Credit... Linda Huang
Is academic excellence a priority for you? Do you believe your grades will have a big impact on your future?
In the Opinion essay “ What Straight-A Students Get Wrong ,” Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist, writes about the dangers of pursuing perfect grades:
A decade ago, at the end of my first semester teaching at Wharton, a student stopped by for office hours. He sat down and burst into tears. My mind started cycling through a list of events that could make a college junior cry: His girlfriend had dumped him; he had been accused of plagiarism. “I just got my first A-minus,” he said, his voice shaking.
Year after year, I watch in dismay as students obsess over getting straight A’s. Some sacrifice their health; a few have even tried to sue their school after falling short. All have joined the cult of perfectionism out of a conviction that top marks are a ticket to elite graduate schools and lucrative job offers.
I was one of them. I started college with the goal of graduating with a 4.0. It would be a reflection of my brainpower and willpower, revealing that I had the right stuff to succeed. But I was wrong.
The evidence is clear: Academic excellence is not a strong predictor of career excellence . Across industries, research shows that the correlation between grades and job performance is modest in the first year after college and trivial within a handful of years. For example, at Google, once employees are two or three years out of college, their grades have no bearing on their performance. (Of course, it must be said that if you got D’s, you probably didn’t end up at Google.)
Academic grades rarely assess qualities like creativity, leadership and teamwork skills, or social, emotional and political intelligence. Yes, straight-A students master cramming information and regurgitating it on exams. But career success is rarely about finding the right solution to a problem — it’s more about finding the right problem to solve.
The article continues:
Getting straight A’s requires conformity. Having an influential career demands originality. In a study of students who graduated at the top of their class, the education researcher Karen Arnold found that although they usually had successful careers, they rarely reached the upper echelons. “Valedictorians aren’t likely to be the future’s visionaries,” Dr. Arnold explained . “They typically settle into the system instead of shaking it up.”
This might explain why Steve Jobs finished high school with a 2.65 G.P.A. , J.K. Rowling graduated from the University of Exeter with roughly a C average, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. got only one A in his four years at Morehouse.
Students, read the entire article, then tell us:
— Are you a straight-A student? How much of a priority is that kind of academic excellence for you? For your friends? Your family? Have you ever felt pressure to be a straight-A student?
— Is the pursuit of straight A’s a good thing? What are the downsides? Do you feel the pursuit of good grades prevents you from doing other important things? Is there a time you missed out on doing something you cared about because you prioritized grades?
— Do you think academic excellence will lead to success in college? Work? Life? Do you think you can succeed in life without excellent grades?
— Do you think there is too much emphasis on grades? Are there qualities and skills that you possess that are not reflected in your grades?
— The author writes: “Getting straight A’s requires conformity. Having an influential career demands originality.” Do you agree? Is Mr. Grant’s advice good for all students, or do you think it might apply to only some?
Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.