In the midst of intense course loads and the drive to make our GPAs as competitive as possible, we’ve all been tempted by cruise courses. The thought of an easy A has strong appeal, but are those courses really worth it? In our experience, the answer is no. Here’s why:
Your transcript is reviewed holistically. Although a strong GPA can attract interest, this interest is quickly lost when the selector begins reviewing the details of your transcript.
Cruise courses make you look less focused and less serious. Making great grades in electives while not doing so well in your major makes it look like you chose the wrong major.
Cruise courses aren’t really factored in anyway. For both employers and graduate programs, the selectors are going to focus on your grades in specific courses.
Ultimately, easy As don’t count for much. So what should you do? Instead of trying to pad your GPA, focus on courses that will actually improve your qualifications — whether you’re heading to grad school or the work force.
RETAKE COURSES THAT ARE DRAGGING DOWN YOUR GPA
Rather than taking a course that is irrelevant to your major, retake the courses that are hurting your GPA. Some schools will allow your new grade to replace the old one, while others will combine the two. However, the point is to make a big comeback. Achieving strong grades in those courses will show that you’re focused and improving your skills.
TAKE GRADUATE COURSES
If you’re doing well as an upperclassman, then your school will probably allow you to enroll in lower level graduate courses. Some schools even have courses that can be taken either at the upperclassman undergraduate level or at the graduate level, with more work required to earn graduate credit. Even if you’re heading into the work force after graduation, electing to take a graduate course shows your motivation and passion.
GET INVOLVED IN RESEARCH
There are multiple options available here. You might be able to join an ongoing research project or a lab. However, if your school does not have any current projects that interest you, they will probably allow you to do an Independent Study or Independent Research under the guidance of a professor. You’ll get credit toward your degree for these classes while building skills that will be valuable after you graduate.
FOCUS ON TESTING
If you’re headed to graduate school and your GPA is not stellar, a strong standardized test performance can make a big difference. In your application, you can highlight how your scores are the best representation of your potential to excel in graduate school.
GET IN CONTACT WITH YOUR TOP CHOICE EMPLOYERS OR SCHOOLS
Passion and motivation count for more than you might realize. Reach out to employers or schools that interest you. Build your network. Show them that you want to be there. Ask what someone in your situation needs to do to qualify. You might have to take a few extra steps, but those steps will get you where you want to go.
Written by Ryan Hickey