The significance of grades

Grades may be around for a bit on paper, but learning is a lifelong experience. Good grades provide short-term benefit that helps with college admissions whereas fully understanding material helps hone more long-term skills, such as work ethic or learning skills.

Grades consist of a student’s four year weighted and unweighted high school grade point average (GPA), which measures the academic ability of the student. To many Americans today, there is no debate about whether one is going to college. According to a survey of 1,400 Americans, conducted by The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, higher education is commonly associated with higher incomes, more accessible job opportunities and a decent or high income. In recent years, getting into a good college has never been so important, but doing so requires good grades.

Ultimately, the importance of GPA depends on which major or career path the student wishes to pursue. For example, an admissions officer at a top-tier law school, such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford or Columbia, will likely look for a 4.0 GPA (or higher) and high Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores. These courses in colleges are in high demand and more rigorous. In contrast, a student choosing a less competitive major, such as Women’s Studies or Language Studies, does not require a 4.0.

Since Walnut places a heavy emphasis on academics, many students feel pressured to achieve high marks, and this type of pressure distorts their view of education. Instead of seeing education as a stepping-stone to success, it is viewed as an obstacle. Often, one can hear friends, classmates and the casual passerby lament about the state of their grades. In addition, some parents believe that grades are the sole determining factor for getting into a good college, and therefore they pack their child’s schedule with rigorous classes and tutors. Although this emphasis is reasonable, it causes one to overlook the value of education: to learn and be curious.

Often, students hear the statement, “It’s not the grade that matters, but what skills and knowledge you have acquired,” from some of their teachers or friends. They claim that if you set your mind to understanding the material, then you will succeed on assessments. Some students may comprehend the material, but they may not be the best at taking tests. Others may have family issues or off-campus responsibilities that prevent them from properly studying for tests.

But what about after college? Employers in nearly any industry, whether it be food, sales, engineering, healthcare etc., rarely ask for the applicant’s high school GPA. They are interested in which university one has attended and what credentials one has obtained, but to get into a reputable university, one needs to have a high GPA.

In the short term, grades may serve as indicators of a student’s performance and help the compete with others when applying to college. Most importantly, though, the value of learning should not be overshadowed by the desire to obtain high grades.

By Phillip Leung, Production lead
Photo by Olivia Chiang