Grades aren’t everything

Despite Bob Woodward’s new book putting the Bush administration on the defensive, the most critical concern to most students on campus is the dreaded final exam week.

Sure, these exams are a rite of passage to advance in your academic career, but it’s important to put the situation into perspective. To quote one of my instructors: “You are not your test.”

I’ll admit, the first time I heard this statement I was a little skeptical, but the “you are only as good as your next test”-concept was supposed to infuse drive and determination to be as successful.

That perfectionism has become a predominant theme in the world of academia. For too many students, nothing short of an A+ is acceptable. But for those who find the perfect grade elusive during their college years, a fulfilling life both in and out of their discipline can still be achieved.

This drive for numerical perfectionism is exhibited in grade inflation, which plagues many institutions throughout the country. The most notable and recent example is seen in the news is Princeton University. As the Daily Princetonian reported earlier this month, Dean Nancy Weiss Malkiel has proposed to “limit the number of A-range grades to 35 percent of the grades in undergraduate courses.”

Reading about the opposition amongst students and even some professors concerning the proposal only highlights the problem that grade inflation poses. After all, many could argue that 35 percent of undergraduates receiving an A in their courses is still quite high. While this proposal may seem like a drastic measure to address rising undergraduate grades, something certainly needs to be done to place more emphasis on learning — whether it be out of a textbook or a less formal method — than on simply achieving a score.

Reflecting once again on what my instructor said about the dichotomy of tests. It is important to remember that the intangibles of who you are transcend any momentary multiple choice or essay exam. Your value to potential employers and society in general hinges more on your integrity, perseverance and demeanor than on your GPA.

National Association of Colleges and Employers study, referenced in thursday’s USA Today, lists a GPA as 17th out of 20 factors employers consider when hiring college graduates. Certainly it is important to strive to do your best, but if you are not striving to achieve the best intangible qualities, a deficit in character may hinder you more than your grades.

Long after the semester is over, some students will have achieved high grades while others may have fallen short of their goals and aspirations. For some students this journey will be the beginning of their college experience, while for others the institution will honor them as having graduated. No matter where you happen to be on the path toward your academic goal, it is important to realize that your grades are not who you are as a person. The traditional academic environment is only one portion of the educational experience that is life.

So, keep a healthy perspective on finals week as you deprive yourself of sleep, cramming for your next test. And always remember what Mark Twain once said: “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

Aaron Hill is a sophomore majoring in chemistry.