Grades: The Be All and End All? – Olivia King

Many of you will have just finished exams or will be seeing the back of them very soon. Well done. Take a break. Enjoy this relaxing period of exam-absence glee. And most importantly, don’t get sucked into the spiral of comparing performance, predicted grades, or instantly moving on from worrying about the exam, to the exam result. 

Grades are something which nearly all of us admit are the first and maybe only thing we look at when receiving a marked piece of work. We look at the grade and suddenly that determines whether the feedback is worth reading. It’s easy to do. However, it is also a counter-productive thing to do.

Quantitive grades, although important, when dwelled upon too much, diminish our interest in learning or sometimes, even trying. The University of Michigan found that 80% of students base their self worth on academic success. This to me is a startling figure, not merely because the figure is scary, but also because it rings so true for many of us.

Yes, grades are to some extent important, but really they are absolutely not the be all and end all. Many careers and dreams can be achieved through means that aren’t dependent on grades. Moreover, there are many more diverse ways to meet new people, open up employment opportunities, or travel— all things most of us want to do. Take networking for example. I recently met a top lawyer with his own company at an RHS networking event, and he told me something I think I should share. He said that when employing people, the first thing he looks for is experience. Not necessarily experience in law, he said, but experience in life and its various challenges. Traveling, volunteering and work experience are just some of the many things that are therefore prioritised over grades. 

This alone goes to show that grades do not determine your future. You are not defined by a 1 to 9 number, or an A* to an E. You are defined by your attitude, willingness to adapt and drive to do what it takes to achieve your future goals. 

Bill Gates, the richest person on earth, dropped out of Harvard in his Junior year.

Therefore this week, enjoy the post-exam relief. Do not focus on the results, whether they come to you on results day, or have already been given to you. They are important. But they are not the be all and end all.

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