About a month ago, I wrote a blog about my troubles with my undergraduate life. I named it 2.1 because that was the GPA I graduated college with. Nothing to be proud of. I got lucky to even graduate and in many ways I felt like I wasted my undergrad years. Fast forward to present day and I have a new number to smile at: 3.5

I have been very much on the fence with graduate school, there is no question about that. It is not because I do not want to do it because I do. It has a lot to do with where I do it. I’ve made it no secret of my desires to leave Syracuse to go back home, but I figured while I’m still here I might as well continue my education. Like most things in my life, I figured that I will just take that leap of faith and figure out later how I’m going to land.

This semester was no different. I took the History of Urban Education as a last minute decision. You may recall that I decided that this year was all about “no more excuses,” so this was one of those things I had to stop procrastinating about. This was class number 4 and at this point, I had two A- and a B- ( Economics…blah). For those counting…that left me with about a 3.3 and change. Up to this point, I had never gotten an A in a 3 credit class. Sure, an A- is great but it is frustrating when you are shooting for the highest marks.  Not to mention that the only As that I have ever gotten was in one credit classes…so it means next to nothing.

So, I took this class not knowing how hard it would be. It turns out that when you take classes that you are actually interested in, they are not that hard, its just a matter of how much work you are willing to put in. I think about all the long nights. Coming home from work at 9pm then reading until about 2am. I am not sure about anyone else, but doing that week in and week out tends to make you read slower because of fatigue. But, I continued down this path because I wanted to get my first A ever. The two A- before it were just about heartbreaking enough.

I did all my work and what was required of me. I met with the professor a few times about the topic of my 20 page paper. Just when I thought I found the topic I wanted…I changed it at the last minute. It was just not flowing. It got so bad that I had to ask for an extension at the last minute. I realize now that the title of my paper is a tad redundant: Latinos in Urban Education: The Struggle for Inclusion in Public Education. Some people had asked if they can read it, but I was holding off until I got the verdict on the class.

I wish I was lying when I say that it felt like blood, sweat, and tears went into this paper. But when I think about the struggles in my life, this was the one thing that I can control. I know that if I can get this work done, I can be more than what I was in my undergraduate stint. I need to prove to myself that I am indeed an A student.

I did it. Today I checked my status online. I got an A. One of the few things that I did not screw up. One of the few things I can say I did right…and I did it for me. I cannot tell you how many times I felt worthless, but today…I feel that I can do anything. I have a 3.5 as a grad student…3.7 in my area of concentration.

All my frustrations have been worth it. I am an A student. Turns out that I always was.



Think about that number for a bit. We are often defined by numbers. We rely on them when it comes to assessment. We assess products, sports, stocks, and grade point averages. Society uses these numbers to gather a value on something. Many mathematicians will tell you that numbers do not lie, especially when it comes to things like science. But, can numbers really put a value on knowledge?
Ever taken an IQ test? I haven’t, but I know that they are designed to place a value on how smart someone is. So assuming that you are either naturally gifted or perhaps went to the right school, you can be deemed really smart or as dumb as a doornail. Over the years, there has been evidence to suggests that standardized testing is racially and culturally biased. After all, not all school districts are created the same. Urban school do not have the resources as private or suburban schools. So how do we really place a value on who is smart?
I don’t think it should come as a surprise that most high school do not prepare students for the rigors of college life. No one is really prepared for the freedom of moving away and living relatively alone on/off campus. For most students, learning is on a whim and sometimes success in the class room can happen through mistakes. Maturity plays a huge roll on how a person deals with distraction. Yet, some students are able to fight through things to get great grades. Unfortunately, others struggle with just life in general and may find it hard to survive the grind of college academics.
We should just assume the getting into college is a stretch within itself. A institution, like Syracuse University, has to see something within the students they accept, which would reasonably mean that schools do not just except stupid kids. So why do students do poorly versus others? I would like to take into consideration my own issues.
I graduated from Saint Raymond’s High School for Boys. I do not think that I was different from any other potential college kid. There was a thought about myself, however, that I wasn’t that smart. My guidance counselor did not think I would get into Syracuse University, I clearly showed him otherwise. However, when I did get in, I often wondered how I was going to do. I really didn’t try all that hard in high school, it was as if I really didn’t care. I was picked on, my parents were getting a divorce, and I felt generally ugly since I was one of the few boys who wasn’t dating for most of my 4 years there. Yet, the one thing I always remember hearing in grammar school as well as High School….Anthony never applies himself.
College kicked my ass. I had many distractions and i just didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was a student leader that cared more about the cause than about myself and by the end of my first semester of sophomore year, I was at a crossroad. My grades were horrible and I almost found myself kicked out. If it wasn’t for barely passing my religion class…I would not be a alum of SU. This wake up call lead me to pick a major that I wanted and do so much better in my classes. I still graduated in 4.5 years but I had this feeling that getting into grad school would be a long shot.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a student of mine. He was not in a great mood. He felt his grades defined him and my heart went out to him. I told him that despite whatever he graduates with…he can still be whatever he wants to be. Last week, I had a similar discussion with a student on the opposite end of the spectrum who has a grade point average that I have never seen in undergrad and it made me think about my grade point average currently. The good thing about SU is that you can check your current grade point average on line. I look at my grad school grades and I smile at the 3.3 that I fought hard for. I figured that if I get an A in this current class, I will be at a 3.5
Something told me to look at my undergraduate GPA. I had to cover my mouth because I hadn’t realized how low it is… 2.1
I almost fight tears thinking about this. I could have done so much better. I just could not get over my own shit. I was so immature that I could not see what I was doing to myself. Sure, I could blame girls, my parents, my work-study job, or the lack of guidance. I really have no one to blame but myself. I hated most of my classes because they just did not interest me. I did well in cultural courses and alright in my English courses. Sigh…I had to ask myself, why is it so different now?
Now…I care more for myself and I love my classes. I am invested into my own education and I love to learn new things. I am far from stupid but that number is a mark that I count against myself. Yet, it isn’t a value I place on my intellect. I consider that 2.1 GPA (which was earned 20 years ago) to be a measurement of my maturity.