Should You Risk a Lower GPA For More Outside Activities?

by Judge Josh on July 12, 2010

Meg

Hey there Josh,

I’m here to fret about my GPA (shocking, yes?)

No! :)

I’m about to begin my third year in college and I’ve maintained a pretty decent GPA. After three semesters, I was carried a 3.9.

Agreed, that is exceedingly decent.

In my fourth semester however, my school work became slightly less of a priority because of my growing interest in extracurriculars. I ended my semester with a 3.11 dropping my cumulative to 3.67. My goal is to graduate with a 3.75. In order to graduate with that, I have to keep up a 3.88 average for the next 4 semesters (roughly).

Meg has more plates in the air than this dude.

OK. Time for my standard GPA disclaimer here. Unless you’re going to grad school, there’s little reason to worry about your GPA. It’s going to be a rare occasion that any employer gives a damn about your GPA, or even looks at it, for that matter. GPA tells us how well you take tests and write papers, and little more. It doesn’t shine any great light on how you’ll do at a particular job, and therefore we (employers) don’t care much about it.

(If you look hard enough, you will find articles that contradict this point of view — written almost exclusively by people who have never hired anyone in their lives, and certainly not with their own money. So, here and elsewhere, always consider the source.)

The thing is, I’m interested in taking a risk and exploring new terrain. Currently, I’m a communication major with an emphasis is journalism. I will definitely continue to pursue journalism, but I’m thinking of picking up a studio art minor. Basically, for fun.

Nothing wrong with that at all. More people should do it — that is, using their time in college to learn something that brings them personal satisfaction.

Before college I was actively involved with art. I even took home a few blue ribbons from local art shows. I had always assumed I would never be creative enough to actually study it, though. After much thought, I’ve convinced myself to throw caution to the wind and enroll in a 100 level art class. I’m concerned because, from what I’ve heard, the art professors at my school rarely give out As. Should I risk my GPA for something that will basically reap no benefits?


Well, I wouldn’t say “no benefits” because obviously it’s something that’s meaningful to you, and that’s a very strong benefit. If you mean that it won’t help you get a journalism job, then that may be true; however, taking a hit of like .1 on your overall GPA will not stop you from getting a job in journalism, either. So it’s a wash in that sense, and I vote to do what makes you happy.

Note: Including this class, I will be registered in 17 credit hours. Also, I will have four campus jobs. I will be writing weekly features articles for the newspaper, completing semester long writing assignments for a travel magazine, DJing two hours a week at the radio station, and directing the TV news station. I’m an active member of a co-ed service fraternity and I joined an honors society for Freshman and Sophomores (even though I’m not so sure how prevalent it is on my college’s campus). Finally, I plan on joining the Communication honors organization and the Society of Professional Journalists this coming semester.

So, you’re a slacker then. Kidding, obviously — that’s a whole lotta stuff.

I really want to graduate Cum Laude. Should I Just forget about that and let my extracurriculars do the talking when the time comes?

Well, don’t forget about it — try to make the GPA you want. You might be able to pull it off, so don’t mail it in just yet if it’s something you’d really like to have. But again, your GPA is going to mean almost nothing to anyone except you, so if you don’t make the GPA you’re after, then it’s no big deal professionally. If you can get over it — well, everyone else already is.

Your four jobs are all great resume entries, by the way, and you should come out with a resume that’s better than 90% of your fellow graduates. If you get snowed under, my advice is to drop the service fraternity and honor society stuff to free up time. They’re the least impressive of the things you mentioned (although I’m guessing the honor societies don’t take up much time).

Overall, this isn’t a hard question for me — I definitely say go for it with the art if it’s something you like to do. Besides that, even, you never know — art may end up being your primary career, or at the very least something you do on the side to supplement your career in journalism, which is a tougher gig right now than it’s ever been due to disruptive technology, market conditions, and a host of other reasons that could fill a few separate blog entries.

So yeah, go for it with the art minor and the 17 jobs, and let us know how it goes!!

That’s all for today. Got any advice for Meg? Let us know in the comments below.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

pam g July 12, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Take an art class that is not associated with the university. It would be cheaper and you wouldn’t have to worry about getting a grade. Taking art in college seems like a waste of money if it’s not going to be your life’s work.

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D. Williams July 12, 2010 at 5:15 pm

I agree with Josh. Try an art class or two to see if you really enjoy the art minor. Having a minor in something you enjoy is a eye opener because you might use the experience you learned from that and you major for your future career. I was in the same boat as you with considering a minor (or two), now after I had taken some classes in both of mine I’m very pleased now.

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Ryan July 12, 2010 at 5:36 pm

She should maybe reduce her time in organizations and put a little more into school….then she will be fine

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Kaikea Blakemore July 12, 2010 at 5:45 pm

You could just audit the classes.

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Le Corbusier July 12, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Whatever her problems, I don’t think they are problems!

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M July 12, 2010 at 6:12 pm

If you think you’re even remotely interested in grad school in the near or distant future, go for the highest gpa you can get without sacrificing all the extracurriculars (find a happy medium). Also, try to stick to the things that are most in line with what you want to do with your degree. Someone who’s all over the place in terms of interest is generally a lot less interesting to grad schools and employers alike.

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Ester Kandova July 12, 2010 at 6:24 pm

I have to agree with Le Corbusier, “whatever her problems, I don’t think they are problems!” She has a lot going for her and that makes the GPA not sooo important because clearly she is a hard worker and wants to learn and give it her all. I think she should take art because she is very enthuisiastic about it, afterall she wrote in for advice. She could audit it, that’s true, or she can take it another college and it won’t be counted in to her GPA–problem with that is, well you end up getting an A :) which happened with a science class I was doing. I’m science oriented so I was doing lots of things like her the side and my advice is, go ahead. Take what interests you because college is suppose to be that time too. Good luck.

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Leeja July 12, 2010 at 6:44 pm

I have to say that there’s one thing that I don’t 100% agree with Josh on. There are some geographical areas, and some professions, where your GPA will matter to employers. For example, I live in a college town and I’m an accounting major, so I’m eyeing every ad I can find to keep up with what local employers are asking for. I’ve seen several ads recently, placed by different companies (NOT even CPA firms), who require a 3.9 GPA to apply. This university isn’t renowned for their accounting program, so it’s not like there are a thousand kids here who just graduated and are competing for these jobs.
I’m 37 years old, work full time, and I have a 3.89 GPA (2 B’s out of 81 credit hours completed), but I also have 19 years of accounting experience. So, I look at it this way, so what if I don’t have a 3.9 or better? If you’re that snobby about GPA, do I really want to work for you anyway? If you’re snobby about GPA, then you’re probably snobby about “the right school”, “the right upbringing”, and even the right car, clothes, house, spouse, pet, etc. Frankly, I lived 15 years with someone who was all about appearances, and I can tell you that all a good appearance does is hide the duck’s feet that are peddling furiously under the surface.
So, with that said, here’s my advice: college is supposed to be whatever you set out for it to be. Even more than learning a trade, it’s a journey of self-discovery. If doing art makes you happy, start out with the local senior center, volunteer at a local school, or find an art center to start with. If you still have the fever, and the time, after a semester, then I say go for it! You’ll be out much less money, and you’ll get to learn more about the community and the profession.

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Josh July 12, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Meg, with the profession that you are in, I can assure you that they will NEVER look at your gpa. Don’t even bother putting it on your resume. I also go to a communication school, and these are the kinds of schools you go to because of the people you meet and the experiences you do. If you went to an accounting or business school, then sure, your gpa is key, I assume you want to go into journalism working at an affiliate or national level station? What do you think abc, nbc and cbs look for; kids who got an a+ on their research writing paper or a kid that is hitting the streets every week covering politics, sports and fires? Its all about how hard you work, what experience you have and most importantly, the connections you make at the co-cirriculars like your news station. I hold just above a 3.0 and am a semester from graduating, and have sacrificed some of my “classic” academics to cover national and global events that many journalist may not cover for another decade. Take every experience that looks good on your resume and will build your skills.

On your art class, take whatever keeps you from going crazy. Most of my friends have stress, anxiety and even heart problems because they work themselves into the ground rather than simple do class and get wasted every night. I personally avoided classes that would hold me back or just add unneccsary work, especialy because each class is so so expensive, but if an art minor will round you out and keep you relaxed, then go for it.

Good luck!

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Kristi July 12, 2010 at 8:21 pm

1. Minors mean absolutely nothing! So if you have a love for art take a class or two but do not stress with getting a minor.
2. Keep up with goals! You want to graduate with a high GPA and you want to graduate with Cum Laude so keep with that goal.
3. Explore your options.

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Dakota July 12, 2010 at 9:09 pm

I agree with Josh on most of his advice but I do want to point out that some companies do look at your grades and GPA. It depends on what types of jobs you will be looking for in the future. I just graduated from college and applied to my “first” job (after graduating from college, in which I received a call for an interview–thank you Jesus!!) anyway they asked me to submit my transcript. I have a GPA of 3.81 (I only got 2 B’s) and I think that did help me get a call back. So If I where you I would take the Art Class at another school, like a community college so that it wont “mess up” your GPA.

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Jenifer Burney July 12, 2010 at 9:25 pm

Your GPA is important to an extent. But it’s in those outside activities that you really learn and grow as a person. And if you have to have a job, you have to. After you graduate, unless you’re going to grad school or med school, it really will not matter what your GPA was. It will matter what you were a part of though.

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Kristin Saplala July 13, 2010 at 1:00 am

I think she should balance her workload… What if she catches the flu and is bedridden for a week? It’ll be hell going back to 17 jobs.

Agree with Josh on dropping the fraternity thing.. ‘mehh’ on the honor society..

In the real world, no employer gives a crap about these groupies.

She’s like an energizer bunny of skills. Lets hope she keeps her GPA at 3.88 without losing her sanity 😉

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Ana July 13, 2010 at 1:09 pm

GPA is not always that important, therefore I would say go for it!

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Melli July 13, 2010 at 5:01 pm

One of my wise professors told me that, “Any idiot can walk out of a college with a great GPA. However, it is YOUR responsibility that you get a good education.” I say that means taking those classes that are tough where you work your butt off just for a B. I have audited several classes because I had too many hours and couldn’t afford the extra fees to overload. But I will say this, art classes(at least in my experience) tend to be three hours a week in class and at least 10 more hours of studio time. I am a theatre student and 75% of my work was done on “my” time. You need to make allowances for that when you decide to take on an art minor. Professors seldom understand why you had to stay up until 2,3 or 4 o’clock in the morning getting a project done. Total props for being so ambitious and already having such a great work ethic, it took me several years to develop my own.

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Alexis July 14, 2010 at 8:31 am

Meg,
I believe you should enjoy life while you can because you never know when it can be taken away. You are so lucky going to a school to get a great education. Sometimes we overlook all of our luxuries in life. I found that there are some places where kids want to go to school but because their classroom is over crowded, they have to have 2 to 3 kids per seat. In my opinion i think you should follow your heart and do what you want to do. In college you are trying to find your self.If you find that art is your passion than go with it.

on another note, having four jobs is a little much. I am sure you can compromise. You should cut back on your amount of jobs and take an art class. I play volleyball and i would never give that up for the world. I have a passion for it and it is a good way for me to release some steam.

I wish you the best of luck!!!!!

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J July 14, 2010 at 1:19 pm

1. If you are asking Josh about your GPA, I assume it’s rather important to you. NOTHING AT ALL wrong with that, but if you are writing to someone who obviously doesn’t think it’s very important, I think you’re asking advice from the wrong person (no offense, Josh. Your advice is very practical but sometimes people care about GPA on a more inherent level than just “will it be good for me professionally.”)

2. Ask yourself: In a year, will I have more regrets about giving up my chance to graduate cum laude, or about some art classes I may or may not end up liking? I think if you know with some certainty that you could have achieved a tangible goal, like cum laude, but you gave it up, it’s going to feel really, REALLY tragic later down the road (I speak from personal experience). Grades, although they are far from a perfect measure of academic achievement, are what you have. Not that everyone can get an A, but would you settle for a B- when you know under different circumstances, it was totally within your ability to learn enough to get a B+? That just feels crappy, and you are shortchanging yourself.

3. I’m not a huge fan of taking art classes for fun. Like, really, how do you “grade” art?! Any chance you could take the art classes pass/fail? I agree with the person up there who asked why, if it’s just for fun, are you committing yourself to a minor?

4. Total BS that nobody cares about GPA. It’s the easiest way for employers and grad schools to screen people out. These days, tons of people have extracurriculars, and if anything, maintaining a high GPA amongst great extracurriculars is a way to stand out. If you are going into journalism, it’s probably a good signal to send to your future employers that, in addition to being out on the street covering stories, that you can write the stories with a deeper analytical ability and correct grammar, for example. Plus it shows that you just TRIED – nobody likes a slacker, and nobody likes to admit they had to compromise. Everyone wants everyone else to be superhuman these days, no joke. It’s a tough world/job market out there. You have a ton of extracurriculars, you could even cut back to “focus” on some things. The art thing will do you NO good and that sounds like a hobby you could pick up AFTER graduation.

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Jane July 19, 2010 at 1:50 pm

I suggest trying it out before committing to a minor. Also, if your GPA is super important to you (it is to me too), I suggest finding out if there is an art club on campus. Also, you should think about the type of art. Doing work in photo journalism or photography could really enhance your resume for journalism because it demonstrates an understanding of the different kinds of journalism and how they work together. You could even do a multi-part article exploring the differences between the two types of journalism and use the piece in your portfolio. If you could find a way to integrate your art (of any kind) with your journalism, you could make yourself stand out and maybe even change the industry.

I’m not trying to turn your fun into work, but I’m trying to show that you could use what you do for fun in your carrier. I say you should do the art, but if the GPA is really important, then don’t do it in a way that could hurt you. Good luck, and have fun.

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