Do Grades Define Excellence?


Steven Depolo

Grades should not define a student’s intelligence – Courtesy of Steven Depolo

Hillary Lee, Lifestyles Editor

Many students, such as myself, find themselves in a similar situation: being pressured to get “good” grades. Whether it is from parents or their peers, we have all heard it before. Being raised immersed within an academically conscious family, I have been asked left and right about keeping up with my academics. Up until recently, I found myself skeptical of those fixated on the expectation of needing good grades or else it is the end of the world. Especially pondering the extreme measures I have heard people went to, such as suicide, it appalled me how much a “letter” can take a toll on one’s mental health. Although it may come as a a surprise to many, the bottom line is that grades do not define your intelligence. Instead, I think the grade associated with a specific subject partially demonstrates how hardworking someone is. For example, if your grade is based solely on test scores, a student who scores high on their exam does not measure their intellect—rather, how much they prepared for that exam.

I have traditional Asian grandparents. Growing up, my role as a “student” was to earn good grades. I should not have a dynamic social life, and I should be focused on my studies. Free time? Study. Bored? Review. Repeat. Although this may have come off as an exaggeration, getting top marks on tests was the standard. It was also worse when the bar was already set high. 

There are countless flaws with grading systems. The grades attached to assignments are all relative to various factors. From a grader’s perspective, you would have to keep in mind who is grading, their current mood, etc. From the student’s perspective, the amount of sleep, food, and energy they had should be considered as well. And we also can not forget those that take deceitful tactics to achieve a good grade. 

The feeling of receiving back a test/assignment and doing poorly may leave you with a saddening feeling, however, I have grown to learn that the grade itself really does not matter. What matters most is the journey and what you learned and gained. Grades are meant to demonstrate your understanding, despite how it might not align with the way you may envision yourself. 

Many agree that the point of good grades is to prove to jobs that you consistently work hard. Although I agree with that statement, there are numerous more substantial ways to demonstrate your character and work ethic. A study released by TopResume reveals how, “45% of recruiters and hiring managers say that a candidate’s potential is the most important aspect of their application.”  This stresses on potential is a huge chunk of being considered for a specific position. Additionally, according to Harvard Business School study, “Employers admit that possessing a college degree does not guarantee that a candidate will be any better at the job than someone without a degree.” Don’t be discouraged by your “low grades” because occupations don’t solely view your application based on education but rather your qualifications, personal experiences, and most importantly, connections. For instance, many can earn the exact same grade in the same classes, however, due to everyone’s uniqueness, their potential and characteristics individualize every candidate from each other.

Every student should understand that grades never define you nor your overall intelligence. Everyone’s potential is always changing, therefore grades cannot confine you to whether you are “smart” or “dumb”. Grades are a way to assess a student’s strengths and weaknesses, but only to a certain extent.