If you’re in college right now, or if you ever have ever been, you know the pressure put on you to maintain a high GPA. The pressure is such that you may feel you won’t survive if your GPA drops below 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. I’m here to tell you that I lived through one year when my GPA tanked because I got very sick, I discovered what I really wanted my future career to be, and I learned some hard lessons about life and the way things worked. My GPA has since recovered, but I learned more things of value in that year than the classroom could possibly have taught me.
I had fallen in my junior year. It was my first time away from home, living on my own. I was pretty comfortable with my wheelchair, but was challenged in navigating an environment that was not disability friendly. The stress that placed on my shoulders was devastating, I often felt that I was failing not only myself but my family, as I would often have to miss class because I could not get to the classroom due to, say, a broken elevator. I searched for alternatives but found nothing — completely no fault of my own and there was nothing more I could do, yet I felt disappointment ring in my ears as I would turn to go back home instead of to class.
October came, and a sore throat with flu-like symptoms kicked in. I pushed this to the back of my mind and the bottom of my to-do list for about a week, until I could no longer keep food down. I continued to vomit long after I had stopped eating, and could barely speak through a swollen throat by the time I made an appointment with the student health clinic. Some questions, an exam and some tests later, my mom was called to come pick me up as I had mono and needed to return home to get well. It was important to me not to withdraw, and return to class as soon as possible.
Personally, I took the “whole GPA defines your life” thing very seriously, and was very afraid this would somehow ruin my life. When I wrapped up that semester after coming back, I was a different person. I had completed the semester with more bad grades than good, but I finished. I knew my GPA could take a punch and I had time to make up for losses. I learned a lot about letting go during this time. I also discovered my passion for writing and social media.
You can’t be good at everything all of the time! I think we all know that some of our best and brightest today have had low GPAs, or perhaps didn’t finish college at all. College is not for everyone, after all.
I sit here today having taken a medical withdrawal from my senior year of college. So far, it’s been very difficult for me. There were a lot of changes in where and how I could attend school, as well as in what I would take. While my doctors and I were hopeful of my returning for the spring semester, that unfortunately is not yet the case. My health is still a work in progress that people tell me “must come first.” I’m not quite sure they understand that as a young person, though.
Because of all I’ve been through, I have learned that your GPA is not the most important thing in the world. It doesn’t reflect who you really are, it doesn’t make you a good or bad person, it does not mean that you are smart nor dumb. It is a number on a piece of paper. Yes, it is important to get good grades, but it is also important to experience life and learn about yourself before you miss out.
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