Good grades may be better that all A’s. Don’t get me wrong, getting straight A’s in college is a very honorable endeavor. It requires a considerable amount of time, dedication, sacrifice, and organization. However, getting straight A’s isn’t necessary for the majority of students. And it’s not because they are not capable. It’s because it may do more harm than good.
I graduated college very quickly and efficiently without any debt. I received my AS Degree in Business Administration at 17, earned my BS in Business Entrepreneurship at 19, and my MBA in Entrepreneurship and Global Business at 20. While working on my master’s degree, I worked 60+ hours a week for a fortune 500 company, opening one of their $500 million properties. I finished my MBA a semester early.
By 21 I was promoted within the same company to a management position. I was a very good student, I got good grades, but I wasn’t a straight-A student. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t always trying my hardest, I did. I worked and took full semester loads and went to school year-round. My focus was on getting in and out of college as quickly as possible. Without any student loans so I could get into the workforce and begin my career and life. I was putting a lot on myself as a student already, I didn’t need the additional pressure of trying to maintain straight A’s.
The Real Danger Of Getting Straight A’s
I want you to focus on getting good grades not straight A’s. There is a real danger of putting too much pressure on trying to get straight A’s in college. Many students want to be the best students they can be, and it often comes at a cost. The desire to perform well can put an immense amount of pressure on a student. Being under such intense pressure can have serious consequences.
Trying To Maintain Straight A’s Causes A Lot Of Stress
When the pressure becomes chronic it can lead to a host of issues. The number one issue is stress. Stress is the body’s way of responding to anxiety and pressure. Some students may be more vulnerable to the effects of stress on the body and more susceptible to complications from it. Stress can affect the body in several different ways, physically, mentally, and behaviorally. Chronic stress has major impacts on the body and can trigger several reactions and complications.
Many students experience burnout. Burnout is a result of chronic stress. At first, a student may do well, and can earn straight A’s, but as each semester and year passes that momentum may slow and fade. It is often difficult to find the time to recharge to take on the next semester when a student is trying to maintain a 4.0. Eventually, that takes a toll and things begin to deteriorate. The stress can move into anxiety-causing motivation to decline. As a student’s academic career continues, they will feel the undertaking of earning A’s will become harder and harder and take longer and more dedication. They will begin to feel like a failure because they can’t maintain what they once were able to.
Trying To Get Straight A’s Can Cause Depression
Anxiety and depression are the top reasons college students seek mental health counseling. Research shows that 1 in 5 college students are affected by anxiety or depression. Adding academic demands of straight A’s can create levels of stress that become problematic and can lead to more serious conditions. When a student is depressed, there is a feeling of isolation. Isolation or loneliness along with a loss of motivation can lead to physical and mental health issues.
The physical stress on the body can appear when it becomes too much. Symptoms can be, heaviness in your chest, increased heart rate, or chest pain. Headaches, shoulder, neck, or back pain are common. Grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw. Being under chronic stress can cause ulcers. I knew many classmates who had ulcers from being under so much stress. This can cause many gastrointestinal problems.
High levels of stress can often lead to insomnia and other sleep issues. Not getting enough sleep can cause difficulty concentrating and learning. Insufficient sleep can then lead to further stress. Physical stress can become a cycle that is difficult to break.
Students who put the expectation of straight A’s on themselves have an increased likelihood of cheating. When the focus is on achievement rather than learning a student becomes more likely to cheat. The pressure to perform will outweigh the pressure to learn the course material, the focus is solely on the grade.
When students push themselves to excel, they can damage their self-esteem in the process. Self-esteem is directly correlated to anxiety and depression. These significantly affect the way we view ourselves and form our identities. If a student cannot live up to the pressure of getting straight A’s it may cause them to feel like they’re not good enough. When you feel inadequate or unimportant you can shift into a self-defeating cycle that can habituate your doubts and be very hard to break free from.
For some students who are stressed and have a lot of academic pressure, alcohol use may become a way of coping. Students frequently use alcohol as a stress reliever. For those students who do get relief when they drink their drinking may increase as their stressful situations arise. This may lead to the development of alcohol problems.
Does Getting Straight A’s Really Matter
Honestly, grades really don’t matter when you are applying for a job. Currently, I am a manager at a Fortune 500 company. I’ve seen a lot of resumes and hired a lot of people and I have never asked a potential employee what their GPA or grades were—not once. I’ve never even asked if they had good grades. I have no clue if the people I’ve hired were straight C students or straight A students. Grades are just not discussed in job interviews.
I wasn’t asked about my GPA or grades when I was hired. If you think about it, do you know what your doctor or dentist’s GPA is? How about the nurse that treated you or the professor that taught you? Was the nurse a straight-A student or a C student? Was your professor a 4.0 student? You have no idea if they had good grades or not. The truth is when you become a professional, there are so many other factors that are more important for an employer to consider than what your grades were. Personally, I look at skills gained through the degree and work experience and their willingness to learn, that’s what most employers consider.
Instead of focusing on earning straight A’s, I want you to shift your focus to using your time and money efficiently. Go to college the, Your College Sensei way. This means you are going to get in and get out quickly, Through In Two or Finish In Four. Many straight-A students take a lighter semester load so they can earn an A. They focus on the grade and not their two most valuable resources, time and money. Do not drag out your semesters to get straight A’s. Good grades are sufficient.
I want you to take a full semester load each semester. Make peace and accept that you may get a B or a C. With this acceptance, there will be a reduction in pressure and stress. Less stress will also allow you to fit another class into your schedule. Whether it be in the fall, spring, summer, or winter sessions. This will keep you on track to graduate on time or even early.
I also want you to get a job and work. It will be tricky when you are taking a full semester load and going to school year-round (taking classes in summer and winter), trust me I’ve been there. However, there are many online and work-from-home jobs for college students. Many 4.0 students don’t work because they simply don’t have the time to fit it into their schedule. There are two reasons why I want you to replace the study time that it would take to earn straight A’s with a job.
Get A Job Instead Of Getting Straight A’s
First, the goal is to not only graduate quickly but without student debt. Having a job will create cash flow. I encourage you to work for a business that pays for college through tuition reimbursement. Secondly, I want you to get a job because that is how you’re going to gain work experience. Work experience is vitally important to getting a job once you’ve graduated with your degree because this will give you an edge over other graduates. As I mentioned above, when I interview and consider hiring a potential employee, I am not looking for a graduate who has a degree with a 4.0 GPA. I am more interested in the graduate who has the degree and work experience.
I will hire the candidate with the work experience over the candidate with the 4.0 almost every time. Employers prefer candidates with work experience, we want skills not necessarily straight A’s. My work experience and my willingness to learn was the only reason I was hired as a manager at such a young age. There were many other MBA candidates to choose from. It wasn’t just about the degree; it was my work experience which I had gained while I was attending college that landed me a management position.
Let’s look at my college transcripts. Below is every single class I’ve taken to earn my bachelor’s degree. As you can see, sometimes I made the Dean’s Honors List other times I didn’t. If I’m honest it really didn’t make a difference to me. What was important and what I focused on when I was earning my BS was to graduate quickly, with no debt, and earn good enough grades to get into graduate school.
I took a total of 43 classes. I received 27 A’s, 13 B’s, and 3 C’s. Every semester I was able to keep a 3.0 or higher. I did what was needed to transfer to CSUS and get accepted into the business program. My cumulative GPA was 3.516 and my CSUS GPA was 3.278. That was all that was necessary to get accepted into the MBA program. It is worth mentioning since I had developed such good relationships with some of my professors, I know for certain one of them recommended me for the MBA program which could have given me an edge over other candidates.
You Will Survive A Few C’s
Clearly, you can see that straight A’s are not necessary to accomplish your academic goals. In my very first semester at CSUS, there was one class that I knew I was going to have a very hard time earning a good grade in, FIN 101, Business Finance. I read on RateMyProfessor, that the professor was not good, he never gave A’s and rarely B’s. Most reviews recommended not to take the class taught by him and take it with someone else. This wasn’t an option for me as I had planned out my academic plan and I needed to take the class that semester or it would have thrown the rest of my classes off.
I earned a C. It was my very first C, but it was okay because I had prepared for it and expected it. By the way, during the first week of class, the professor told us, “I have tenure so you can’t get rid of me”. He was condescending and arrogant, but also correct. There was nothing I could do other than accept that I was going to get a lower grade and adjust my other classes to make up for it.
The Big Picture
In closing, college is stressful and challenging. Trying to balance school, work, relationships, family and other activities can be difficult. The last thing you want to put on yourself is additional pressure. The majority of students do not and should not put the stress of trying to earn straight A’s on themselves. It’s simply not necessary. Most of us go to college to earn a degree so we can get a good job, and support ourselves, our families, and the lifestyle we want. You will be able to do that without having straight A’s. Moreover, if you shift the focus and the energy from straight A’s to getting through college quickly and without debt, you will graduate ready to jump into your career without crushing student debt.
Finally, I don’t want to end this article without stressing that I am not implying that a student should squeak by with C’s. While we’ve all heard the saying, C’s Get Degrees, however, it’s not that simple. What I am asking you is to shoot for the best grade possible for that specific class. If it results in an A—great, if it is a C that’s okay too. There’s always room to adjust and make up for it.