An engineer’s take: There is so much more to college than GPA

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An engineer’s take: There is so much more to college than GPA

By Bercham Kamber, Managing Editor for Visuals

Coming to this University will test you in so many aspects. You will face physical tests in the form of hourly exams and sometimes three-hour finals. You’ll face mental tests in finding your social group, keeping yourself healthy and about 30 other emotional hurdles.

Maintaining your own health and happiness is a vital part of the college process, but it can be hard to take them seriously when they aren’t defined by a number, unlike GPA.

GPA is seen as the looming and impeding seal of approval or denial for so many of us college students. Some will say GPA is the single common denominator to establish rank among students in a particular major, but most will say it shouldn’t be the only factor that employers and graduate schools look at.

But either way you look at it, college GPA is the single part of a student’s college career that is concrete and non-disputable. It is a plain number. It can be intimidating.

I will not preach GPA is unimportant or useless. I will not play the role of “I’m a senior and I’ve done well in college so far, therefore I might mislead how difficult my three years have been.” I will never sugarcoat how incredibly hard I had to work for my GPA in engineering. Instead, I would like to impart a few wise words from my mom (a UI Mechanical Engineering alum): Work hard now so you can relax later.

While this proverb is applicable to all parts in life, I think it especially applies to the way college is structured. Freshman and sophomore years are designed to test students; they usually require students to attend office hours, to form consistent study groups and to force them to find a school/work/life balance. But by the time students enter their junior year, these obstacles become manageable and oftentimes students of most majors can begin to enjoy the campus culture outside of academics.

School eventually becomes rather formulaic; 20-year-old students of this University’s caliber has hopefully learned the expectations of their professors and chosen field of study. Studying eventually becomes a well-versed part of everyday life and group work boils to a science. And as their overall GPAs solidifies, students can become confident in the gradual fluctuations between semesters.

Do not expect to come into this University with the hopes of instantly having fun and maintaining your academic hopes. Balancing work and play is not easy for anybody; the best of us will sometimes crumble into an inevitable mental breakdown. There will be sleepless nights and seemingly insurmountable stress. But these stressful events build character. They prepare students for the very real, very crippling stresses of the workplace.

Throughout all the ups and downs of your time in college, remember that your mental health and wellbeing is absolutely the most important part of these four years, regardless of the infamous cultures perpetuated in STEM majors.

I can absolutely say from my personal experience that GPA is not the most important factor when looking for internships and jobs (not that it’s unimportant entirely). I have close friends who found immense success in job opportunities with average GPAs but well-rounded characteristics and charisma. I also have friends who struggled to find work when their resumes showed nearly flawless GPAs with little to no personality in extracurricular interest.

You will probably forget your exact GPA in 10 years when you’re visiting campus at a reunion. But you will not forget the times you enjoyed sitting on the Main Quad or the laughs you shared with your friends at your favorite campus hangout. And, more likely than not, these memories will come from your last two years when you figured out college and took advantage of the time you had left. Take your first few years seriously. It’ll make your last few years so incredibly worth it.

Bercham is a senior in Engineering.

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