Reflections on a 4.0

In less than two weeks I will accomplish a goal that I’ve pursued vigorously for the past four years. I will graduate with the 4.0 college GPA that I’ve always dreamed about. In fact, I’ll actually graduate with over a 4.0 — I’m annoying, I know.

You might expect me to dive into a passionate discussion about how hard I’ve worked to achieve this. All of the lost sleep, Friday and Saturday nights that I gave up to study, and painstaking hours of perfecting term papers just to ensure an “A.”

But no, that’s not what I want to talk about. Not at all.

Instead, I want to discuss one of the very real reasons why this was possible for me while it wasn’t for others, and remind you that a GPA cannot capture a full picture of someone’s intellect or potential.

Here it is: I am fortunate to have unwavering financial support from my parents to finance my education. This means that I never had to work. Sure, I’ve had multiple jobs throughout college to alleviate the financial burden on my family, but it was never necessary. I never had to pick up extra shifts at work to afford the month’s rent. I always knew that if the burden of work, school, and extra-curricular activities became too much, I could quit my job and not have to drop out of school. The jobs I had provided flexibility, which allowed me to work less around high-stress periods like midterms and finals. From the countless conversations I have had with University of Iowa students this year, I know that this is not the reality for most of our students.

I recently heard someone say, “you cannot pull yourself up from your bootstraps if you were never given boots.” As graduation encroaches, with its cords and regalia and honors, I hope we all keep this in mind. When comparing GPAs and other semi-arbitrary measurements of “success,” we shouldn’t pretend that we all start from a level playing field. I’ve benefited from a lifetime of privilege that I’ve worked very hard to leverage for the benefit of others. But I keep this privilege at the forefront of my mind as we move in to these next few weeks of recognition and celebration.