The big question: Does your GPA really matter?
The little answer:Not really.
That’s the short answer that comes from your final and most authoritative source on grade point averages—me. In most scenarios, your GPA won’t matter too much. This is, of course, assuming that you’re not planning on becoming a Rhodes Scholar or going into Yale Law. Then your GPA does matter. But most scenarios involve an average GPA with decent writing skills and some interview skills. The thing is, in most cases, even if people look at your GPA, they will look at the fact that it’s above 3.0 and never look at it again. Most people in this world realize that you are not your GPA and will want to know you as a person.
Most of the time, people will not even ask you about your GPA. My GPA, to put it nicely, is not as high as it was in high school. Since I’ve acquired this new average, I’ve applied to countless jobs, internships, and organizations, and not a single one has asked for my transcript or GPA. I’ve asked several upperclassmen if this is normal, and they all agree that not many places ask for you GPA. One of them said, “Just be competent. Nobody cares if you have a high GPA or a low GPA. Being competent is much more important than what’s on your transcript.”
So what if they do ask you for you GPA? Give it to them. But make sure you are able to off set it with your other skills. Do things that matter to you. Join an organization on campus. Do some community service. Involve yourself in something that you care about, so it at least looks like there was a reason other than drinking alone in your dorm for your low GPA. Really, it’s all about how you present yourself and what you present yourself as. It’s way more important for you to enjoy your college years and acquire skills like networking, interviewing, and public speaking than to be stuck in the highest floor of your library until it closes at 4AM.
Don’t start throwing away all your books, though, because your GPA can matter if it’s too low. Try to keep it above 3.0. If you can’t, that’s alright, but just remember that having too low of a GPA will get you kicked out. And if anyone ever does ask, at least be over their mental threshold of what’s acceptable. GPA also matters if you’re trying to pursue further education (like law school, med school, grad school, etc.), or if you’re trying to become a Rhodes Scholar. But even with things like that, just find a grad school that fits you. If you have a low GPA, you probably care about things more important than your grades, which leads me to believe that the most pressing thing on your mind is not the arbitrary prestige of your educational institution.
This doesn’t mean you should strive to have horrible grades next semester, obviously. Having good grades can’t hurt you. In high school, I had stellar grades. But that was always just kind of a cool thing, or a fun fact about me. It was never the center of my existence. In college, it certainly was not the best thing about me. What I’m saying is: there are more important things out there than GPAs, and employers generally recognize that. If you don’t believe me, try listening to Laszlo Bock, a Google human resources executive who claims that GPAs are useless in hiring competent people.
So, yeah, if you want to leave your 16th floor carrell for a couple of hours to go to your college radio station newbie meeting, do it. I promise it’s more worth it to do what you want and make college more than just classes and tests. If you want some ideas on what there is to do except study, check out my earlier article on things to do before the end of your freshman year.