When I graduated college, I was awarded the title of magna cum laude – something I had no idea about until I saw my name printed in the program. Magna cum laude is Latin for “with great honors”. The honor is typically awarded to folks in the top 10% of their graduating class, and who have a GPA of 3.7-3.9. And you know what? Six years later, I’m still pretty proud of that accomplishment. I know to most, magna is irrelevant – it’s summa cum laude or bust. I’ve never been a straight 4.0 student – I am horrid at science, and classes that were judged on exams rather than essays were twice as difficult for me. I am proud of what I managed to accomplish, and never once did I beat myself up for not having a 4.0 GPA.
I am smart enough. I do not feel the need to prove my intelligence and diligence.
When I was in college, I worked in retail full-time. That is to say, I was “part time” but could expect 35-40 hours a week. My senior year, I had signed up for a German class (because languages = love) and I was told that my schedule did not offer enough availability, and work would not be able to give me any hours. Because I was putting myself through school, paying my own bills and for my car and gas and rent to my parents (where I lived at the time)… I dropped the German class. It is something I still regret, but I got 40 hours after that. If I ever wanted summa cum laude, work was my biggest detriment to that.
There were other things I could have changed to focus harder on my grades. Because I lived off-campus and worked in most my free time, I did not make friends, so my social life was not a problem. My relationship, however was. It was a toxic relationship, one I tried to end several times and got guilted into staying. That lasted five years – my entire college career. I was speaking to my brother the other night about our choice of majors (mine was history, his film) and how those were bad ideas… and how different my career would be now if not for the relationship I was in during college. I spent my freshman year of college at a Wesleyan school in Western New York. It was difficult. I would not have been magna cum laude if I stayed. I would be drowning in loans. But I would like my job a lot more. When I had been attending that school (which, ultimately, I left to be closer to my boyfriend, who claimed to be suffering from our separation), it would have been with a triple major in Writing, Education, and History (Writing and Education both required a “core subject” concentration, making either of them a double-major on their own) with a concentration in Psychology. But, before that is registered as a complaint, if I hadn’t come back, I never would’ve met my husband, who is my favorite person ever.
The relationship I was in through college demanded a lot of time, and a lot of travelling. When he was not on campus, he lived about 40 miles away, and I went to him more than he to me. I spent a lot of time trying to get him to do his schoolwork (as a communications major, he had a lot of public speaking, and preferred to do it impromptu… but everything else?). Everything I wanted to do, he had to do as well, and vice versa – he expected me in all his activities. Meals together. Everything. Very clingy. I don’t work well in crowds. So other than the vicious fighting and emotional abuse we fed one another (we were both horrible. I do not blame everything on him), any classes we had together, I suffered in. Let alone the leeching of free time.
In addition to my job and boyfriend, I had an internship that required (a minimum of) 7 on-site hours and 3 off-site hours. I loved my internship, and I have no regrets there (seriously, the last year I was there, part of my off-site work was watching episodes of Whose Line is It Anyway? so yeah.) I also participated in a local theatre group and was usually in three shows a year. For those who do theatre… you know what a commitment that is. So as though I didn’t have enough to do… boom! No free time.
So, all those things together? I’m genuinely surprised I even got to magna cum laude. So I’m not the smartest girl on the block… but dammit I’m proud of it anyway.
To those who live off-campus, maintain internships and after school activities, and a full-time work schedule and a relationship and still manage summa cun laude? My hat is off to you incredible worker bees. You should be extraordinarily proud of yourselves. Never, never downplay your accomplishment, and never degrade yourself for missing that perfect 4.0 just once.