The other day one of my information science classes had a Career Panel where Cornell Alumni talked about their current jobs and how they related to what they had learned in that class. When asked what their best advice for undergraduates was, one of the alumnus said “I wish hadn’t focused so much on my GPA.”

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At first this piece of advice sounded shocking. You come to Cornell to get an education, so it makes sense that you should strive to put in 100% effort to your schoolwork, which will hopefully be reflected by high grades. However, what that man was saying was not that we shouldn’t try, or that we should let class slip by the wayside, but rather there is so much to be gained by doing things outside the classroom, specifically in terms of professional development.

I had always thought that high grades were crucial for getting a job, and many employers do sort applicants based on grades. But what is even often even more important is your experience. Students often find themselves in a catch-22 during their jobs search: the jobs they want are looking for someone with experience, but there is no way to get experience if no one will give them a job.

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That is where collegiate extracurriculars come in. They can serve as low-risk ways to gain leadership and teamwork experience in a variety of fields. Students are able to get hands-on experience in marketing, finance, software development, and many more fields. That sort of experience can matter more in the job search than your GPA.

So while I’m not advising you to skip class every morning, there’s no harm in taking a lighter load so you can spend more time on things outside of school. In fact, it may even help you in the long run.