succeed before, why can’t I? There is no right or wrong in this world, only winner and loser.

  20. donna
    donna says:

    Pursuit of knowledge is one thing. It’s a grand experience. But, reality is another thing. Spend your time making connections and friends. Leave university with somewhere around a B gpa and you’ll have millions of doors opened to you once you’re fledged.

    • Alyson
      Alyson says:

      Do you realize that there is not one set definition for reality? There are over 7 billion and counting.

  21. Ceej
    Ceej says:

    In my opinion, College is not about the grade, it is about learning and preparing for the future. If you value the grade, you can study hard now and forget everything after the exam. However, if you focused more on the learnings that you had, success will surely follow .
    Also, If you love your major, studying will not be a stress to you. Doing what you want gives you the enthusiasm to work hard while having fun doing it even though it takes away your sleep or social life. And if you like what you are doing chances are you will be good in that field if not excel. In the end , you have nothing to regret .

  22. Lulu
    Lulu says:

    A’s at university aren’t easy to get. I work 20 hours a week and this has been my first semester of university, which is drawing to a close now. Assignment grades have been a mixture of B’s, B-, B+ and I have one A so far. I bust my gut on the assignments and do my best… and then I know people who tell me about their A+ average in an almost Lisa Simpson self indulgent way and it makes me angry because I try my hardest. I mean, why do people with A+ averages even have to go around telling anyone, anyway? I wouldn’t email a colleague just to tell them I had an A+ on an assignment. -_- I DO want to know what I have to do to get more A’s… maybe the compulsary academic writing paper will enlighten me… anywho, I have one exam to go and then summer break (if you exclude work).

    • steve
      steve says:

      Don’t stress out over it. Do the best you can and be happy with it. Life is too short, seriously. You can’t be all things to all people. There will always be someone smarter than you. Being happy in life has little to do with status, money, or power; it is about having relationships. Even with finding employment this is true. Networking (a form of relationship) is something most people can do pretty well because we are designed for relationships.

  23. steve
    steve says:

    Your right about employers not looking at grades for the most part. There is a lot of resume advice out there that says not to put your GPA on your resume unless it is your very first job; and even then, participating in extra-curricular activities or groups is likely more valuable.

    That said, I would say networking is the most important thing today when it comes to finding employment. Your chances of getting hired somewhere (the whole point of going to school) is much better if you know someone.

  24. Schnyder
    Schnyder says:

    If one is a hard science or mathematics major or has the intention of graduate studies then good grades are a must, and partying although harder to do can be managed in your schedule with moderation. If you are applying for a job straight out of college and don’t plan of pursuing graduate education, then I strongly agree with this author do the minimum and get ok grades do not be mediocre get B’s which really isn’t all that hard if your major is liberal arts or a humanities. I’m in college and I envy the liberal arts students who lay on the grass sipping beers playing Frisbee and partying each weekend and they have a better GPA than me with less hours of work. Your grades in college do not matter one iota once you are in the field you wanted to be in. When you die your tombstone is not going to mark straight A’s in college no one cares. Instead enjoy life. Learning is important but learning does not mean straight A’s. Give me a C instead of an A of it meant I learned more than the prodigy next to me.

  25. Juan
    Juan says:

    As a recent graduate I have learned that what you said is true, but at the same time it depends on your career choice (no offense to anyone). I went to a regular four-year public university and got my BA in Finance (after switching around a couple of times), resulting in a B-average GPA. I was fortunate to land a great internship in my hometown, at a small wealth management firm, for about a year and a half. Very quickly I learned that what I got out of my internship was much more important to recruiters than my grades or studying habits. The fact that I knew more about Excel than most other graduates was a major advantage for me and my resume.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that when it comes down to graduating from college and finding your ideal career, having the skills employers want and being able to communicate effectively are usually more important than a 4.0 GPA.

    I understand that for certain careers, especially those in healthcare, engineering, and sciences require a higher academic track record for good reason (you wouldn’t want a heart surgeon who graduated with a C-average operating on you). But for me, I was able to enjoy my college years, get involved on campus, and build great connections (some of which could help me find a great position in the future).

  26. Nick
    Nick says:

    Straight A’s dont matter as much as one would think, but they often do open doors to other things you mentioned: positions in the student body, internships, ect. Dont kill yourself over it, just make sure your grades are distinctive i.e in the upper 65% category of the passing class.

    I had a mid C average in college and I have a killer job now. It is who you know mostly, so remember: getting out and networking i.e: partying is just as important to develop your social skills and maybe your alcohol tolerance if you feel like multitasking. Enjoy college…. it does not get much better after unless you hit big with $$.

  27. Mary
    Mary says:

    I have had both experiences; going undergrad and getting B’s, mostly, graduating with an unremarkable average. Then, I went back many years later, and have over 100 graduate credits, 3.7 or so.

    Doing well is so much better; maybe I do not party as much, but it pays to get better grades, I believe. At the very least, my confidence and self-esteem are better.

  28. Mike
    Mike says:

    I spent my first 2 years partying and not really caring about college. It was a very valuable experience and I was able to get it all out before I buckled down.

    Yes, college is a colossal waste of money and time because I find myself learning more from my independent reading rather than from classes. In the end it’s a monopoly on education. You can’t get a job without it.

  29. Shadow
    Shadow says:

    I agree with a great deal of this article. My major was Liberal Arts with a double concentration in Math and Biology. I had 4 hours of sleep per night due to an incredibly hard event to juggle with my degree. Fast forward years later, my 2.9 GPA is outclassing the 4.0’s because I have a work ethic and they are busy explaining what they learned in their philosophy classes. The truth is, it’s not the appearance that matters, but the substance. Ask yourself which one is better at designing a house: an architect with a 4.0 GPA or an architect with the best track record of designing houses? Is it better to have a doctor that will operate on you with a 4.0 GPA or a doctor that has the equivalent amount of experience performing operations? The CEO of Chick-Fil-A once said that people with A’s typically aren’t challenged enough and that he himself worked hard for solid C’s. Work ethic triumphs over everything else, hence “Labor Omnia Vincit” (work conquers all) I’m a teacher, by the way.

  30. Alyson
    Alyson says:

    People who forget what they learn in college didn’t keep the knowledge fresh. Declarative memory only works with practice. Maybe if more people cared about their grades, all the work that had gone into the making of textbooks(beautiful bibliographies), the pursuit of knowledge…etc…we’d see a bit more merit based employers around (that might be too idealistic). Some of us have to struggle to get A’s, work, have a social life, etc and pay for ourselves. Not everyone is handed everything. In addition, we have the FREEDOM to learn. Why the hell of people take this for granted? Wake up America!

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