As a junior at NYU, and a double major, I made the decision to apply for the honors track for my English major this semester. I received all A’s last spring semester, so I felt like I had finally found my groove in my literary and academic writing. I felt confident and excited about contracting my own senior thesis. My odds felt pretty good considering I’m also in the College of Arts and Sciences Honors Program.
After taking the required steps, asking my friends to read over a few optional essay entries and contemplating more over my future, I sent in my application feeling more assured about my studies than ever before.
Then I got that dreaded email.
It felt like applying to college all over again. Only this time instead of an acceptance from NYU, I got a deferral. The English Department said that although my application and essay were “intriguing” and I experienced a “strong recent semester,” they deferred my acceptance. Why? Because my GPA sat below the required 3.65. My GPA was a 3.56.
Reading the email, I initially felt ashamed and disappointed in myself. My face dropped in utter shock. But eventually I simply got frustrated. Despite an intriguing essay submission and a satisfying application, I was only .09 away from the GPA requirement. How could my GPA hold more weight than anything else? Not to mention the fact that the department also pointed out that most of their honors students earned “GPAs of 3.8 or higher.” Gee, thanks.
They were kind enough to defer me, as they assumed my GPA would be going up after this semester’s final grades entered. I still felt completely defeated. I worked so hard, but because I was less than a tenth away from a number they decided on, I wasn’t good enough.
Dictating and categorizing “intelligence” and “work ethic” based on numerical status is definitely one of the worst things about any education system. I started questioning my own determination—had I slacked that bad one semester? Eventually, I started believing that I wasn’t meant for the honors program with all those hard workers; I would just fall behind.
Then I started thinking of the reality of it all. For example, how many students in the program actually held a GPA of 3.8 or higher? That would mean near perfect semesters—every semester. I had too many stressed out peers to believe that was true.
There seems to be this ideal standard of college academics. Standards that we’re meant to reach in order to get good jobs or leave college with a plan. But grades aren’t the only thing that determine that—we do. It doesn’t matter if you graduate with a 3.2 instead of a 3.3. You still have the same degree. The pressure to maintain a stellar GPA while experiencing college, shaping a future and making important connections combine to an unmanageable level of stress and anxiety.
I’m still waiting on my finals grades, hoping to see that GPA reach that requirement. However, my passion for acceptance has certainly dwindled after such an unnecessary deferral. We all work as hard as we can, but that doesn’t mean that we reach perfection. Hard work may not always pay off in the eyes of academia. But it should pay off to you and your plan. Forging a future that works for you and nobody else is really what you need to get out of the whole college experience.