Thinking back to my high school and middle school days, I recall a substantial emphasis being placed on obtaining high grades and receiving honors. Even though I may not have bestowed this standard for academic rigor, it was maintained by my school’s educators. I remember, as early as elementary school, walking out of the cafeteria to scan the list placed on the principal’s office window that highlighted who had achieved high enough grades to be given honors status. There was even a further distinction made between those who had accomplished high honors versus honors. For a young child, in an age when grades weren’t submitted to online websites where they could be checked and monitored, the anticipation of figuring out whether or not I had achieved honors was stress-inducing. 

Flash forwarding to college years, and even considering post-college, the same focus on obtaining straight A’s or honors seems to be lessened. Of course, there are still distinctions, such as the Dean’s List, which would encourage students to continue on a path of prioritizing academics. However, there are aspects of college that seem to indicate students should expel less mental energy over the idea of striving for straight A’s. Since Fairfield permits students to take two course credit or no credit, students are encouraged to take more challenging courses without being consumed by the thought of ruining their GPA. 

Recently, the topic of artificial intelligence and education has become more popularized. Websites have emerged, such as Chat GPT, which serves to compile information to create stories, answer questions and even record essays. While instructors, especially at the college level, have implemented software that can flag and identify submissions that use artificial intelligence to cheat, some students will still continue to use these unfair means of academic dishonesty. 

Once a student graduates, depending on their post-graduate plans, they will likely need to interview with job recruiters. Through the effects of online learning during the lockdown, many educators started to discount letter grades since they were aware that many students were using the independence and lack of supervision of virtual learning to cheat. It would be no surprise to job recruiters that grades can be inflated or even inaccurate representations of a candidate’s competency over the material. 

Additionally, there is an even larger potential disconnect between exams and assignments and how they don’t reflect the capability of a student to perform well in an occupational environment. Many types of assignments don’t encourage a student to learn how to communicate or even handle conflict with future co-workers effectively. Of course, there is an argument to be made that group projects can foster some of these interpersonal skills. When the overall majority of assignments don’t include group work, the detachment between possibly necessary strategies for being a strong worker and coursework that doesn’t promote this expertise becomes more apparent. 

Knowing your post-graduate plans can have a strong influence over whether or not you need to strive to get straight A’s. If you are someone who is preparing to apply to graduate school, you will clearly need to maintain an impressive transcript. Some students may also be rewarded scholarships that require them not to dip below a certain grade minimum. I think the question of whether or not students should aim to leave college with perfect scores is not entirely answered with a simple yes or no. Rather, I believe that this question requires a more thoughtful response that is tailored to the specific goals and aspirations of each student. 

Regardless of whether or not you meet the academic expectations you place on yourself, immense amounts of educational stress should not be experienced at the expense of your mental and overall state of well-being. 

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