You’re off to college this fall-and you’re excited. It’s a new world and if you’re living on campus you’ll probably be on your own for the first time. You’ve decorated your room, bought all the (really expensive) textbooks and a new flash drive or two. You’re ready to go.
But it won’t take long for work to build up and assignments to accumulate. The college grind will begin. There are exams and papers to write. There are group projects to organize and lots of reading to do.
That, honestly, is a lot of work.
On the other side, competing for your time, energy and attention are all the fun things about college life–friends, parties, ball games, movies, coffee-shops, and just hanging out.
Before long, you’ll realize that making good grades in college won’t happen automatically. Even if you were a great student in high school, you’ll find that college is at a different level. Much more will be expected from you in each class.
There won’t be automatic A’s. And you won’t be able to charm or bluff your way to a good grade. This is a whole new ball game.
Sooner or later, you may start to wonder: Is it really worth the effort to make good grades? Wouldn’t a ‘B’ really be as good as an ‘A?’ Or, would a few ‘C’s’ really be all that bad? After all, making those good grades looks more and more like work as the semester moves along.
It’s common to wonder if all that work is really worth it.
Honestly, it is. Here’s why.
I’ve taught college skills to thousands of students, and I often use this example in workshops to illustrate why good grades are really important.
Imagine that you knock on a door that you’d really like to enter. Imagine that it’s a nice door, an impressive, important door. Maybe it’s even the door to your future.
Then imagine that someone opens the door, looks at you, and slams the door in your face.
Not a pleasant thought, is it? People don’t like to have doors slammed in their faces.
But that’s exactly what can happen to you with mediocre grades in college. You may find that you’ve severely limited your options by settling for ‘C’s or even ‘B’s.
Here’s an example-one of many similar ones-from my years working with college students at Georgia State University.
Chris was an excellent student. His goal, which was clear to him, was to be a history teacher. He liked history and was moving steadily toward a history major.
But suddenly, in his junior year, Chris decided that he wanted to go to medical school. This was a big change.
If you know anything about applying to med schools, you know that good grades are absolutely vital. There is so much competition for the available slots that applicants with mediocre grades don’t stand a chance
Fortunately for Chris, he’d made good grades during his first two years of college, so he was in good shape when he decided to apply to very competitive medical schools.
Now, here’s the point, and it’s an important one. When Chris headed off to college, no one (including Chris) had ANY idea that medical school would be in his future. But it was, and now he’s a doctor.
Just think what might have happened had his grades been poor, or even average. He likely would not have been admitted to ANY medical school.
His new goal of becoming a doctor would not have been reachable.
Grades are that important.
The take-away point here is that good grades will keep your options open. Poor grades will slam doors in your face.
What the Statistics Show
Chris was not alone in changing his major in college. In fact, by some studies, he was in the majority.
Most recent studies of college students shows that over half change majors during their college years. Some change more than once. You certainly have friends or family members who have radically shifted their goals once they got to college and started exploring options, don’t you?
Since about half the students in college will change majors, and thus their life’s goals, you, too, are quite likely to end up in a very different field from where you thought you’d be.
And, it might be a field with a high bar for entry. We know several young lawyers who had no idea that they’d want to go to law school when they headed for college. You probably do, too.
Fortunately, their grades were good enough to help them with law-school admission, and not hold them back. (Or slam the law school door in their faces!)
We know another student who decided during her junior year that she really wanted to go to veterinary school after college. But her freshman and sophomore year grades had not been good, and vet schools are very, very competitive. She didn’t get in and had to give up on her new goal.
She was very disappointed. This student was easily smart enough to have made excellent grades in college, but it just hadn’t seemed important to her at the time.
As you start college, it’s important to realize that chances are at least fifty-fifty that you’ll change your plans, your goals, and your interests. Since there is no way you can know at the beginning where the road will lead you, don’t let poor grades close important doors in your future.
Even if those doors are now hidden to you.
Other Reasons Good Grades Are Important To You
We think that keeping your future options open may be the best reason to work hard to keep your grades up in college. But there are other important reasons, too.
* First, and most basic, if your grades are poor you won’t be allowed to continue in college. At the most basic level, keeping your grades up keeps you in school. Poor grades get you kicked out.
This is very different from high school. In college, poor grades will lead directly to academic warning, probation, and suspension. Any of these situations would be very bad for your
* If you are getting a scholarship, you probably have to maintain a certain GPA for it to continue. Here in Georgia, the state-sponsored HOPE scholarship is very important for thousands of students, but every year many students lose the funding because their grades have dropped. Virtually all scholarships have criteria for renewal, and good grades are usually an important requirement.
* Good grades may also qualify you for advanced honors classes which offer several important benefits. First, the best professors often teach these preferred classes. Second, you’ll be with other motivated students and the class atmosphere may be more energetic and interesting. You’ll make new friends among the best students on campus.
And honors classes will look good on your resume.
* Good grades will probably also put you on the Dean’s List and qualify you for other honors. You may be invited to join national collegiate honor societies, such as Phi Beta Kappa, which recognize the hard work required for a high GPA–and you will enjoy the recognition. (Of course, these honors really stand out on your resume.)
* Good grades will clearly show future employers that you were able to complete assignments at a high level. While it may be true that interviewers don’t really care how much you know about geography or medieval history, they know that good grades show important things about your character. They know that good grades show that you can complete long and complex assignments.
If you are concerned about making good grades, take advantage of smart-study techniques that will help you save time, learn more, and work efficiently. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel; there are study experts ready to lend a hand. You’ll probably find excellent tips on improving your study skills on your campus at workshops and seminars. There are also lots of excellent books, ebooks, and DVDs that will help you study smarter. You will benefit from what study experts can teach you.
So, before you start the grind, use the wisdom of others and tune up your study skills so you’ll learn more efficiently. It really will make a huge difference and can help you reach that high GPA.
It’s True-Good Grades May Hold the Key to Your Future
College offers boundless opportunities and many challenges. Some classes will be hard, some will be boring. And there is always the option to stay out late with your friends, sleep in, and slide through a class with minimal effort.
But, it will really help you stay focused on your goal-whatever it is, and wherever it may take you-if you think about good grades as the key to your future.
They are the keys that may unlock doors that might otherwise be closed to you. Or even slammed in your face.