Are 'A's Still Aces? The Importance of Grades in the Hand of Life

It’s 2.18am, you’re sitting there in front of your laptop in the dark of your room with nothing but a water bottle and a silent handphone as your only companions. Your laptop’s at its lowest brightness, yet somehow you still feel the strain at the back of your eyes. Is it really because of the light? Or is the strain a sign of an impending headache – one you know you cannot afford to have when the deadline is just 5 hours and 42 minutes away.

Does this sound familiar? Well, quite honestly I hope it doesn’t, because no one wants to be up at 2.18am crying over a report (even I wouldn’t wish that upon my worst enemy). But if the work-induced stress does sound familiar, let us take a moment to question why.

Is it simply because you don’t think you can finish it on time? Is it the quality of work that you are concerned about? Or is it because…

Because you can’t get your ‘A’?

Well, that is a valid fear. I mean— we’re all university students gunning for our degrees, so of course getting ‘A’s and maintaining a good GPA is our top priority.

But is this fear still a valid one when we’re discussing life after university? Life post-graduation? Life in the workforce? Nope, not at all. At least, it isn’t valid enough to warrant sobbing over your study tables and bubbling through your cold cup of Milo in the dead of night – and I’ll tell you why.

Grades don’t matter outside of university.

It’s you who matters.

Of course, that’s not to say that grades and ‘A’s don’t matter at all, for they do! However, I’m challenging how much they matter, and to that my answer would be: not a whole lot. Or, at least, not as much as skills and experience.

I believe that it’s you— the knowledge you possess, the experiences you’ve lived, the skills you’ve honed, and how much of an asset you are that determines the opportunities you are presented with. The more experiences you have— “Oh, I’ve actually encountered this same problem before back when I was an intern and managed to solve it!” and “Hm, perhaps we can look about it another way? I was on an exchange for a semester there and in their culture, they much prefer this method”— that puts you on a rung above everyone else, the ones who don’t share the same experiences.

This also applies to the skills you have honed— “Oh! I took up coding during my free time in university actually, I think I can help the marketing department out in coding the iOS application!” or “I took up a few courses and even worked as a copy editor during my free time at University, I might be able to help with the articles and blog posts!”— that gives you a sharper edge in the saturated pool of fresh graduates.

Companies hire people, not grades.

You see, grades only tell so much about a person. If your final cumulative GPA is high, then it shows that you are hard-working, consistent, and most probably reliable. However, it doesn’t show how much of an asset you will be to the company. With the job market swarming with graduates with similar GPAs, and employees only having so much time to view your resume, would a plain number suffice in landing you that interview?

I don’t think so. At least, this is my take.

(I hope that didn’t give anyone any sort of a premature quarter-life crisis— we’re too young for that to happen just yet! Hold on! It’s going to be more fun from here on out, I promise!)

You see, by doing these things— mastering skills and gaining a plethora of experiences on top of maintaining a respectable 3-figure number that is our GPA— of which the end goal is to look more favourable in the eyes of HR departments and prospective employers, we’re actually pushing ourselves and growing.

What is the point of university, then?

Most of us look at university as a place where we hustle, grind, and stay up late. While that might be true, at the root of all of this is us growing. We’re in an environment that is pushing us, forcing us to push the parameters of our comfort zones and expand it wider, taller, and deeper. We’re put in positions and given opportunities to experience new things, to meet new people, to learn and to grow. In doing so, we become the people we wish and can be.

University life is tough, yes, but it is tough because we are sharpening every bit of ourselves to become the people we are capable of being.

We are given so many opportunities to learn and to grow. Career talks with industry professionals, events that expose us to the different cultures and traditions all around the world (ICON events), semester exchange programs, international internships, overseas community service programs… I could go on all day. So, capitalise on them and grow.

Be hungry for knowledge, be hungry for experience, be hungry for “Being The Best Version Of Myself I Can Possibly Be”, and take that mentality with you in every single one of your ventures. Let’s not aim for just ‘A’s or a perfect set of 3 figures that encompass our GPA on our results slips. Instead, let’s strive to be hungry learners all throughout our course of study, and not skilled muggers.

We’ll reach heights we never thought were possible.

So shut down your laptops, throw that cup of cold Milo in the sink (and wash it please, that cup has your breakdown tears and snot lining the rim) and head to bed. And before you drift off, remind yourself of this: for most of us, a degree is our last pitstop on our education journey. So why treat it the same as the previous ones?