To Overachieving Eagles: How to Inflate Your GPA

This is a third in a series, titled “Letter to an Eagle,” in which I author a letter to past, current, and/or future students of Boston College, expressing my views on my beloved alma mater, advising on surviving and thriving at The Heights, and sharing personal stories from my collegiate (and law school) days.

This third letter is addressed to all overachieving students of Boston College who want to maintain a high GPA in order to get into law school or medical school or some other form of over-achievement.


Dear Overachieving Eagles,

Being a natural overachiever, many of you will seek to become the cream of the crop of American society by obtaining a degree that’s even higher than the Bachelor of Arts, like M.A., M.D., J.D., M.B.A. or Ph.D.

As an overeducated double Eagle myself, I have some experience with knowing what it takes to get into grad school. Apart from the obligatory standardized test, with which I can offer no advice, and your personal statement, regarding which I’ve already written before, the next most important part of your application is your Grade Point Average. And on that topic I have some handy pointers, all of which I picked up during my four collegiate years that was dedicated to avoiding a GPA trap.

1) Avoid foreign language classes at all costs

This is really a no-brainer. It’s hard enough getting through Plato and Aristotle in English. Why anyone would want to sit through a class literally in a different language, completely clueless at what is being said, is beyond me.

When I was at B.C., proficiency in a foreign language was part of the core curriculum.  I thankfully managed to avoid  a definitive GPA dragger like French because I was already fluent in Japanese. I gather that there’s no such evil requirement anymore. Count yourself lucky and take full advantage of your good fortunes by ensuring that you  satisfy your Literature core curriculum requirement by taking a class, any class, in English. Yes, reading and learning about old crappy English books like “Grapes of Wrath” is a painful bore, but being bored is better than being clueless, which is what you will become if you end up reading a children’s book like Le Petit Prince in its original French.

2) Stick with what you know

Everyone has strengths–and weaknesses. Discover the latter as quickly as possible, and just take courses in the former. The odds are that your strength is in your major while your weakness is in the opposite. So, for example, if you  major in chemistry, you should probably avoid a course in classics like Greek literature (even if it is taught in English). And if your major is in Sociology, you should probably not be taking Differential Equations in the Mathematics department.

3) Find the best worst option

Boston College, being a liberal arts school, has this evil scheme to ensure that you are exposed to your Kryptonite. This is why I was forced to take a science class despite my firm belief in the flat earth theory.

But fear not, for life is full of loopholes and your studies at Boston College is no exception. Alas, I satisfied my science requirement by taking a course called “Geoscience and Public Policy.” My friend who majored in physics observed that this class “doesn’t sound like a science class,” which, of course, was the point. Courses like these exist in every major. If you detest math, try a course called “Finite Probability and Applications.” This course isn’t cake-walk from what I heard, but at least you don’t deal with weird symbols like ∑ or ∫.

4) Avoid courses before 11:00 A.M.

Let’s be frank about this: there are professors who understand that you need to get into grad school, and there are professors who want you to learn something. You obviously want to take courses with the former.

Here’s one sure-fire way to weed out professors who actually want to contribute to your learning:  professors who have expectations about your doing a lot of work also tend to have expectations that you wake up to do so when the dining hall is still serving breakfast. Alas, if a professor is offering any course at a time when you’re not certain that the sun is up, that is the proverbial “red flag” and you should avoid all courses being taught by the professor.

5) Don’t overachieve

It may be contrary to your nature, but you should not seek to overachieve by adding a sixth course to your coursework. Five courses will keep you plenty busy between sleeping, extracurricular activities, eating, procrastinating and drinking. More courses=more chances to fail. Don’t underload because you’ll pay for it later (as I did my last semester at BC) but don’t overload either because you really don’t get extra points on your resumé for graduating with more credits.

Having said all this, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the two caveats to my foregoing advice. First, artificially inflating your GPA does nothing to ensure that you can get into law school, of which I am living proof.

Second, and perhaps this is the more important, following the above advice will ensure that you will not receive a diverse, well-rounded, meaningful education. You should carefully consider the consequence of missing the entire point of a highly-respected Boston College education.  After all, it’s costing you and/or your parents nearly $60,000 a year, which, even if you are an English major, you should be able to figure out comes out to over a quarter of a million dollars over four years, since Boston College (theoretically) requires everyone to be proficient in mathematics.


2 Responses to “To Overachieving Eagles: How to Inflate Your GPA”

  1. 1 Anonymous January 31, 2013 at 11:16 am

    So true. If only I knew then what I know now! I broke almost all of these rules and the resulting GPA excluded me from the very top tier of law schools. But hey, I got an excellent and diverse liberal arts education!

    • 2 joesas February 2, 2013 at 12:13 am

      Be proud of your BC education!

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