The Paradox of College

September 20, 2019

College is this funny thing. On one hand we are here to study, get a degree, and then go out and get a job. So the most important thing for you to do in college is to study and to get good grades, right? For those who are interested in going to graduate school, that is probably the most important thing. But what about those of us who are no longer interested in school and just want to go to the “real world” and work? Well, that seems to be the trickier part.  

College is supposedly the best time of our life, so what should we be doing with this great time? If you go around asking people what the most important thing to do in college is, you will get a variety of answers. Some will say that getting good grades is the most important part. Others will say that you need to make connections. Some might even say that college is the place where you should find your lifelong partner. 

College is also known as the place where people find themselves, figure out who they are and what they want to do. That seems to be important as well, since you can’t really get a degree without choosing what to get that degree in. Other, more chill people, might say that college is a place for you to have fun and truly enjoy the best years of your life. I am sure all our parents hope that college will teach us practical life skills, like doing our own laundry, cooking, paying bills, etc. 

With so many important things to do, where should our priorities lie? Summer just ended, it is the beginning of a new year. Now is the time to tell everyone what you have been busy doing for the past three months. A large part of what people did seems to be internships. Why is everyone so crazy about getting an internship? Well, because everyone needs to have skills that go further than being able to read a textbook or solve a problem. 

If you’ve ever tried to find an internship, you know what that looks like: endless applications, perfecting your resume, long interviews, all that fun stuff. What I always find interesting is the fact that on your resume, the academics section is just two lines. The rest of the space is filled with all your other, non-academic skills, and things you do outside the classroom. Have you ever heard of someone not getting an internship because their GPA is too low?

Sure, potential employers may ask for a transcript, but not many will ask about it or the grades themselves. The main focus during interviews is the experience one has in the field or what one likes to do, or their specific skill set. 

To me this is the paradox of college. We are here to get an education, and part of that means getting decent—however you choose to define the word—grades. But when it comes to sticking your toe into the “real world” it seems that extracurriculars become the most important part, since they are what defines the experience you have. So what does one do? Where should the priority lie?

I’m not trying to say that you should not care about your grades or give up studying because there are things more fun and useful to do. No; you are still here to learn and get a degree. But don’t forget about all the other things we are supposed to learn in college. Join a club to show some of those practical skills people are looking for. Get an internship to test out the field you potentially want to go into. But first, finish that reading that was due a week ago.

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