Ah, the dreaded report card: letters and numbers in a list. These lines of ink on paper or pixels on computer screens can cause chaos in the minds of students. Grades have the power to benefit your future or to create unnecessary stress. Yet the most significant impact can come when students compare their grades with each other, which can create a system of stereotypes. These categories that high school students may find themselves in often do not matter after they graduate, get past college, and begin working. What really matters is how people work towards their goals, moving past how they were once perceived.
In some high schools, high caliber students seem to enjoy telling everyone about their achievements. Those who make A’s and B’s often feel like they are just at the edge of the High Achiever Club. People making B’s and C’s sometimes speak of feeling stuck in mediocrity. Those who make C’s and lower may have academic difficulties or are focused elsewhere. They are the students lumped into a singular category of “everybody else.” I was part of the edge group, just standing outside of the intelligent crowd, while my friends related their struggles to me about being in other categories. Being in this system of stereotypes often changes how students are treated by other people.
Surveying some college classmates about their high school experiences, they seem to agree on one point. It is that the people who consistently get high grades that are praised while others who struggle often find themselves at the back of the classroom. After high school, I realized people’s grades can misrepresent them because not everyone can succeed in school. I realized this was true because I met people in college whose abilities went far beyond comprehending facts. Now, I understand there are two sides of the intelligence coin. Book-smart students don’t always survive outside of school. Yet people with solid skills are valuable to the working world even if they had a rough time in school.
One specific example is a high school classmate whom I met in tutoring sessions. He consistently struggled with passing classes. He was a common sense person but was stereotyped in the “failing” category. I discovered that he could disassemble golf carts and put them back together without a manual. He was a reverse image of the smart and academically driven student. His talents were in the mechanical world. Even though he struggled in school, he excelled with hands-on abilities. He applied practical abilities to logically solve technical problems and has filled a void in the job market that is in demand.
In contrast, I had a math tutor whose academic history was impressive. He attended one of the best colleges in Georgia. He had a high GPA, yet he was nowhere near applying his talents in the business world. After graduating with an advanced mathematics degree, he was in an hourly job tutoring high school students. He was one of the smartest people around, but even with his intelligence, he had a hard time applying his college degree at a job in the real world. He was a living example of the fact that a high-powered brain is not always needed for success. A well-balanced mind of intelligence and common sense may be much more beneficial.
After seeing teens go in different directions, I spoke with adults about how grades impact future careers. The answers ranged from “no, grades do not matter” to “it depends on the field” and “yes, they do.” One thing stood out from their responses: hard work and determination are needed to succeed. These work ethics support success and do not depend solely on a person’s grades. A professor of mine said that sometimes the people who try the hardest often have the best work ethic, even though they struggle with classes. They know they have no choice but to put real time and effort into completing their studies. And the don’t give up.
In the end, even though school performance is important to some specific career fields, there are exceptions. A person without a college-level education can make a living. On the other hand, academically-driven people can obtain careers that value their abilities especially in fields which require advanced degrees. Both types of people are valuable, regardless of the grades they achieve in school and the perceptions that others have of them.
A native Peachtree City girl, Megan Brooks is a freelance writer and senior at Point University, majoring in English and graduating in December 2018. Besides writing, she loves playing clarinet and reading a variety of literature, especially classic fiction.