Thursday, March 19, 2015

You Are Not Your CGPA (Some Advice to Undergrads and Fresh Grads)...

For five years, I have worked with friends to provide pre-employment training in OAU through Beyond Ife. We have gotten amazing results, ranging from my job to the graduates who tell us how Beyond Ife helped chart their course after school. As the sixth season approaches, I wish we could reach more people – so I have decided to share some thoughts publicly.

Here goes.

Care about your CGPA. It may sound unfair, but the world needs a system to classify graduates. Recruiters want to test candidates who are more likely to succeed, so they look to past performance to indicate potential. Business schools and competitive Masters Programs consider CGPA when deciding who to admit, preferring students who have demonstrated ability to manage rigorous academic demands. If you still can, improve your CGPA. Work hard at the courses you dislike. Get the best grades possible. It pays off eventually.

Don’t care about your CGPA. If your graduating CGPA is deemed undesirable by the world of work, disregard it. Your CGPA does not define you. A poor CGPA forces you to creatively consider options outside mainstream employment. You could become specialized at something, seek further education or certifications, or start a small business. Possibilities abound! For example, some of the best and highest earning developers I know graduated at or near the bottom of their class. Think! Create something!

Learn. Microsoft Office is ubiquitous in offices today, but many graduates know nothing of Excel or PowerPoint. There is an art to crafting winning resumes and acing interviews, but many candidates cannot be bothered to learn – choosing instead to stumble through. ASUU strikes offer opportunities to learn new skills. Apprenticeships and online courses abound to prepare people to run small businesses. The world is continuously changing, and you need to be able to learn and re-learn quickly to keep up with the flux.

Begin with the end in mind. What better time to try to identify your values and aspirations than now, before life’s pressures beset you? Stephen Covey’s funeral exercise – wherein you attend your own funeral in your mind’s eye and determine what you would like key people to say about your life – is an excellent tool. Understanding what is really important to you will guide the many important decisions you will be making in years to come. “You may not be able to achieve all your aspirations or build a life that incorporates all your values; but you should orient yourself in the direction of a pole star, even if it changes.”

Work ‘smhardt’. Working smart trumps working hard, but nothing beats the combination of the two! Everyone who makes an honest living works hard, but you can greatly improve your results in life by starting early. Once you get on a path that aligns with your values, work ‘smhardt’ to feel great, and to acquire valuable learning for future opportunities. Remember – vectors over scalars: you want to be the ‘quantity’ with magnitude AND direction. There’s nothing like diligence to bring you before Kings, or give you a throne of your own.

Network. Today, I have friends from school spread across 18 countries. Add the relationships I’ve forged since graduating, and that number pushes 40. I have friends studying for PhDs, working across multiple industries, and running a variety of businesses. Because of the quality of these relationships, I and others can leverage them for opportunities, information, and recommendations. “Friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.” Even acquaintances should remember you positively.

Live. Life is demanding enough as it is, and taking frequent breaks to appreciate its little pleasures won’t hurt your chances at getting ahead. Fall in love. Travel. Take care of your body – you’ve got just one. Take long walks in nature. Scream. Laugh. Cry. Do something that scares you once in a while. Never lose your sense of wonder. “You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.”

I hope you dance.



PS: I wrote something similar last year to young professionals. Go here if you’d like to read that too.

The people who have influenced my thinking, and by extension this piece, are too numerous to mention. I have used paraphrases and quotes from Reid Hoffman, Mary Schimch, and Walter Hagen. Influences from my Mom (everywhere - LOL), Deolu Akinyemi (networking), Ehis Enekabor (life and living), Lee Ann Womack (dance) and Victor Adebayo (learn) found their way in here.

Anything you’d like to add? Let me know in the comments.


  1. The simple ability to calculate my CGPA early as an undergrad helped me a great deal.

    Very spot on, Koye! I'd recommend this to any undergraduate.

    1. Oh, that is very correct! I had this cumbersome Excel sheet aptly named 'My Heart Will Trust', and would plug in pessimistic, realistic, and optimistic scenarios every semester until I left Ife. Helped a great deal...

      Thanks Ogo.

  2. The advise on CGPA is a sound one that shouldn't be taken witha apinch of salt. Lost my CGPA footing in 300L and I never got it back. Felt bad for a long while that I never finished with a 1st class but later realised what you said about CGPA not defining who we really are. The networking bit seems a bit hard... write about it someday please.
    Nice one Koye. Already recommended the page to few undergrads I know.

    1. :) kindred spirits man... I remember dragging the Boo into a room in Part Four or Five and just letting it all out... at how I was so disappointed in myself and how I'd never forgive myself for not achieving my maximum potential - as measured by my CGPA...

      Took quite a while to realize it really does not define us, and should not hold us back :)

      I'll do a post about networking... can't say when yet ;) but will do :)

  3. Sincere.

  4. What a wonderful write up! Though am not surprised...its from Koye now. As Koye has rightly said, you are your CGPA and at the same time you are not. Since my part 1 up to this moment(part 4), my CGPA has though not earned me much opportunities but it has made me eligible for so many opportunities. At the same time, there are so many 'guys' in my class who do not have very "attractive" CGPA but they are doing fantastically well in every other aspects. But let the truth be told, the first question that anyone would ask you as a graduate is "what is your class of honours?" So, for the undergraduates,its not too late to make a difference on your CGPA, no matter how little.