Your grades don’t define you—but they do still matter in high school, in your college search, and maybe even in your life after college. This is something many students need to hear. Oftentimes, students take grades for granted, thinking a bad grade here or there doesn’t change much for their future. But grades really are important to your future, and if you really care about your future, the grades you get now will inform and change that.
Not caring will make things more stressful
School is stressful. Not everyone gets straight A’s, and the weight of grades sometimes brings us down. In an effort to comfort those who aren't getting the grades they want, the mantra “Your grades don’t define you” has spread around. To be fair, it is true and something you should keep in mind. But many students have warped the meaning of this saying into thinking grades don’t matter at all and you don’t need to try to do well in school. Is this really the kind of mindset we should carry around as students? No, your grades aren’t everything, but not caring or trying will inevitably result in more stress when you start the college admission process and you can’t get in anywhere because you have no reasonable excuse for why your grades aren’t great.
You don’t need a 4.0, but you should give it your best
Grades do matter. There may be flaws in many grading systems—sometimes in the education system itself—but letters and numbers do still hold value. It may be a tough pill to swallow, but you’re only hurting yourself if you pretend your grades don’t matter. Colleges look at grades, scholarship organizations look at grades, and employers look at grades too. However, you should also remember that you don’t need to have a 4.0 to be successful. Grades can’t show every amazing quality you have, and colleges, scholarship organizations, and employers understand that.
Reframe how you look at your grades
You should think of grades more as a measurement of how much you tried. If you’re failing almost every class, there’s a strong chance you aren’t applying yourself and reaching your real potential. To some, straight A’s come naturally, requiring no extra effort. If you’re one of those students, then getting below a B might mean you really didn’t try. If it takes you hours of studying to get B’s, then that’s okay too. As long as you truly tried to the best of your ability, you can look at a C and be okay. If you know you can do better than a C, then try harder next time, do something different when you study, use a different test-taking strategy, or even ask for some extra credit. Everyone is capable of improving in school—it just takes time. Remember that you should never beat yourself up over a low grade—as long as you actually tried.
Grades don’t define you. Those numbers on your transcripts aren’t labels on your forehead. You are so much more. However, good grades are important because they give people an idea of your academic strengths, interests, and ability to learn new things. Grades aren’t so important that you should pull all-nighters until you collapse; they key is finding a healthy balance between giving your schoolwork the attention it deserves and giving yourself the mental health break you deserve.
Improve your work ethic and your grades by checking out more advice like this in our Majors and Academics section.