Question: Dear Ernest, I'm entering a new term and still feel frustrated with my freshman year GPA. I have been trying very hard to make it go up, but I feel as though my current classes are keeping me away from doing so. I'm not failing, but I don't feel as exceptional as I did in high school. What should I do at this point?
Response: First off, take a deep breath and stop stressing yourself out. Remember that a grade point average is only a number, not a jury verdict. Take in consideration that having a 4.0 doesn't guarantee every college applicant admission into the school of their choice just as much as it will not grant you the career of your dreams. It's a nice step, but it should not be the only thing attributing to your potential.
Don't fall for the trap known as the College GPA Myth. It suggests that everyone must be just as academically competitive as their fellow peer sitting next to them. It's a concept that feeds into the ideology that everyone must strive to ace every exam because there is going to be a gold star waiting for them like there was in high school.
Newsflash: you are in college now...no one cares except you, your parents, and those very few who read the Dean's List about your high GPA. Unless you are striving to apply into an upper level graduate school program or have a certain minimum GPA requirement to maintain a scholarship or specific internship, obsessing over it does nothing but hinder your real growth.
The truth of the matter is that everyone has their own personal route and you must factor in how much the GPA is going to be relevant to your own career goals. While in college, I had fellow pre-med friends cram all night long for biology exams because they knew they wanted to go to medical school and such rigorous studying required that.
As a journalism interest, I personally invested more time in my internships and skill set rather than spend endless hours studying. This was not to say that I didn't turn in assignments on time or attend class (everyone should be doing this) but I was not going to strive to be a perfectionist as I did in high school.
For in high school, everyone cared extremely about grades because that played a larger role in what college you would attend and how you would be better suited for adulthood. In college, it is a little more complex than that. Grades don't truly determine how far you will go in life when actually applying for a job or internship.
In fact, life gets more compartmentalized when trying to navigate certain positions. For example, if you are applying for a marketing internship with no prior experience with a great GPA...do you think they are going to pick you over the person with more relevant field work and a decent GPA? It's truly common sense: you train for the life you plan to live once you enter college. If you are planning to do research intensive work after graduation, you should start making moves to do similar preparations now.
I say all of this to point out that college students spend more time trying to unify themselves to the same expectations that high school required without appreciating the opportunity to create their own unique standard. No, don't fail your classes or just become complete resume boosters...but do find a balance that allows you to do some studying while also having a real life outside of the books as well.
The most common goal is to strive for an overall GPA of a 3.0 or higher to keep you eligible for general internship opportunities and/or job qualifications. But once again, this is only one factor that shapes your ever expanding persona. Please note that a positive attitude, a remarkable skill set, and a notable passion for your career aspirations will outshine anything that little number can do. Because people are still more interested in letting the work speak for itself, not just the numbers.
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