On Collegiate Success

June 15, 2014

Marco Arment was one of the original founders of Tumblr, which was recently acquired by Yahoo for something close to $1 billion. (He writes about the original experience with Tumblr in his blog post “The One-Person Product”.) This is important backstory: today, he’s probably fairly wealthy, and can afford the time to freelance and work on projects happily.

A post published to his blog earlier today called Don’t Go To College really resonated with me. He writes about, among other things, his C student philosophy:

I was a C student because I was (and am) a slacker and lacked the self-discipline to do better, not because it’s the smartest path to take. Performing better opens more doors.

Now, I was never quite a C student (a B student would be more accurate.) But there were certainly many times throughout undergrad that I had convinced myself, as Marco says, that 80% of the work did not need to be taken very seriously. This was reflected in my grades. My time was instead spent on my social life and on extracurricular pursuits. To me, these seemed like greater investments in the long term. I still believe this.

Still, when I’m honest with myself, I say without second-thought that I’d be fully capable of graduating summa cum laude—intellectually, but certainly not academically. I too was a slacker, still am a slacker, and self-discipline has never been a strong suit of mine.

The music school was full of brainiacs, and when we walked across the stage with our diplomas, I was one of few whose name was not immediately followed by latin honors. I was disappointed because I knew I could’ve done better, and embarrassed because of the impression it might give. Many companies out there could care less about their employees’ GPAs, and those are certainly the type of companies that I hope to end up working for. However, many more companies—and people—still judge one’s intellectual ability and work ethic off of their collegiate success (or lack thereof.)

Do I regret not working harder on my academics? Absolutely. But am I going to let myself be convinced that my lackluster performance in college will hold me back from opportunities in the future? Absolutely not.