Grades do not define success

You are worth more than a number


Mehroz Kapadia / Daily Collegian

By Julie Harrison, Collegian Columnist

Midterm season is upon us. Late nights are consumed by studying, trips to the library and endless cups of coffee. It is also consumed by stress and the constant worry that we may fail. The pressure we put on ourselves is unhealthy, especially when we measure our success and intelligence on a series of multiple choice questions. Instead, we should focus on our own academic growth and how much we have truly learned over the course of the semester.

I want you to ask yourself a series of questions.

First, I want you to reflect on the last test you took. How long did you study for? Were you nervous you may not do well? Did you put pressure on yourself to earn a better grade? Many of us have had similar experiences and strive academically to earn the best grade possible.

Academic pressure is stressed throughout high school; If you earn good grades you can get into a prestigious college. If you do well on the SAT, the admissions team will respect that. When we enter college, this mindset does not fade. In ways, it grows stronger because we are learning material that is catered to the job we aspire to have one day.

According to, “One in four American college students indicate that lack of sleep has affected their academic performance in a negative way: lower grades, missed a paper or project deadline, or had to withdraw from class.”

Sleep deprivation is very common among college students, though studying through the late hours of the night can have a worse impact on us than we may realize. We overlook how vital sleep is to our physical and mental health, and it shows when our health comes second to our schoolwork.

We need to start putting our needs first. I will admit that I have stayed up until 4 a.m., cramming all the notes that I have taken into just a few hours. I convinced myself I had to stay up late to succeed. Although my body was screaming for rest, the only thought on my mind was the grade that would be stamped at the top of my test. If I stopped studying now, would I receive a lower test grade? If I did, how would this affect my job search once I graduated? It is important for us to look at the statistics listed above when thoughts like this enter our mind. It is important for us to take a break when our body needs it.

Some believe that grades have defined how successful we may be once we graduate. The higher the GPA, the higher the chances of obtaining a high-paying job. I was surprised to find that this is not always true. According to Forbes, “Earning a B average at a top college could be more likely to result in better career earnings than an A average at a mediocre college.” This contradicts the mindset many college students have, and emphasizes that the most important aspect of their college careers is learning. If you push yourself to take classes that are more difficult, you will likely learn a new skill. While they may not earn an “A” in that class, the valuable experience and information acquired can be applied to whatever career they pursue.

With this in mind, I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunities we have on campus. If you are interested in a course, just take it. I want you to approach each class and focus on what you can learn and get out of it. As this article says, “GPAs are just a three-digit number. They have no magical power and are not secret passwords for admission to a job.”

You are not defined by the set of numbers found on your transcript. You are defined by your life experiences, skills and what you have to offer to the rest of the world.

Julie Harrison can be reached at [email protected]