‘C’s Get Degrees’: Are College Students Quiet Quitting Too?

What a harrowing couple of years for the evolution of office life: First came the pandemic and the hyper-fast transition to remote work. Then came the Great Resignation and the rise of hybrid work teams. Now comes “quiet quitting,” the buzzword for workers who reject the hustle culture of pre-pandemic workplaces and instead strive for a more worker-focused work-life balance.

Instead of going “above and beyond ” at their jobs, quiet quitters follow their job descriptions to the letter. In other words, many young professionals entering the workplace are paying more attention to their mental and physical health than chasing the next big promotion.

So what about college students? Has the trend of doing just enough to get by extended to that demographic as well?

A new survey from Intelligent.com, an online magazine centered around helping students make informed choices about their college education, has data that says – to some extent – it has.


Intelligent.com surveyed 1,000 U.S. college students between the ages of 18 and 24 during the week of September 19-24. Students were either enrolled full or part time in a community, public, or private institution. Of respondents:

  • More than one-third put only some or little effort into their schoolwork.
  • 1 in 5 say their school-life balance is unhealthy.
  • 6 in 10 say they agree with the statement, “C’s get degrees.”

“For most positions outside of professional services, GPA is not relevant for most employers as much as having achieved the degree,” says career expert Stacie Haller in the survey report.

“So the fact is, ‘C’s get degrees’ has some truth, but it hides the fact that it is more about disengagement and the need for more mental health support services especially coming out of the height of the pandemic where they were remote and more isolated. Just getting by, whether at work or at school, is never a way to fulfillment or achieving your goals in life.”

Of the 59% of students who said they agreed with the sentiment, 45% said they somewhat agreed and 14% said they strongly agreed.

Of course, “C’s get degrees” as a mantra depends on a student’s plans after graduation. While some employers don’t necessarily ask for a candidate’s undergraduate GPA, the stat certainly matters for those looking to get into graduate school or those trying to secure a competitive internship.

That’s particularly true for students in business school. All the top MBA programs take it into account, with average GPAs for the M7 ranging between 3.5 at Columbia Business School 3.78 at Stanford GSB. Competition for the highest-paying and sought-after internships is also quite fierce, and a solid GPA can help.


Asked to approximate how much effort they put into schoolwork, 34% of respondents said they do not go above and beyond while 30% said they put in “some” effort. A full 4% said they put in “little” while a few said they put in no effort.

But why? We’ve been reporting that tuition at top colleges is rising, and recent surveys have found that more than half of college grads believe they will have trouble paying off their student loans. Whether a student chooses a more economic state school (on an ROI basis), a private university, or a community college, they are still paying for the education. They aren’t being paid to show up like working quiet quitters are. It’s their own money they are tossing to the wind.

According to the survey, mental and physical health are the biggest reasons students don’t put their full effort into school. Further, 64% of students report that they put in less effort into their online classes compared to in-person.


A full 1 in 5 students report that their school-life balance is unhealthy, with 3% saying that it’s very unhealthy.

Asked to choose one emotion to describe their classes this semester, answers included stressful (21%), happy (17%), indifference (14%), and boredom (11%). Students also, on average, ranked their mental health as being more important than their school assignments.

“After being forced to adjust often to remote learning during their college years where non-educational activities and student interaction which are often the activities supporting mental health and engagement, it is not surprising that this group has put this at the forefront of their needs, whether still at school or looking for their first position after school,” Haller says.

“This group has also been watching their parents now prioritizing a work/life balance and their own mental health on the job and the media is a constant reminder, so of course, students will start to consider their own school/life balance,” says Haller. “As in the workforce, educational institutions are needing to address different and more significant challenges of their respective populations and their changing needs.”


Despite the search for better balance between school work and mental health, the majority of students somewhat (49%) or strongly (26%) agree that a lower GPA will negatively impact their job prospects after graduation.

Many students seem willing to take their chances. Just 44% of students think they will get at least a 3.5 GPA this semester. Of students who put in a lot of effort into their schoolwork, 50% plan to get at least a 3.5 GPA for the fall semester, while just 34% of those who put in some or little effort plan to.

“It seems that a notable percentage of college students are indeed ‘quiet quitting’ in order to preserve their mental health this fall semester. And despite a belief that GPA will affect their job prospects after graduating, many students are reporting low effort and lack of enthusiasm when it comes to their classes,” the survey report concludes.

See the full report here.



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