Always keep in mind the real reason for coming to college

As we embark upon a new school year, I’d like to step back and give some heart-felt advice. This applies to all UK students, but especially to freshmen as they enter a major transitional period.

Why is it that college success is always measured in terms of one’s GPA? Is it really fair to place the weight of four years on some arbitrary number between zero and four?

Grade pressure has become magnified to an obscene extent over the past decade or so. Parents are the worst, but friends are also bad about getting caught up in competition related to grades.

Grades are important, and they certainly have their place in the college scheme, but ask yourself this question: Why am I here at UK? If your answer is to get a 4.0, then you’re here for the wrong reason.

The real reason we are all here is to learn. Learning is something that got lost in the shuffle along the dark path of grade competition. We are here to learn the necessary skills required for our future careers. And we are also here to learn about ourselves. In fact, you could probably sum up college as one big learning experience. Never forget that.

I had an inflated GPA in high school, and when I got to college, I immediately realized that my high school years did little to prepare me. Why? Because everything in high school was about competition. I was in a constant tug-of-war with our eventual valedictorian over who could take more weighted classes and inflate his GPA. I forgot to actually stop and learn what I was being taught. I absolutely regret that decision.

I’ve met several students here at UK who have opted not to take a more challenging course, which could be beneficial to them. Basically, they want an easier A, so they seek out a class they know they can ace while putting in minimal time. I suppose the reasoning is sound enough. The threat of losing academic status or losing scholarships is dire indeed. However, the knowledge of parental punishment is even worse.

But the long-term benefits of a complete and fulfilling education outweigh the short-term benefits of taking easy classes tenfold. You will be more grateful later in life if you expand your boundaries and challenge yourself while in college. Potential employers will also look at you more favorably.

It’s difficult to think about school in these terms, because most of you have probably been fed the idea that grades are all that matter. But the result is quite undesirable. If you asked one of your classmates in MGT 340 to recall something from MKT 300 last year, he or she probably couldn’t do it. Class has largely become an exercise in pure memorization for an exam. The material is then immediately forgotten, because students feel no need to retain it anymore.

Parents are one thing, but this change ultimately has to start with you, the student. Give yourself a break! One B on an exam is not the end of the world, especially if you are engaged in the material and are actually learning it.

There are probably many of you who had similar high school experiences to mine. Don’t have that same mindset as you enter college. No one would be here if he or she didn’t have talent and the drive necessary to succeed. Think of grades as a secondary objective. I know it’s hard because I’ve been through it. But your college experience will be so much more rewarding as a result.

My best advice is to just be passionate about your studies. It’s a start if you can begin thinking about going to class as something other than a chore. If you can find time, read more about what you’re studying. Ask questions. Get to know your professors. Once you step outside the boundaries of grades, you may even find yourself enjoying what you’re doing. And if you are doing something you enjoy, the grades will come naturally.