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Are Good Grades So Good After All?

Straight-a students don’t always get everything right. No one assumes that the boy in the back of the class with mediocre grades will go on to encounter more success later in life than anyone else. Despite this doubt, it happens more often than we’re willing to believe. Although they may display excellence in the classroom, above average students do not always have the same success beyond graduation. Book smarts is not commonly thought of as privilege, but in the modern education system, it is just that. It may sound counterintuitive but achieving good grades is not a direct cause of a successful career later in life. 

“If you always succeed in school, you’re not setting yourself up for success in life,” Dr. Grant, organizational psychologist, explains that good grades can only get you so far. After the first year out of college there is almost no correlation between grades and job performance. “For example at google, once employees are two or three years out of college, their grades have no bearing on their performance,” Grant explains in his NY times article. Although one’s education may help them prepare for their desired field of work, in the long run, it won’t have too much impact on how much they excel. In his book, Unbeatable Resumes, Tony Beshara interviews some of the most powerful bosses in the country on what gets them to hire an applicant. The findings varied from strong morals to flexibility and willingness to face failure, with very little mention of  educational history. Traditional schooling does not evaluate creativity, problem solving ability, and many of the other traits that will be utilized in the workplace. Students in the top of the class are also more likely to miss out on social and real world experiences that may be more useful to them. 

For many outstanding students who fall behind in the real world, it wasn’t what they did in high school that put them at a disadvantage but what they didn’t do. The majority of these exceptional students never experienced a teacher failing their project or being told they could resubmit their essay for a passing grade. When they enter the workforce, they will eventually have a boss or overseer that will not be pleased with their work. Since they have had little experience with failure, they will not be equipped with the skills needed to resolve the situation. “Parents tend to see their mission as helping their kids succeed. But there’s a growing realization among teachers and other professionals who work with children that kids increasingly need help learning how to fail. Not learning to tolerate failure leaves them vulnerable to anxiety,” Beth Arky with the Child Mind Institute explains. By facing failure at a young age, individuals accept it as a part of life and do not respond as negatively to it later on.

The case is always made that these exceptional students are more likely to receive a higher corporate position or a better paying job than their C minus counterparts. Although an outstanding high school or college transcript is a wonderful asset to have when applying for a job, it’s important to acknowledge the logistics of this said advantage. Although you may have been “one in a million” in your graduating class, remember how many high schools are in your state as well as your country. There are always going to be other valedictorians and straight-a students applying for the same position. In the United States, roughly 25,000 valedictorians and another 25,000 salutatorians graduate each year, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. This is not taking into consideration the amount of students who graduate in the top ten, achieved straight a’s, and other notable academic accomplishments. Meanwhile, the individual who did not receive remarkable grades may stand out in other ways. A perfect example of this is displaying good time management skills by working or volunteering in addition to attending school. Crucial qualities, such as, wit, creativity, drive, and empathy, cannot be demonstrated in the classroom.

The biggest reason good students struggle in the real world is that school is very different from work. “In school, in order to get the grade, you learned to provide the authority figure—the teacher—what he or she wanted. In the workplace, that translates into asking ‘good girl’ questions: ‘What does this boss want from me? Which of my boss’s needs aren’t being met? What do I need to do to get an A?” In a Business Insider article, Whitney Johnson, author of Dare, Dream, Do, explains the difference between educational success and corporate success in a Harvard Business Review article. “This approach may get you some initial gold stars, but it won’t get you what you really want, which is to be an indispensable player, not just to your boss, but in your industry. To become an all-star, you need to develop a new skill: you need to learn how to challenge and influence authority, rather than simply giving the authority figures what they want.” Most straight-a students have dismissed the idea of thinking outside of the box. Their educational career has taught them to do exactly what they’re supposed to with no room for no ideas or questions. This mindset may allow the individual to keep their job but not be promoted or earn a raise. 

The education system in America urges young students to maintain good grades if they wish to be successful outside of the classroom. Although this mindset isn’t completely inaccurate, it’s quite flawed. The issue arises when students and officials believe that strong academic performance can single handedly get someone to the top of the corporate food chain. It’s becoming more and more apparent in today’s society that the workforce demands more than strong mathematical skills and good grammar. Clear determination, creativity, passion, and companionship are far more likely to be the cause for a student’s success later in life.

References 

Grant, Adam. “What Straight-A Students Get Wrong.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 8 Dec. 2018, http://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/08/opinion/college-gpa-career-success.html. 

Lepore, Meredith. “The ‘Straight A’s Complex’ Might Turn You Into A Failure At Work.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 24 Apr. 2013, http://www.businessinsider.com/why-good-students-fail-in-life-2013-4.

“The NCES Fast Facts Tool Provides Quick Answers to Many Education Questions (National Center for Education Statistics).” National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Home Page, a Part of the U.S. Department of Education, nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=84.

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