I’ve always loved school and had a natural affinity for learning in that type of environment, but through my stints in education and just talking to people, I’ve come to learn that not everyone has the same experience. There are people who HATE school, but due to the institutional and cultural pressures put upon us, still find themselves having to dedicate years of their lives (and savings) to a college degree.
So, this post is for all my “Cs get degrees” homies and my “I’d rather be pursuing literally anything else” babes, but it’s also for the kids who put a jarring amount of pressure on themselves to get a 4.0 GPA.
I. A good grade doesn’t mean you’ve actually learned anything meaningful
If you’ve ever sat for the SATs, you know that there are some people who just test well and some who don’t. Depending on how a test is set, it can either measure how well you understand the content or how well you know how to regurgitate information. Most standardized tests do the latter and as soon as you step out of the exam room, you forget everything you studied for. Practical application of what you learned is the truest test for how well you grasped it so get yourself an internship or join an organization that will let you showcase your actual skillset.
II. A 4.0 GPA doesn’t grant you immunity from being an asshole
If you’ve never heard of a chemistry test, it’s when an employer interviews you to gauge how well you’d mesh with other people at the company. It’s what can get a 3.0 GPA student with high emotional intelligence a job while a 4.0 narcissist has to log back onto Glassdoor. Being a good person (or at the very least, someone who knows how to adapt to their surroundings) can make you a lot more valuable both in and out of school. Most professions require some level of group work or socializing – so does life, btw – so the more time you spend boosting that part of your internal resume, the better.
III. There comes a time when nobody gives a shit about your GPA
I’ve been speaking to quite a few people at work and a lot of them have had several jobs both in- and outside of advertising. Do you know what they’ve all told me? People stop asking about your GPA! Personally, no one has asked me about my GPA to begin with. They’ve asked about my skills, and what I’ve learned through school and internships (and life). That’s what got me the job. I had to prove that I could take everything that’s been thrown at me both academically and socially and use them to solve problems in the advertising world. (Okay fine, as an entry-level employee, I had to show that I at least have the potential to do that.)
This is not me saying that people should lounge around all day long doing absolutely nothing, but it is me encouraging my dear students to find other ways to create a stand-out resume. Start participating in extracurriculars that are the most productive FOR YOU. For example, if you’re a(n aspiring) photographer, study enough for your stats exam to pass and then spend the rest of your time creating an online portfolio or taking pictures of your friends. If your true love is social media, offer to handle social for a campus org or just curate the best damn Twitter feed/Instagram page you possible can. Experience can show up in all sorts of ways and it’s up to you you to prove that you’re gaining it.
I hope that we can change the way we define a quality education and overall intelligence sooner rather than later. Different people flourish in different ways and should be given the space and respect to do so. But, until things change, I will continue to offer unsolicited advice on how to bend the system to your will.
Go forth and prosper!