Carlmont student takes a test while watching students enjoy themselves at lunch.
Carlmont student takes a test while watching students enjoy themselves at lunch.
Margot Graves

Grades don’t tell the whole story

Will bad grades ruin your life?

Many students ask themselves this frequently as they try to decide if they should go to that football game or study for their math test. Students worry about each assignment as if it will determine their net worth in 30 years. Will striving for a 4.0 GPA give students their dream life, or is the pressure and stress a waste of time?

In high school, students strive to have perfect grades, as they think it will lead them to get into a prestigious college and end up with a promising career. But many people believe that if students get a low GPA, they can still have a successful career.

Students like Lanie Mann and Catie O’Connor strive for the best GPA they can achieve.

Catie O’Connor is a senior at Carlmont who is taking five Advanced Placement (AP) classes this year and recognizes the importance of grades and course difficulty for getting into selective colleges.

“I don’t think it’s necessary to take five AP classes, but I think it gives you a leg up because [colleges] see that you are already on the college level,” O’Connor said. “I think most seniors here are taking some AP classes.” 

O’Connor is correct; many Carlmont students take AP classes. According to the California Department of Public Education, 47% of 10-12 graders at Carlmont took an AP exam in the 2019-2020 school year. This is a dramatic increase from the state’s average of 22%.

The emphasis on good grades is apparent in Carlmont’s environment; many students have a similar mindset to O’Connor. Lanie Mann, a sophomore at Carlmont, thinks taking honors and AP classes in high school is essential for her dream job, fashion merchandising.

“Business is a really big market, and I want to do big things in fashion merchandising, so I want to stand out,” Mann said.

Even in a more artistic job like the fashion industry, Mann believes that good grades are one of the only ways to do well and stand out. Mann tries to balance everything in her life, maintaining good grades, doing a professional job at her work, and finding time in between to enjoy her teenage years.

“The pressure to get good grades often makes doing fun things in my teenage years harder. I’m always worried about the grades, and I’m always thinking about it. That gets in the way of other stuff [like spending time and having fun with my friends] as well,” Mann said. 

Like Mann, many students find it challenging to balance work, school, and social life while maintaining a healthy lifestyle. 

With many opportunities for students to fill their schedule with challenging classes, it’s easy for someone to get overwhelmed; choosing a reasonable class load can help students find a good balance.

“I think it’s important for students to find a good balance where they should be able to challenge themselves, whatever they’re passionate about,” said Connie Dominguez, a Carlmont counselor and admissions reader for UC Davis. “Taking [honors and AP classes] doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to lead to a certain career or even to get into certain colleges.” 

Classes and grades don’t determine everything when it comes to college applications. Students can have an outstanding GPA, take many AP and honors classes in high school, and not lift their eyes from a textbook all of high school, but this still doesn’t guarantee them admission into the colleges they most desire. Some students have learned this the hard way.  

“I had a student one time that took every AP class we had to offer, and she scored perfect on them. She applied to all these colleges and didn’t get into any of them” Dominguez said.

University of Florida’s admissions page demonstrated how prestigious colleges like this one, take extracurriculars, sports, and work into consideration more than many students realize. 

Many other factors contribute to college applications. Some students may find different ways to help themselves get into college and enjoy a prosperous career that is not dependent on grades.

Extracurriculars and work can take up students’ time, and many colleges consider the sports and jobs students may have. Admission boards know these students likely wouldn’t have time to take multiple AP classes or maintain a 4.0 GPA. 

“Colleges also like to see a strong work ethic, and they will take into account the fact that your part-time job required an investment of time,” The Princeton Review said.

In addition, The National Association of College Admission Counselors (NACAC) shows the most critical factors contributing to college admission decisions. On that list, two of the top sixteen factors looked at on applications are high school grades; the rest consists of other factors.

Although college admissions take many factors into consideration, GPA and grades are certainly at the top of this list. As GPA in high school affects college, this eventually leads to the job someone can get.

The highest degree students can receive from a community college is an associate’s degree, which leads to a lower income than colleges with higher degree opportunities. Although they don’t require a high GPA to get accepted, they don’t always provide the same education and opportunities.

Some people can choose the option of two years at community college, and then have a much higher chance of transferring to get a 4-year degree.

According to research done by the Urban Institute, the higher someone’s GPA in high school, the more likely they are to have a high income later on in life.

Students have all four years of high school to get the highest GPA they can, so they don’t have to have a perfect one every semester.

“I have a lot of friends who didn’t do as well as they had hoped their freshman and sophomore year, and they worked hard, and they still got into the majority of colleges they applied to… I think we put too much pressure on grades, but no matter how you do, you’ll end up where you’re meant to be,” said Saylor Reinders, a Carlmont alumnus. 

California offers many opportunities between community colleges and state schools to get into college if someone doesn’t get excellent grades. These schools tend to have high acceptance rates and provide students with a good education, even if they weren’t as successful in high school.

Overall, high school grades aren’t vital to living a prosperous life. But statistics have proven there is a heavy emphasis on getting good grades for a reason. Even though they aren’t the only contributing factor to getting into a good college, grades usually act as a prerequisite for getting into the pool of people colleges look at.

It is easy to get caught up in the pressure of the competitive environment of high school, but school and grades don’t define a student and their capabilities.

“Grades and test scores, that to me is like a marker, but it doesn’t tell the whole story,” Dominguez said.

About the Contributors
Margot Graves
Margot Graves, Staff Writer
Margot Graves is a sophomore at Carlmont High School and a writer of review for Scot Scoop News. Margot enjoys reviewing movies, albums, and books. Twitter: @MargotGraves3  
Adelaide Reinshagen
Adelaide Reinshagen, Staff Writer
Adelaide Reinshagen is a senior at Carlmont and is in her third year at Carlmont's journalism program. She enjoys creating content for Scot Scoop's social media platforms. Outside of journalism, she enjoys baking and running for her school's track team. Twitter: @Adelaide2312

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