Grade Point Average Does Not Define Us

Elizabeth Price, Staff Writer

A Grade Point Average (GPA) is defined as a number representing the overall average of students’ grades over time. A GPA is weighted or unweighted. A GPA is a determining factor in college admissions. A GPA does not and never will determine your personal value.

For years, Plano West has been one of the top schools in the country, revered for its high-achieving students and outstanding academics. Many of its students go on to Ivy Leagues and according to the Plano West Class of 2016 Profile, 97% of students will attend college. Success is literally written into students’ future, but at what cost? It is no secret that stress is prevalent in competitive school environments, or just in high school in general. These critical four years of a student’s life are bound to be stressful because of Advanced Placement (AP) classes, standardized tests such as the SAT or the ACT and college applications and admissions. It is a vital time in a person’s life, and a healthy amount of stress is arguably what motivates a lot of students. However, there is a point where stress can be exceedingly negative. Psychologist Robert Leahy stated that high schoolers today have “the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950s.” The ambitious students put an immense amount of pressure on themselves to be the best, evident in tired faces and restless eyes from pulling endless all nighters studying for tests for three of their five AP classes.

In fact, over half of the student body is enrolled in at least one AP class, most likely due to the GPA bump. Some students will choose classes solely based on the level of the course rather than their level of interest, and subsequently miss out on classes they would actually enjoy. Across America, if a student earns the same grade in an on-level class as a student in an AP or Honors class, their GPA will not be as high as the Honors student. This perpetuates a system of grade elitism, in which students who take multiple AP classes or have a particularly high rank believe themselves to be above students who do not. In a way, the American school system believes that the Honors student is above the other, allowing this constant competition to become engrained in the minds of the nation’s youths. Students start to believe they are nothing but a number, and the country encourages it. Not only does this have an effect on kids taking on-level classes, but it puts an unprecedented amount of stress on those taking multiple AP classes. Additionally, many of those students who have outstanding grades are pressured to constantly outdo themselves.

Unsurprisingly, the effects of grade elitism are dismal. According to a study published in August 2015 delegated by a team of nursing students at New York University (NYU), 49% of high school students surveyed reported extreme levels of stress as a result of grades and homework. Now more than ever teenagers need to see their true worth, not put it in some arbitrary grade point average.

It is a fallacy that one’s GPA will dictate the course of their entire life. Yes, it is true that it is a major factor in the college acceptance process, but so are standardized testing scores, extracurriculars and admissions essays. The unfiltered truth is, colleges are not looking for pristine, unblemished robots with perfect GPAs. They are looking for well-rounded humans that will make a positive impact at their specific higher learning institute. Even so, the college a person goes to does not dictate their entire life. A person can get a good education anywhere, as one gets as much out of a college as they put into it.

Walking through the halls of an American high school, anyone can overhear conversations about “wanting to die” because of their GPA or class rank. No more. Your GPA does not define your intelligence or your worth. Your GPA does not define you. You are not a number on a flimsy sheet of paper. You are not your class rank. You are not where you do and do not get accepted into college. You are a well-rounded, unique individual and it is time to break free of the GPA fallacy society is telling you to believe.