Why Grades Shouldn’t Determine Your Success

Success is hard to measure. It doesn’t possess a concrete definition. Success is a personal endeavor and it requires us to step back and ask ourselves what we want to accomplish in our lives. But if this is so, if success is different for everyone, then why do most students in high school become slaves to their own grades? Why do they let a few numbers on their transcript determine their happiness?

Grades in high school are often touted as the single most important factor in determining college admission, job applications, and overall future success. This fact is indisputable: Exemplary grades grant entrance to a top-notch academic college. 

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Top-level universities’ standards are extremely high. Source: Citifmonline.com

But is that our only choice when it comes to having a rewarding, satisfying lifestyle? The answer is no.

For years, society has placed a disgustingly large stigma on bad grades and an overwhelming importance on good grades. There’s a predisposed instinct to strive for A’s and cast anything lower to the side, to deem as unworthy. Well, it’s time to let the children learn that it’s okay not to be an A student, it’s okay to fail. Because here’s a little secret the older generations are unwilling to divulge to you: it doesn’t matter all that much.

Let’s look at some of the most “successful” members of society. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Richard Branson are seen by many as incredibly successful and intelligent.

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Richard Branson, a high school dropout, went on to become a successful entrepreneur and billionaire. Source: Google Sites

But the same people don’t know that these men, who achieved unfathomable amounts of wealth, status and success, have never really succeeded in the classroom. They are the men, that by society’s standards, had failed. With their passion and intelligence, they were able to change the world with nothing more than a bachelor’s degree and a transcript of failing grades (sometimes not graduating at all). These men understood at an early age that just because society, and everyone around them, placed an excessive amount of importance on grades didn’t mean they were right.

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SAS is a school filled with top-achieving students with GPAs that kids in other schools would only dream of having. It is an outstanding environment for education. However, we can’t deny the fact that many students, myself included, struggle to find the passion for learning in a place where your grades seem to be all that matters. It’s rare to go a full day without hearing a couple of students compare their above-average GPAs or walk by someone dramatically complaining about their B+ on their recent test.

Senior athlete Olivia Morris, when asked about her thoughts on the competitiveness of grades in SAS, stated, “I used to enjoy going to school when the system wasn’t so grade-oriented. It made learning a good experience.”

She isn’t the only one with this kind of view. Vik Sharma, also a senior and a dedicated art student, adds, “I don’t do most things at school out of genuine interest for them anymore, I do them so that my report card can be good enough to the standards that this school holds. Art is my passion and it will always be, but I admit that sometimes it doesn’t feel like that, and I can’t help but blame it on the stressful expectations that I’m given.”

This is not the type of environment that, although very high in education standards, allows for students to feel free to make mistakes and be open about them. If SAS directed its focus onto encouraging students to be self-reflective, action-oriented, and connected to work that improves the lives of others, our students would shift from worrying about numbers on a paper to learning what it takes to be a productive member of society. These skills cannot be measured in quantitative terms, nor are they easily compared through testing from one child to another. They are demonstrated in the real world, where it is not necessary to sit in a classroom for an hour and a half memorizing the periodic table (unless you want to be a chemist, then I guess you have to).

“Praise the process that kids engage in: their effort, their strategies, their focus, their perseverance, their improvement. This process praise creates kids who are hardy and resilient.”

Now, this is not to say that grades don’t matter. They do, and they should. It’s a helpful way for students to reflect on what they need improvement on, and a guide for colleges to distinguish between the strengths and weaknesses of an applicant. However, students should also remember that they don’t need to hold a 4.0 GPA to be successful. Grades can’t show every amazing quality a person has, and colleges, scholarship organizations, and employers understand that. Dr. Carol Dweck, psychologist and professor at Stanford University and a pioneering researcher in the field of motivation, says: “Praise the process that kids engage in: their effort, their strategies, their focus, their perseverance, their improvement. This process praise creates kids who are hardy and resilient.”

In other words, focus on the process, not the end result.

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Encouraging passion instead of A+’s in classrooms would greatly benefit students and their path to success. Source: Top Business Journal


Author: Melina Poulsen

Melina Poulsen is currently a senior and this is her first year writing for The Eye. She's originally from Argentina, but has lived most of her life in Brazil, which is her favorite place in the world. She has an undying passion for music and would say it is one of the few things she couldn't live without. She can be contacted at poulsen49072@sas.edu.sg.

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