By Kari Travis | Echo
I'll never forget the day my dream died.
My dream of graduating magna cum laude, that is.
It was a moment that brought me to my knees. Okay, fine. So I'm exaggerating. It wasn't that traumatic, and it certainly didn't cause failure in maintaining an upright stance. In fact, it was one of the best things to happen in my college career. Let me tell you why.
GPA is a burden on us. We sweat over it, and bleed over it and hope to the heavens that a B or C in our one, dreaded core liberal arts course doesn't knock us too low on the grading charts.
Above all, in most cases a high GPA will not get us a job. Especially considering that not even a college education can help us land in our career field of choice, according to a recent article from The New York Times. (Not to be a downer or anything, but reality is reality, folks.)
That, my friends, is why I value the day I ceased to be a magna cum laude contender. Don't get me wrong. The moment I looked at my transcript and saw the slump in my GPA, my heart dropped below the soles of my shoes. But then I realized something. If my grades were so prone to disappoint, I needed another plan-one that didn't rely on above-average transcripts for success.
So I got serious about career development. First came the dreaded resume-building project-a real jab to my self-esteem, let me tell you. As a sophomore, I had very little to show for as far as work experience. And on top of that, I didn't actually know what kind of career I wanted to pursue. That's why I tackled the experimental job phase. (That meant internships, in case you're wondering.)
Now, I know we all complain about the slave-labor tendencies of unpaid internships (what can I say, the exaggerations just keep coming), but allow me to put this advice as gently as I can.
Suck it up, buttercup.
I get it. No, really, I do. As someone who worked four different jobs while trying to juggle an internship and college classes, I get that financial reasons are valid excuses to turn down demanding jobs that offer no monetary compensation. I don't recommend we take on internships that require us to work 40 hours a week without pay. But other options do exist when it comes to expanding your skill repertoire. Internships that require just 15-20 hours of work per week do exist, allowing one to hold down another job or two at the same time.
In fewer words, life is going to be tough for us. But practical experience-especially that which gives us skills to use in the fields we are most passionate about-is more worthy of our blood, sweat and tears than are our GPAs.
Just in case you don't believe me, let me tell you about a conversation I had last fall with one of my mentors, a veteran journalist who holds a Ph.D from Columbia University. I had just finished a great internship but still felt panic about my failure to pull up my GPA. When I told my mentor this, he shook his head and gave me a "you've got to be kidding me" look.
As someone who has hired his fair share of people, he told me, he could honestly say that GPA was not a primary factor in any of those decisions.
"It's all about how well you've developed your skills," he said. "As long as you're a student with a 3.0 average, your employer isn't going to care about whether or not you graduated with honors."
As a final note to all students and faculty who have taken time to read my ramblings here, I am not advocating academic negligence. What I am supporting is a refusal to let our drive to attain an honors-level GPA detract from the time we spend looking for ways to build our practical experience.
Then go for it-with everything you've got.
(Thumbnail image courtesy of Flickr user Steven S. Used with permission.)