HELP. I graduated last May with a horrid gpa (2.49) and have zero excuses. I feel like my future is ruined. Any advice for a struggling 22 year old?!!
LOST AND FREAKING OUT
I am so glad you wrote to me because this is something I could have written a few years ago. Academics were never my strong suit, and throw on top of it mental health issues and my GPA was probably not too different from yours by the time I graduated. I too felt like I wasn’t going to get anywhere in life with little-to-no academic success to speak for me.
Here’s the thing, though: while your GPA may have defined you all throughout school, in the real world, it means pretty much nothing. I have never had a potential employer ask me what my GPA was because it tells you nothing about a person that is applicable to a real job. There are a lot of people who had great GPAs, and it doesn’t make them stand out from the crowd after graduation. Employers want to know that you are reliable, that you are going to do your best work for them, that you will have a positive attitude, and that you will be easy to work with. People skills are way more important than your GPA will ever be, so worry less about that number and more about how you present yourself to the world. With school just barely behind you in the rearview mirror, it can be easy to define yourself by how you performed back there, but in reality, you probably won’t even remember your GPA in a couple of years… in fact, it’s been about four years since I graduated college, and I couldn’t even really tell you what mine was, only that I was not very proud of it.
That post-graduation time of life was universally confusing and disheartening for me and all my friends and really anyone I have talked to about it. A lot of my friends were top performers in school with stellar grades and the intelligence to back it up; this did not spare them the hell that is trying to figure out what to do with themselves after graduation. The secret that they never tell you in school is no one really knows what they are doing as adults. When we are in school, our lives are structured: you go to elementary school then middle school then high school then college. After college, there is no structured plan; you have to make it for yourself. And that is a terrifying endeavor for all of us, regardless of how we performed in school. You may think that your peers have it all figured out, but trust me, they don’t.
Yes, if the only vision you have for yourself is to go to the top med school in the country, your GPA might get in the way of that plan. But the beautiful and terrifying thing is that there are infinite possibilities for you out there right now. If not med school, perhaps there is another medical profession you could go into where your GPA is not going to be as much of an obstacle. Or maybe you will realize that the sight of blood makes you want to hurl so the medical field isn’t for you. Give yourself the freedom to envision more possibilities, and your GPA is not going to mean as much as you think it does.
At 22, you don’t have to have anything figured out. Your life path is nowhere near set in stone. The key is to not think of every decision you make as defining who you will be for the rest of your life. There is a lot of stumbling around to be done before you realize what you truly are supposed to do. My suggestion to you would be to just try something. I don’t know what you are doing for work now, but if it is making you unhappy or you feel it is a dead-end, consider what other opportunities lay before you and seek them out. Most of the time, you get a job because you know the right people. It’s estimated that around 70 to 80 percent of jobs are found by networking. This holds true to me; I have gotten almost all my jobs because I knew someone, or knew someone who knew someone. This doesn’t mean that you are totally screwed if none of your inner circle does anything you would remotely want to do; most of the time, it is not your closest friends but your acquaintances who will get you the job. If you have an idea about what sounds interesting to you as a career, think about who knows something about it. If you don’t know anyone, try posting on social media and seeking these people out. The more people you talk to, the more information you have, and more importantly, the more connections you have. If you really don’t know anyone, almost every city has networking events that you could go to just to chat with people. The key to those types of events is to worry less about nailing down THE person who is going to give you THE job and to think of it more as an opportunity to get to know more about what it is like to do that type of job. If you happen to make a good connection, great. If not, you have done your part to get a little be closer to figuring out what your next step is. One thing I did after graduation that I found quite helpful was applying to a temp agency. Actually, what I did was apply to somewhere between 10 and 20 of their job listings, which caught their attention and enticed them to hire me ASAP. I worked a couple of temp jobs that were not glamorous or particularly interesting, but they helped inform me of what I liked and didn’t like in a job. If you think of a job as a way to both make money and experiment to find out more about what you ultimately want to do, it takes the pressure off of it to be your career.
Remember that none of us know what life will bring us. Plan for your future, but also know that this moment is more important. The big picture is great to think about, but it may never turn out the way you expect (actually, it probably won’t). Don’t forget to enjoy yourself now and don’t preoccupy yourself with the future too much because regardless of whether you live in the moment or spend your time worrying, the future will come. Best of luck!
This is such an important thing for new grads to hear!!! It’s so hard because for those last umpteen years we all lived in a GPA-equals-success world. Let’s just remember Steve Jobs dropped out of college. Bobby Flay didn’t even graduate high school.