Why Straight A’s Aren’t Always a Good Thing

Opinion by: Vivienne P.

Edited by: Alexis L.

Visual by: Kaye O.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always strived for perfect grades. Being at the top of my class has always been a priority for me, whether it be on a spelling test during elementary school or reciting quotes from Macbeth off the top of my head. Over the past few years in high school, however, I’ve realized that my biggest ‘competition’ for grades and extracurriculars is not my peers, but is rather myself and my own mindset. ISM is notorious for its rigorous academics and competitive environment; many students complain that our school is more focused on results rather than actual learning. However, I believe that it is the students who place this pressure on ourselves and create a system of self-worth based on a simple 1-7 scale.

Academic excellence does not always correlate with success in the future, and having a mindset that focuses primarily on schoolwork, tests, and grades is not a realistic way of preparing you for the future. Academic grades sometimes fail to measure important life skills and values such as creativity, leadership, teamwork, social awareness, and so much more. Having skills that allow you to fulfill the academic requirements set by your teachers does not mean that you’ll be successful at your future job, but rather puts you at somewhat of a disadvantage. Success comes from thinking outside the box and persevering through challenges, not from simply checking all the required boxes through time management and dedication.

By placing emphasis on hours of studying and memorization over being social or interacting with your peers, the balance between academics and mental health begins to falter. As senior Harini R. said, “When you focus all your energy on getting a perfect GPA, it’s no longer about balance, but rather is a competition against yourself”. Although grades are somewhat important and reviewed extensively by colleges, they aren’t used for much more than that. Success in classes can be measured in many other ways, such as how engaged you are with your peers, whether you understand the content in class, and whether you find ways to explore your interest within the subject. Arguably, it’s impossible to find a way to quantitatively measure all students at ISM, but the school has taken steps to evaluate students in a wide variety of ways for them to present their knowledge (such as oral presentations, essay writing, performance tasks, and more). Nevertheless, students should focus on what they learn in class and their overall understanding, not just the number they receive in the grade book.