Opinion: GPA often fails to reflect hard work

By James Stein Nov 19, 2021
Photo courtesy: Abby Hagan
Photo courtesy: Abby Hagan

The emphasis of maintaining a good GPA in college is highly persistent as it indicates academic achievement. At Illinois Wesleyan, you have to meet a requirement of at least 2.0 GPA in order to graduate, but most graduate schools and potential employers prefer GPAs of a 3.0 at the very least. I personally think it is a good way to measure one’s success. For me, as similar for many other students, such feedback works like a lever: once I receive a great grade, I tend to work more. Similarly, when I receive a poor grade, I tend to work harder in order to avoid getting the same grade again. Students are stimulated to study more and increase their knowledge and competence in a subject. But as everything in this life, the grading system cannot be perfect. 

If one continuously receives poor grades, they may burn out and give up trying to succeed in a class. On other occasions, students spend hours trying to understand the material, yet still don’t receive the positive feedback of receiving their desired grade. What is the point if they try so hard and still do poorly? 

This is often how I feel in my calculus class. No matter how hard I try, I still often do not understand the material. In attempts to comprehend the material, I write down all of my professor’s notes in desperate hopes that I will reread them later and understand everything. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.

 It is a drawback of the grading system when a class is diverse and contains students of all majors. Humanities majors can struggle when taking a natural science course. No matter how hard one tries, they may still receive a poor grade as it is not their expertise. Many natural science majors may struggle when trying to write a paper for a humanities class. Although a professor still has to grade everyone equally, I find it unfair that students at varying levels are held to the same standard. I believe it is beneficial when professors tend to award better grades based on the percentage of success in class. Even when I make mistakes in my math class and still receive a good grade, my confidence in my ability is not affected and I am encouraged to continue to put in maximum effort. 

It is beneficial when a professor is demanding because they know their students are capable of great things, but it is still hard to achieve success when a professor is too strict on their grading system. Sometimes students use different attempts to come to the right answer, but a teacher might dislike their way, therefore compelling them to inflict a bad grade on their student. 

I am not sure it is common in the US, but universities in Russia often give students several versions of tests with different difficulty, and even the best students struggle with the hardest versions. Students may fail tests because the difficulty and grading were unfair. 

We all live in a world where GPA decides our fate in society as it determines whether we get a job or not. But GPA is not the only indication of success. A student gifted in arts may receive poor grades in natural sciences, but grades in math are not going to determine their faith as an artist. I believe GPA is beneficial when it encourages you to study more, but it is important to remember that your grades do not define you as a person. 

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