Most articles like this will tell you that graduating with honors won’t really matter in the workplace. That at most, it gives you a bit of an advantage when applying for a position but is still not a guarantee. As someone who has never worked in Human Resources, I can’t tell you whether this is true or not.
What I can tell you is that I had different options right after graduating, despite my subpar college transcript. But to be clear, the point of this isn’t to say these accolades aren’t as important as everyone says — because they very well might be. The point is to show that missing out on them may not be as bad as it seems. The difference is that while honors are still a notable achievement, they may be one that’s worth a trade-off.
So I want to outline that this is coming from the perspective of someone who is the epitome of “good but not good enough”. The different academic honors I was supposed to receive in High School were withheld due to ‘disciplinary violations’. I missed the cut-off for Latin honors in my university by .1 point. My thesis was nominated for special recognition but ultimately lost out to a close friend’s work. All of these hurt a lot. But they were hurts I got over.
I knew early on in my Senior year of High School that I was no longer qualified for honors because of my conduct standing. Honestly, I bawled out of anger and frustration when I found out because that was the only year I bothered to put effort into my classes. But I learned to make the most out of it. It freed me up to use all my absences and exceed the allowable amount of ‘tardies’. I was able to focus on learning for the sake of learning, and not for the sake of achieving higher grades. I spent more time actually bonding with my classmates.
Sometimes losing out on things can help you refocus. It helps you enjoy the small things a lot more. You might even realize that your biggest goals weren’t even that important to begin with. It can be a fresh dose of perspective. Basically, we reverse the saying of curses in disguise as blessings; some blessings can look like curses at first.
When I had about a year and a half left of my University stay, I calculated what I would need to boost my standing to Latin Honors. The answer wasn’t pretty: it called for 5 straight terms of a 4.0 (or perfect) GPA. But it was achievable. I decided to let it go because I knew to pursue it meant cutting off time from my other priorities — mainly competitive debate and my internship. So I opted to spread my time and achieve in different fields instead of myopically pursuing Latin Honors.
That decision allowed me a wider space to prioritize other activities and other people. Straying from a single standard of excellence can help you jump into fields which are just as worthy. This is where you get the chance to be good at something you actually enjoy rather than being good at something just to get the grade. You better appreciate the significance of different pursuits.
My thesis failing may be the hardest one I had to come to terms with. As it came down to just a few papers for Best Thesis, the margin among any of them would have to have been close. But there was never any rationale behind the choosing, hence no closure. It came down to myself accepting that my paper wasn’t as good as it could have been — perhaps due in part to uncooperative Thesis-mates.
This experience showed me how to accept decisions that we may never understand. It shows you that sometimes, conditions and circumstances matter more than your own actions and efforts. And that’s just how life is.
I don’t want to end this on the stereotypical note that each of our failures is a lesson to learn because they’re more than that. They can be opportunities or advantages you didn’t realize. They can be just the thing you never knew you needed.
Share your own thoughts and feelings on this with us in the comments!