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Do High School Grades Make a Difference?

By Kathy Fawcett

What difference did your high school grades make in your adult life?

The other day I met the future valedictorian of my son’s class of 2011. How do I know? His mom told me. "He’s the top student in the class," she said, but worries that his advanced class placement in high school might lower his chances if he should get his first ever B.

I scrambled to think of just one of my son’s teacher’s names while she talked, and gazed at the boys, my son being the one who just a few years ago, stapled a stuffed squirrel to the shoulder of his shirt before he left for school. "You must be so proud." Really, though, it made me realize how little I really care about grades.

Don’t tell my son though – as the third child, we’ve been telling him his entire life that no family ever has money left for the last kid, after helping the others with cars, cell phones and college. We tell him this because he is very smart, and tests very well, in spite of his very average grades. We recognized early on that our youngest was the one who would have a strong chance at academic scholarships. So we are unmovable in our mercenary mantra: "You will get good grades in high school."

My grades in high school were actually quite good, though I put no extra effort towards them. I remember feeling almost defiant, that my grades would not define who I was, or what I could do with my life. I suspect my kids have always felt the same way, but we won’t speak of such things until they are much, much older.

And you? Let’s hear back. Did you work hard for good grades that opened college and career doors? Did you flub high school only to shine in college? What mattered the most?

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  1. My good grades in high school were partly a result of my ability to schmooze my teachers into giving me good grades. My junior year I had a creative writing class where I told the teacher that I don’t write plays or poems, but I’d be happy to give him a fiction short story. He accepted my offer and I received an A- (and now I write for a living!). I buddied up with a couple teachers who let me re-do assignments and tests until I got the grade I was looking for, and one who told me that I was missing several assignments, but he assumed that he lost them and gave me A’s on all.
    While this all seems very useful when I was 17, it was not a good precident for my adult life, during which I have learned many lessons, including the fact that you really can’t talk your way out of your adult responsibilities.
    From my kids, I say verbally that I expect A’s all the time, but really I’m happy if they just complete their assignments.

    Posted by: kristi | March 28, 2007
  2. interesting, Kristi. i can only hope my kids learn the same lessons.

    Posted by: kathy fawcett | March 28, 2007
  3. That’s funny to read, and it’s very true. A lot of people put a very high amount of stock on a students grades. And there is always that effort to take slightly easier classes (no advanced placement for example) to be sure to maintain that 4.o GPA.
    My thought is that I am more concerned with what my children are learning — and more importantly how they are applying the learning – rather than worrying if they got the A or B.

    Posted by: Smitty | March 28, 2007
  4. My grades were average in high school. I dropped out of chemistry, didn’t take senior year english and didn’t make it to algebra II – all pre-requisites for entrance into an accredited college/university.
    My high school “counselor” didn’t seem to care enough to counsel me to take those classes either. But it’s funny, my master’s thesis committee never asked me about any of that stuff- so I guess high school was irrelevant.
    But then again, a scholarship or two would have been nice… :)

    Posted by: PJP | March 28, 2007
  5. As the oldest in this family (and the only girl), I was the guinea pig. I am the typical oldest child; the leader of the pack if you will. Mom and dad always told me that I was not an ordinary or average person, and that I shouldn’t perform like an average person in school. To me, that meant I should get A’s and B’s, but not C’s. BUT that in areas such as math, where very few people in my family succeed, I was expected to do my best, even if that meant a “C”. I came out of High School in the top half of my grade, able to go to the college I wanted and work towards the degree I wanted. From the 3 high schools I attended, I learned what I needed to learn to go on to college and the real world (well, maybe not the real world, but at least I know how to do group cheers at football games). I learned how to write, I learned how to study, I learned how to do things that I have to do even when I don’t want to, and I learned about people. I may not have gotten all A’s, but I learned a lot about myself, what I like to do, what I have to do, and how to get where I want to go.

    Posted by: Holly Fawcett | March 29, 2007

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Friday, January 19, 2018