Forks in the Road of Grades and GPAs

The acronym “”GPA”” is so trite, yet so intertwined in our lives as college students. Upon arriving at UCSD, a place most of us worked so hard to get to, one might ask if we should continue our Protestant work ethic or decide to continue our education alternatively.

James Pascual

It is widely thought that the best lessons learned in college happen outside the classroom. It is also well-known that in order to get into an affordable graduate school, GPA is half the battle and therefore extremely important to potential grad students. On the whole at UCSD, there seem to be three different routes taken by students with respect to GPA: The “”C equals degree”” route, the graduate school route and one nestled between the two.

Many students I have encountered at UCSD have chosen to go the “”C equals degree”” route and therefore don’t stress excessively about squeezing every drop out of their GPA capability. In all honesty, UCSD is a hard school, and there are some classes where C’s are hard to get. On the whole, however, I have found C’s require little work or class attendance. I mean, if you’re drinking three to four nights a week and smoking large amounts of marijuana, I could see where one could justify this route. Otherwise, it seems very slackerish to take your parents’ money — let’s be honest, that’s most of us — and turn right back and around and say “”screw you”” to them.

It is easy to mask the “”C equals degree”” route with such a negative connotation because our society puts such a large emphasis on “”being all you can be.”” In many ways, this slackerish route has positive effects. If more people subscribe to this way of thinking, the number of people considering suicide during finals week will surely decrease. Let’s not pretend we haven’t met people at this school that have expressed such scary ideas. I’m sure all of us know at least one person who we feared actually meant what he said.

The “”C equals degree”” route also can be analyzed more abstractly. In a way, it is flipping off society in general, as well as the intellectual elitist establishment. If a large number of UCSD students began to take less interest in their GPA, the results would shed negative light on UCSD because our graduate school acceptance rate would be much lower. Statistics like these are often used to show the caliber of major universities such as UCSD. It should be kept in mind that the “”C equals degree”” route is riding dangerously close to the academic probation border, and for all you practicing slackers, you might want to sneak a few B’s in there.

The graduate school route is the other prominent route taken. Everyone planning to continue education after college realizes the importance GPA plays in their acceptance to graduate school. Since I am a student at Revelle college, the majority of my peers, whether they are liberal arts or science majors, are not ending their education at UCSD.

For Revelle at least, it seems that most students are merely beginning at UCSD because of the high number of pre-med we have. UCSD as a whole has a disproportionately high number of future graduate students.

With this huge stress added to what most of us give ourselves, the looming expectations of graduate schools can often be overwhelming to students. Why does it seem like everyone at UCSD is cracked out during finals week? The matter on our minds is not just “”I have to pass this class.”” It’s not just “”I have to get a B.”” It’s “”If I want to get into a cheap graduate school, I need an A in this class and a recommendation from the professor.””

I would be willing to bet money the climbing rate of UCSD students with graduate school aspirations is parallel to the growing number of coffee carts on campus. It seems as if our peers are constantly a little wired or drug affected. All those late-night study sessions for the MCAT, LSAT and GRE create a market for the new Peabodys’ to wake us up before our 8 a.m. classes. And why do you think the General Store insists on its right to sell cigarettes on campus? Because it has the monopoly on supply over an endless demand.

Being surrounded by constantly stressed peers makes me want to find a happy medium in the jungle that the GPA hubbub creates. I’ve found that the easiest way to relax is to obtain perspective. How important are those last 50 pages of my poli sci reader to my education as a whole? Will I understand the material so much that it will actually change my life dramatically in the future?

Lately I have been able to answer these questions easily with a “”not very”” and a “”no.”” As a student with hopes for law school or graduate school in political science, I try not to increase my stress level too much. I am still deciding how I will do this.

Not to be cocky, but I feel like I pretty much have college down. Last quarter I had 11 papers to write. No, I didn’t get perfect grades on all of them, but I wrote them. The key is not to freak out. Do your work. The GPA will come.

And for a cute little anecdote to end this, the hopeless attempt of a second-year student to give student population advice on one of the most important things in its lives right now: relax. Hey, if you feel like you’re ready for that final, go to the kegger the night before. Have a few beers. Wake up drunk, have a mocha, take your freakin’ final and chill out. I did it fall quarter and everything came out cool. And it’s a nice story to tell your grandkids.