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Success has little to do with good grades

July 25, 2008

I have a cousin who’s in third year in a US college. He’s a bright guy except at the rate he’s going, he may graduate at the bottom of his class.

His parents are up in arms. They’d given him everything, enough money for school needs, rented him an apartment, bought him a nice new Civic. Still, his GPA was never better than a C average. He’s got the usual distractions like NBA and a live-in girlfriend from the same college. Well, which college student doesn’t. The only problem is they’re doing much better than he is.

I empathize with his parents. Still, I told them I’m not so alarmed, quoting famous flunkies like Albert Eistein. Its not that grades don’t count. They just count more if you’re headed for vocational jobs like engineering or medicine. Their son is an Economics major. Unless he’s eyeing a job at JP Morgan or Merril Lynch, he’ll probably end up interning in an area that has no bearing on what he studied. Like retail management.

I suppose its not easy for the elder generation to accept, especially if you’re Chinese steeped in tradition where you’re a nobody unless you’re an imperial scholar like Zhang Yen-Yuan. Hey nothing wrong with that, except the planet has moved around the sun a few thousand times since the Tang dynasty. Today, CGPA’s of A-/B+ are a dime a dozen. You can even buy them off the shelf and you know what? As an employer its a yawn, a yes-I-have-it or no-I-don’t-have-it kind of thing.

Here’s a practical tip. See how much time we interviewers spend sussing out your attitudes compared to poring over your college grades line by line? That should give you a clue as to what we’re really looking for.

No, don’t abandon your studies. You’ll be thankful for the flying start your degree gives you. But no A’s no problem. You can make up for it with some major kick ass attitude.

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