Why do we allow grades to determine our self worth?


Chloe Zarrinkelk

Allowing grades to determine your self-worth can lead to disappointment.

Ryann Liddell and Linda Manzo

We’ve all been there: you open your Chromebook and log into Q. You check your grade in an important class only to find that it has substantially dropped all due to one quiz, and can’t help but feel downtrodden.

This scenario is all too common in high school these days. The pressure to succeed in school can be extremely intense, to the point where students will sacrifice both their mental and physical health just to get a good grade. Worse, when they don’t achieve their desired grade, they allow it to have a huge impact on their self-esteem.

The desire to get a good grade can become mentally consuming. It’s easy to lose sleep over that one question you missed, or that historical event you should have brought up in your essay. Pressure to get a good grade is overbearing due to the looming presence of academic stress, especially in the first couple of years in high school. Ashley Newman ‘22 claims “I think when I was younger, I was really, really stressed about grades, and I really wanted that academic validation and that feeling that you get when you get a good grade and are really proud of yourself.” Pressure to do well in school stems from the academic validation that Newman describes. 

The desire for academic validation from parents, peers, teachers and even from oneself oftentimes contributes to why we allow grades to determine our own self-worth. When asked about why she stresses about grades, Sienna Darlicuio ‘23 claims “I have a lot of pressure from other students, my teachers and my parents… I feel like there’s always this standard to get good grades all the time.” There is an undeniable pressure to get good grades, as it is a measure of success in our society. However, it is not the only measure of success; a grade represents one small part of who we are at a single moment in time.

Academics should (rightfully) be one of a student’s top priorities. However, to become consumed with the pressure of achieving perfect grades is unhealthy for both the student and those surrounding them. Rather, a pleasant high school experience outside the classroom is just as important as academic commitment. Balance is crucial for a high school student; maintaining relationships between peers and family should be as equally important as an upcoming math benchmark. Surely, academics are important, but grades only reflect one aspect of a person, such as the ability to memorize. In other words, grades fail to show other, just as important aspects of an individual, especially the soul behind the score. 

The academic grading system, though designed to gain insight into a student’s understanding, has become a large determinant of a student’s self-worth. The pressure placed through external (as well as internal) sources has left students with not only a desire but a need for a perfect grade. Achieving perfection is impossible, and unfulfilling. The exhausting chase for perfect grades will leave students burned out as the school year progresses, as well as a negative connotation with academics and self-worth. Rather than perfection, effort and progress are equally important accomplishments to be proud of. As I have been reminded by the supportive Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech) staff, progress is to be prioritized over perfection.

What do you think?