Are Good Grades Worth The Effort?

Courtesy of

Rachel Vigil, Editor-in-Chief

By Rachel Vigil

During our highly anticipated annual class meetings, I was pulled out of my stupor by the slip up one of the speakers had when discussing our grades.

She was telling us Juniors, who are planning on applying to college, to keep our grades up because this was the last semester on our transcripts. Quickly realizing her mistake, she said in a hurried voice, “You should do well if you aren’t going to college, too.”

It was just a minor slip up, but it made me start to wonder what the real purpose of getting “good” grades is. Most honors students would answer that they got good grades to get into a good college and make their parents happy. Are our grades so tied to future achievement in college that they serve no other purpose? What’s the harm of getting straight Ds if you don’t want to go to college and only need to pass your classes?

Of course, this sort of outlook undervalues the supposed deeper meaning behind our grades. Doing well in school is supposed to be about learning, not just about college or careers. Even then, do grades really reflect how much you learn? In my experience, the classes where it was harder to get good grades are the ones I have learned the most in. Take AP Language and Composition for example; it is a class that has high difficulty and I personally struggle in. It was my lowest grade last semester, but was also the class where I learned the most. Did my lower grade really reflect that I had learned less than in, say, Spanish?

It can also be argued that grades reflect how much one works in the class, an important indicator of drive for future colleges and employers, but this has some inherent problems too, especially in classes where the grade you receive is more tied to the tests than the homework. Sure, you may work hard in your math class and get every piece of homework done on time, but that homework only counts for 10% of your grade and you are a nervous test taker, you may do worse than the kid next to you who never turns in their homework but always manages to quickly absorb the subject matter and excels at test taking. We all know those students–there’s the small bit of jealousy disguised as anger at them simmering below the surface as well.

However, good grades in high school are also not to be undervalued. Even though the emphasis on college can seem as if it undermines the overall goal of getting an education (which could be to learn or get money, depending on your perspective), it is shown to significantly increase the wages you earn and the likelihood that you will go to college, which also increases your earnings. College graduates earned 56% more than their nondegree-holding counterparts according to a study recently published by the Economic Policy Institute for 2015. This number is at a record high.

To top that off, your GPA in high school also impacts how much money you will earn. In a 2014 report published by the Eastern Economic Journal, it was shown that GPA could be an indicator of both a person’s likelihood of going to college and their future earnings.

A researcher in this study and the director of the health economics research group at the University of Miami, Michael T. French, stated,”A one-unit increase in your GPA has a very sizable impact on your education and earnings.”

This is once again because of high school performance’s impact on getting into college, which, as mentioned earlier, naturally increases your earnings. Grades have reached the point where they are intrinsically linked to college and salary later in life. They also aren’t always a reflection of how much a person has learned or what effort they have put forth in the class. Until grades are more reflective of learning and more valuable as proof of knowledge and effort, they won’t have too much meaning to those who care little about college. The fact that our counselor said that during a class meeting isn’t so much her fault as it is the fault of an education system which devalues learning in place of superficial achievement and future careers.