By the time you read this, I may be smashing windows.
The situation is that I am currently in danger of not graduating cum laude by one one-hundredth of a point.
Cum laude is a Latin honor determined by your grade point average. All it means is that you graduated in the top 32 percent of your class.
The cutoff this year is 3.53.
My current GPA is 3.51.
According to my calculations, as well as a questionable performance on my final exams, it looks like I may just miss the cut, ending up with a cumulative GPA of 3.52. I’m just waiting for the grades to come in.
I know that at this point, you are thinking that I’m a real nerd and you want to beat me up. But I’m perfectly aware that graduating cum laude really does not mean anything. It’s a poor representation at best of what I actually learned over my four years at UR. In fact, I usually don’t care what my grades are, as long as I got something out of the class (which I guess could be why I am now in this situation).
I am sure my potential employers could not care less whether I graduate cum laude.
The only difference it will really make is that the guy at my diploma ceremony will say “cum laude” after my name, and then my parents will clap.
Wait, they’ll clap either way, so it really makes no difference at all. There is only one reason I care. It’s because I am so close.
I could probably pinpoint the exact event that led up to my not getting cum laude.
Like, if I hadn’t skipped a certain history class sophomore year, I would have heard some answer that appeared on the final exam and gotten an A- instead of a B+.
If I had spent two hours on a certain paper instead of half an hour so I could go out, maybe I would have done better and impacted my final grade.
If I had ever taken an independent study for my many semesters of work at the Campus Times, I would have gotten an A, placing me well within the cum laude comfort range.
In fact, if I hadn’t joined the Campus Times at all, I would have had enough studying time to graduate magna cum laude.
But really, I’m glad I didn’t do those things. Going to every single class of my college career would have made for a pretty hellish existence. I’m glad I spent time doing the other things I did and making the friendships I have, because they taught me just as much as my classes did. And I did all the work I would have done had I been registered for a Campus Times independent study, so why should it matter whether it shows up on my transcript?
If I hadn’t taken an elective French class, I wouldn’t have gotten a B+ that lowered my GPA. But then I wouldn’t have learned French.
Essentially, the university would be giving me cum laude for having learned less.
I guess what I’m trying to say, at the risk of sounding like a career center brochure, is that the lessons of your college experience aren’t reflected in your grade point average. They’re reflected in the person you are when you walk out on the lawn on graduation day.
Cum laude is a meaningless distinction whose only purpose is to pit the GPAs of the graduating class against one another. I know this.
But if I don’t get it, that still won’t stop me from being mad.
Le can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.