Why It’s Okay if You're Graduating College with Low Grades (And What to Do)

It's not always about good grades.
by Leika Golez   |  May 29, 2021
Image: Shutterstock
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Graduation is typically seen as a cause for celebration, but it doesn’t feel that way for you. Sure, you’re relieved that you’re finally graduating after four tedious years of late-night study sessions and last-minute deadlines. At the same time though, you’re upset that all your hard work didn’t exactly translate into good grades in the end. After all, as much as you’re happy for your fellow batchmates with Latin honors, you still can’t help but compare yourself to them. And with job hunting season finally rolling around, you ask yourself the age-old question: Can below-average grades really hinder you from having a bright future?

The short answer: Absolutely not! There are plenty of steps you can consider to make up for your college grades, and we list some of these practical tips below.

1. Focus on other job application requirements, not just your academic transcript

The good news is that you won’t always be required to disclose your grade point average to your future employers. That’s because some companies don’t actually take grades into consideration during their job hiring processes. But if they do ask for your academic standing, you can always cushion the blow by perfecting your other job application requirements. For instance, it won’t hurt to add recommendation letters from former colleagues or teachers as character references! If you plan to get into a creative job, you can also attach a curated portfolio of your best works to showcase your hands-on skills. Of course, doing well in the company’s interviews and skill assessment tests will also be a bonus on your end.

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2. Join extracurricular activities and internships

Go the extra mile and be persistent in searching for extracurricular activities and internships, especially those that are related to your expected line of work. Aside from showing your employability, these activities will also give you an opportunity to hone your abilities—both hard and soft skills. Outside work also expands your network and exposes you to working alongside notable veterans in your field. So you may not be the top student in school, but at least you understand that true learning goes beyond the four corners of the classroom.

3. Do some volunteer work

Why not hit two birds with one stone by volunteering for nonprofit organizations? By doing so, you get to add more work experience to your resume and contribute to a good cause at the same time. Volunteering will also demonstrate to your future employers that you’re a caring team player who has the initiative to concretely act on your personal values. More importantly, simply helping the community is a fulfilling and valuable experience, so you definitely have nothing to lose!

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4. Be honest with employers

Perhaps you were going through a particularly rough time in college because you had to care for a sick parent. Or maybe you had to pay for your own tuition and had no choice but to prioritize your job over your studies. Some situations are simply beyond your control, so don’t be afraid to inform an employer about those unique circumstances. Even if you were really just a lazy and unmotivated student, take full accountability and own up to your shortcomings now that you understand yourself better. What matters most now is acknowledging your past mistakes and trying to do better moving forward.

5. Be strategic with your resume or CV

As mentioned earlier, you don’t always have to add your academic standing to your resume or CV, especially if you know that it won’t do you any favors. But what you can do is strategically write your resume in a way that it highlights your most noteworthy accomplishments and skills. For example, you can list down important classes or projects that you worked on as a student. You can also add any notable awards, leadership positions, or skills to spotlight your well-roundedness. But with all these things in mind, we still want to make it clear: Your grades do not define who you are.

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This doesn’t necessarily mean that grades are completely useless; we can’t deny that good grades are helpful in getting a job and pursuing advanced academic degrees. But we want to stress that contrary to popular belief, below-average grades don’t always signify unemployability and laziness. So if you’re graduating with an underwhelming academic transcript, congratulations are still in order for surviving those four years. Never let your grades discourage or hinder you from having your own taste of success out there!

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Leika Golez
Candy Correspondent
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