I want to improve my GPA, but Europe’s calling. What should I do? | Ask Kelly

Woman Walking on Pathway While Strolling Luggage
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Dear Kelly,

I just started a new semester and have been invited to go on a two-week trip to Western Europe. I’m really wanting to bring my GPA up, but at the same time, I feel like this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Is it possible to still be successful in my classes while also going on the vacation of a lifetime? What are your thoughts?

First of all, I want to start by acknowledging that your question is probably one that several students face: the dilemma of how to juggle opportunities that may interfere with school. One of my favorite things to do is travel, especially when it comes to going somewhere I have never been. How often do you have the chance to have a two-week vacation in Europe?

But even having said that, I would say that this situation sounds like the classic, “Do I do what I WANT to do, or do I do what I SHOULD do?” scenario. The truth of the matter is, you, at some point, decided that you wanted to do something bigger than yourself. You made the conscious decision that you wanted to earn your degree so that you could positively impact your future and live up to your aspirations. So, I have one simple question, and I want you to really ponder on it: Will going to Europe impact your goals in a positive way, or is there a chance that it could have negative consequences?

You must weigh the pros and cons before making this decision because the ramifications could deter your future goals. When you think of the pros of going on this vacation, of course you can add the memories, the experience, the food, the sights you will see and so on. But even with all of that, I want you to keep in mind that when the two weeks are over and you are back home, it’s just a memory. Albeit, maybe a fond memory, but how would the entire experience feel afterward if you end up failing your courses?

I think the key words in your original question are, “I’m really wanting to bring my GPA up.” This tells me that your grades aren’t where you want them to be. Why? Are you in danger of academic probation? Are your grades lower than the requirement to move forward with your academic program? Are your grades in a place where you might lose the ability to earn scholarships or grants, or keep your financial aid?

I also want you to keep in mind that Mercer University has two programs that allow students to travel internationally: Mercer Abroad, the University’s study abroad program, and Mercer On Mission, which combines service-learning and study abroad. Both of these programs provide students the opportunity to travel internationally while also completing their course requirements. In other words, rather than traveling to Western Europe for two weeks while hoping you will be able to raise your GPA and not fall behind in the process, you can spend time in another country in a faculty-led environment, where your classes go with you.

There are options for you if you would like to travel while completing your degree. I don’t want you to think that travel isn’t possible, but this particular opportunity seems very impromptu, and furthermore, it appears you aren’t so sure if taking the trip would benefit your academic future. You have your whole life ahead of you, and if you really buckle down now, work hard and stay focused on the goals you set for yourself, the result may be a future where travel can be a regular occurrence, and Western Europe could be only one of the many places you will go. I’m not telling you not to go on this two-week vacation, but I do want you to have a one-on-one conversation with yourself and determine if now is the best time to spend two weeks in another country. What implications could it have on your academic goals?

Remember to keep in mind your future circumstances and possibilities and not just focus on the here and now. Your future goals ultimately depend on the choices you make now; just make sure that you have explored all of the possible repercussions, so you will know you have made the best decision.

As always, I wish you continued health, happiness and success throughout your journey.

Kelly Browning, student success coordinator at the Henry County Regional Academic Center, answers questions from the Mercer community. Email her at browning_kl@mercer.edu or fill out our online form to submit your question anonymously.


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