Why Grades Don't Matter
(at Least, Not as Much as These Things)
Todays blog is a bit of a personal anecdote from college. I was in a class that I wasn’t very invested in, taking it only to fill a requirement for my major. I had a friend in the class, and we were discussing our grades on the midterm exam. She had gotten a B-, and I’d gotten a solid A. While she didn’t come right out and say it, I know she was confused how I’d out-performed her.
She was probably the most involved student in the class, asking and answering questions for our professor every lecture. I’d never spoken in class. While I skimmed the required reading, her books were filled with highlights and notes scribbled into the margins. My only advantage over her? Expertise in the art of cramming. I knew how to narrow in on the specific information I’d need to ace the exam, while she tried to soak up everything.
This is not an endorsement of cramming. Rather, it says more about how grades don't matter. Okay, they matter, but they don't tell the whole story. Four years after that class, my friend still remembers almost everything we learned, while I couldn’t even tell you what the final exam was on. She retained valuable information, while I just regurgitated my studying onto exams and then promptly forgot it forever. That class benefitted her so much more than it did me, although our report cards will forever show that I did “better” grade-wise. I’d trade my grades for her long-term knowledge today.
While I understand that grades are a necessary evil in school, it can be extremely counterproductive to live and die by them. While an A may mean you’ve worked hard in the class, and an F likely means you slacked, they aren’t everything. I won't outright say that grades don't matter, but here are five things that are more important:
- Doing your absolute best on all assignments
- Preparing thoroughly for exams
- Being an engaged student and asking questions about things you don’t understand
- Understanding real world implications of the things you are learning
- Finishing the class with a new set of skills, fresh knowledge, or even an entirely new passion
If you’re getting F’s and not checking off these five things, you need to start. If you’re getting A’s and not checking off these five things, you need to start. It’s great to have a 4.0, but grades don't matter if you aren't an involved, educated, inquisitive, hungry student. Seek knowledge, and constantly aim to improve. I can promise you this: if you are doing your best, you will not fail. And if you don’t get the A+ that you’d like, you can still sleep easy knowing that you did the right work, the right way.