Society overstressing grades?

Hello everyone.

I’m currently a rising Senior in a catholic high school, and I’ve been hearing from several people online and in real life (including my parents) about how important my grades are. My parents have been especially cracking me down to the point where I’m confused as to how important they consider my faith. I have all A’s in high school (except for two 92s…), so I am nowhere close to failing. I’m just wondering:

Do you think society is overstressing the importance of grades and college in general? Sure they are important, but are they as important as society makes them to be (necessary for survival)?

Hard work and proficiency are important to a flourishing society. Grades are just a way of attempting to measure that. When you get out into the working world, people will care less and less about your grades as you progress, and more about your work performance. But until you get to that point… grades are typically the only measure they have to assess. Hope this helps.

I’d say “yes” and “no.”

Good high school grades will give you certain opportunities, and with grade inflation the sorts of grades that net some of these opportunities are very high. Having said that, good grades are not the universal keys to success that they are sometimes made out to be. You can get into some very good universities with grades far below what you have. If you work hard and choose your field well, you can do very well in a professional career with a grade point average well below 4.0. If you get 4.0 in the wrong field, you may still not find yourself a job. Just having As all over your transcript doesn’t impress everyone.

Yes, people with college degrees earn more, but no, not everyone with a college degree makes more money than an equally-diligent person who applied himself or herself to other sorts of success. Certainly it cannot be said that the college students with the best grades always do the best in their professional careers. Still, if you apply to a seminary to become a priest, they do like to see that you can manage the course load without collapsing. Many worthwhile vocations require diligent scholarship!

Having said all of that, I was an “A” student and am hard-pressed to imagine how my studies would been in conflict with exercise of my faith. Your parents can stress the importance of your school work without implying that the faith is of lesser importance. As the Benedictine motto goes: Ora et labora. St. Benedict taught that the Christian life requires not only loving and peaceful heart, but also both prayer and honest labor. These things do not inherently conflict, not at all!

You’re well bred, well fed, and well schooled. You’re going to have a very easy life if you continue doing what you are doing. You’re not going to starve to death with lower grades, but your parents are using you as a surrogate for their own pride. Just play along with them another year and then move on to a nice college. Do well in school. Get a high paying job. Get married to a well bred, well fed, well schooled Catholic girl. Retire. Die.

Being poor sucks.

An honest answer is no I do not think society is over stressing grades for someone at your stage in life. We live in tough economic times all around the world. People who have college degrees in general make a better living than those who do not. Of course there are exceptions to this, and some people make a great living without degrees. As a retired teacher I can tell you that one of the primary criteria used for entrance into college is grades, whether you are going to a state school or a private one, grades will play a huge role in whether you are accepted. One of the questions I would ask myself to be answered only for myself, sort of like when you examine your conscience for confession, is what has happened in the two classes with the 92’s. Is there something I could be doing better or differently to make those grades be A’s as in my other classes? God blessed you with talents and abilities when you were born. Your job is to be grateful and use those talents to the best of your ability each and every day. Times flies at your age, spend it wisely! I will pray for you to find your way to God’s plan for your life.



As a parent, I can boil my hopes and dreams for my children down to one word: opportunity. I want them to have the opportunity to choose their life paths. Whether my child wants to be an at-home mom, a scientist, a priest, a mechanic, an attorney… I want them to be ABLE to choose it.

When you have less than outstanding grades, your opportunities are limited. There are certain things you won’t be able to do with your life because you don’t have the credentials that open doors. Even the one lazy night of poor studying that translates into a “B” instead of an “A” in a class can mean the difference between dream school and settling.

I would hate to think that my children were stifled in pursing their goals and dreams, whatever they may be, because of grades that do not accurately reflect their ability.

I probably can’t afford to send all four kids to ivy-league colleges. If they WANT to go to those colleges, they will need scholarships. Achievements are how those scholarships are procured.

A teenager, or young adult, might think, “Well, I am fine going to a state school and only want to become a teacher. I don’t need a 4.0 for that.” However, many young people really have no idea the paths they will want to take in a year or two, or ten. Things change. How unfortunate would it be for someone who, at 23 realizes that their calling is to be a doctor, but can’t get into medical school?

Even as a woman in my 30s, the grades I achieved in my undergraduate studies (and to some extent, the reputation of the college I attended) will ALWAYS be a limiting factor in what I can pursue in the future.

Do I think we overemphasize grades? No. I think not every student is capable of getting straight-As. But we should all push our kids to perform to their personal utmost, so that as few doors as possible close for their futures.

Grades are important within the academic arena and can make a great difference in one’s acceptance into particular fields of study and universities or colleges. However, I do think our grading system is ineffective and biased in many ways, and can be over emphasized. After all Einstein was a genius but failed math in school.

I happened to come across report cards of my grandparents. In their day subject matter was graded in percentages not the A B C D etc manner. Also, if one did not understand 80% of the material it was viewed as a failure. I actually think this is what we should go back too. I think we make it too easy for kids to “pass” classes and that is why we have so many folks in positions and jobs they don’t do well in.

Actually, Einstein “failing math” is an urban legend.,28804,1936731_1936743_1936758,00.html


You are here for one thing, and for one thing only: to save your soul.

Generously honouring the ambitions your parents may have for you is commendable. But don’t let them turn your head. If you do well with grades, (and I hope you do!), keep your goal in sight. And pray for your parents. One day you may be in the same place, hoping the best for your dear child. Then you can think back.

Thank you all for the awesome replies! :D. I do try to pray and continue to grow my faith, but sometimes I feel restricted due to school. Part of my frustration comes from wondering why grades should be more important than being accepted to an internship (I’ve been accepted into a computer programming internship over the summer) and being a team captain for a robotics team and a couple of other things… I would think those would show a lot more about myself than my grades.

And I wanted to address this specifically:

One of the questions I would ask myself to be answered only for myself, sort of like when you examine your conscience for confession, is what has happened in the two classes with the 92’s. Is there something I could be doing better or differently to make those grades be A’s as in my other classes

You are quite right, and I have done that actually. Both of them were my fault. One was because I bombed a test that I decided not to study too hard for in order to do better in other projects that were due at the same time (end of quarter rush I call it, when the teachers assign tons of stuff at the last minute. Looking back, I probably still could have done better on that test…) and the other one was because of an inadequate understanding of the material being tested on a test.

Again, thanks for the awesome replies! And I’m sorry if I rambled a bit :slight_smile:

I see an attorney for legal and business advice annually. He is a senior partner in a very prestigious law firm. High rise building…fancy office…two secretaries. VERY prosperous.
Hanging on the wall behind his desk is his law degree from Harvard School of Law. It is very prominent and impressive…but it does not show his grades. Nor does it show his standing in his graduating class. (?)
I asked him about his grades once. He said that his high school grades barely got him into Harvard and he barely got by in law school. He was a terrible student. He didn’t graduate at the bottom of his class but he was close. None-the-less he became a really good lawyer and is now very successful. It wasn’t his grades…it was the Harvard degree.

Someone whose grades “barely” got him into Harvard as an undergrad is top 99.999%. And lightning must have struck twice if he also got into Harvard Law. :confused:

Congratulations on your personal grades. Few do as well.

Society, parents, and teachers do stress the need to get the best grades one can because few kids and teens realize, on their own, just what is needed to compete in the work world. And few of them discipline themselves to study well. I have seen many good adults who just failed to prepare themselves when they had the window of opportunity in K-12 school.

Grades, however, are not a guarantee of success. Sometimes we study just enough to get a good grade but not enough to actually remember the subject well enough to apply it. But, a good GPA over many subjects and several years usually indicates good study habits and better retention of the information.

A company wants to hire 5 people and receives 100 applications. The company will do an application review and invite 20 for the first level interview. Chances are the company will invite more candidates with better grades and fewer with lower grades. That’s life. Your record is your key to getting that first invite. If, in that first interview you cannot talk reasonably well - verbal grammar, complete sentences - and show useful knowledge, you probably will not be in the group of 10 invited back to the second interview where they decide which 5 to hire.

The potential for economic success - well enough to live decently, but not decadently, depends mostly on two elements I call MCC.

M is for Methodology. You gotta know your stuff. Those who know, go. Those who don’t, won’t. CC is Constant Commitment to use and improve the methodology you learned.

MCC applies to all areas of our lives: God, spouse, family, friends, health, work, sports, etc. K-12 grades are an early indication of one’s MCC.

One more point on MCC. The 2 millionaires (out of 9) in our family have zero college credits. They applied their MCC character to construction.

In high school, grades are EXTREMELY important. They determine not only your college but also how much it can cost. And you need to have well defined study habits and master the basics of high school. In college, grades generally matter insofar as you need to graduate. High profile jobs might look at a graduate’s GPA but later it does not matter so much.

In my view, standards at school in most Western countries, are not high. It is not surprising that parents are moved to set their kids extra work, and to expect or encourage them to achieve high grades in a school system which is not very demanding.

This is a common misconception. Harvard is a top school, the applicants it accepts are very good, but the Ivy League is not Mt. Olympus and not everyone who gets out of there with a degree is an academic demi-god.

The only time a Harvard graduate will not tell you just as much bluntly is when there is a Yale graduate in the room!! :wink: :smiley:

The thing an aspiring scholar should not do is to drive him or herself into anxiety disorders and depression, neglecting the need to have a personal life and broad life experiences, in order to squeeze every tenth of a point possible out of their brains and onto their transcripts. This is not what academically successful people do. What aspiring doctors, lawyers, and professors also should not do, however, is to use the prudent desire to have a balanced life as an excuse to be lazy. Academic fields are the turf of some real go-getters, and lazy habits are penalized.

On that account, I’d say that achieving excellence in the academic skills being taught, excellence in time management and sorting out where to put effort for the greatest returns, excellence in professionally-useful social and communications skills is the key goal, and excellence in self-mastery are the most important things. If those occasionally do not show up in grades, that can be overcome later. If grades are achieved without those things because the student cleverly finds crutches of one sort and another to bump their grades up, such as seeking out schools that give top grades easily, it will catch up with the person eventually.

IOW, it is better to deserve your reputation as a scholar, original and creative thinker, leader, go-getter, and all-around mensch than to merely have such a reputation on paper. That is the ticket! (On that note, though, good letters of recommendation never hurt.)

I know people who did their undergraduate work at Harvard and their graduate work at Berkeley who did not land top-tier academic positions. Other people, meanwhile, did undergraduate work at state universities, got into the same research groups at the same university, and won the more prestigious academic jobs. Why? Because in their field, what they accomplished in the laboratory, the journal articles they published, and the original research they proposed was better. Some, too, just happened to hit the job market in the year that the job they wanted was available–you never get so high that luck plays no part!

You are right about this: the person who does his or her best rarely lives to regret it. Those who work to be in a position to win an opportunity get more opportunities! The only exception is the person who misplaces effort, putting too much effort in a place where there will be too little return.

Yes, the intangibles like a well-rounded life are counted by those looking for the best person for their position. OP, if your only bad grades come from the times you chose a more important life experience, fine. If they came because you neglected to do your best, don’t make silly excuses for that. Do better next time. You deserve that.

Well, what you describe is a difficult situation. You sound like you have a great GPA already but your parents are critical towards you anyways, perhaps too much so. If it makes you feel any better I worked for a 4.0 in high school, near-perfect SAT and all that. I have been unable to pursue my dreams even then and now due to my family’s opposition to my pursuing my goals especially with regards to education. So while I think your situation is difficult, the opposite side of the coin, coming from a family or culture where people try to destroy those who are wanting to make something of themselves, is probably the worse side to be on. As long as you maintain a healthy attitude towards your capabilities then I think you’ll be fine.

Personally, I think society does overstress grades and understress actual skills. There is a serious grade inflation problem and a general dumbing down of high school and university curriculum.

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