Illustration: Summer Thomad

For most students attending a career and technical academy, the most important part of high school is to reach for the ‘A’ grade. However, many students tend to place this letter grade ahead of their own understanding of the topic, which does more harm in the long run.

Unless applying for a highly prestigious university, a perfect grade point average is not required. Truly learning the concepts taught in the class and applying them to real life situations should be the takeaway from high school, not the framed “Honor Roll 2014-2015” certificate.

We believe that students should not solely focus on attaining exceptional grades on their report card, as long as they understand the material and walk away from the class mastering the topics found in the lessons.

Well-rounded students who actively participate inside and outside of school are the new honor roll students of the 21st century.

For most, the worst part about having a grade that is not an ‘A’ is the trouble that may arise from parents. Mom and dad tend to stress the importance of excelling in school in order to be accepted into college and appear intelligent to admission boards, yet exceptional grades alone are not as impressive on college applications compared to a well-balanced student.

For instance, a student who ends up with a ‘B’ in an AP class, but also partakes in a sport or volunteers outside of school may be better off than a student with a 4.4 GPA that never leaves their home. Well-rounded students who actively participate inside and outside of school are the new honor roll students of the 21st century, as they are the ones who have a discernible passion for something (whether that be sports, volunteering, etc.) that matters to them.

However, not all parents have come to this realization, and brushing away a parent’s criticisms is easier said than done; in some households, not hitting the honor roll every report card season may result in being grounded, lectured or forced to endure a twenty-minute long guilt trip. Although disciplinary action is possible in some households, discussing what the student actually learned in class would be more beneficial than the standard “It was an 88%, I really tried” excuse.

Having an officer position in a club, being a student athlete or excelling as a volunteer are all more impressive than having a 4.0 GPA.

Students should also avoid placing too much importance on grades in pursuit of excellence, as allotting too much time to school alone is an excellent way to build up stress. Taking some time to relax and enjoying life outside of the classroom alleviates some of the pent-up stress a student has due to the burden of excelling in school. A report by Denise Clark Pope, a lecturer in the Stanford School of Education, finds a link between the pressure for exceptional grades leading to high stress, with some educators regarding the issue as a health epidemic. 

Pope found that students trying to exceed in high school oftentimes resort to cheating in an attempt to keep up their grades. Their desire to walk away with an ‘A’ clouds their moral compass, and even though they end up regretting their decision according to Pope’s study, students that cheat do so in order to stay ahead of the pack. “The students know cheating is wrong; they tell me they wish they didn’t do it,” Pope states. “But they feel like the most important thing they do is get the grades, by hook or by crook.”

However, for those who have spent the last 15 years of their lives believing that an ‘A’ is the only way, trying to find a way to circumvent the countless hours of studying may not be so easy. Doing enjoyable tasks (such as talking to some friends on Skype or playing catch in the backyard) while taking a break from studying could help students achieve the ‘A’ they are shooting for, and even if they fall short of that achievement, their stress could possibly be at more manageable levels.

While grades may be an important aspect of school, having a few Bs is not the end of the world (unless the student happens to be the latest Harvard applicant). Students should enter a class looking to learn something from the material, not walk away from the class with an ‘A’ by cramming and freaking out the night before or by blatantly cheating on the test during exam day.