Don’t check your grades

Obsessing over the grade book is unnecessary and harmful

Will Nelson, Senior Columnist

During the first few weeks of the school year, the hair follicles on my face started to get plugged with dead skin cells and oil, covering my cheeks with little red volcanic pustules. At first, I blamed it on the masks, but that excuse crumbled when the acne spread to my forehead.

I started exfoliating more often and washing my face obsessively. 

Gradually, I realized my personal hygiene wasn’t the culprit this time, it was stress. Specifically, it was stress about my grades.

I used to check my grades a lot. The grade book was like a drug to me; the little rush of serotonin when I opened it and saw that I was doing well, followed by that crushing, hollow desperation to feel that high again. It became a measure of my self-worth and suddenly, I was dependent on it to tell me that I still have value. 

Deep down, I knew that life was more than the difference between an A and a B, but it’s hard to remember that sometimes. There are pressures that every student faces when it comes to the grade book and it was the hormones released by those pressures that pushed those pus-filled bubbles through my skin.

But is all that stress warranted? I don’t want to give myself high blood pressure because of some silly little symbol from the English Alphabet displayed on a screen.

Honestly, I don’t think we should have to look at grades at all.

College is a business. We are here paying a corporation for a product. The transaction takes around four years, but it’s still a transaction. We are all in the act of buying an education.

I know this isn’t a perfect comparison, but buying an education is kind of similar to buying an apple at the grocery store. When you buy an apple, you try to pick one that’s nice looking, with no bruises at a reasonable price. Choosing which apple you buy is up to you. It’s the same with choosing colleges. 

If you’re reading this, chances are good that you picked Hamline because it looked like a nice apple and you could afford it.

In this feeble metaphor, your grades are equivalent to the sticker on the apple. A sticker on an apple is just there to reassure you that you are, in fact, buying an apple. Similarly, grades –  especially once they’re on a transcript – are just there to confirm that you have, in fact, received an education. 

When I buy apples, I don’t usually check the sticker to make sure it’s an apple. Why should I have to check my grades to make sure what I’m receiving is an education?

Unfortunately, this metaphor is pretty seriously flawed. Having a sticker from an apple doesn’t dictate whether or not you get a job. Having transcripts does. 

I wish a transcript and a degree wasn’t the final product of a college “education,” but it kind of seems like it is. At least to society at large.

Is it because capitalism places more value on the system by which we are educated than the education that we receive? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

Regardless, the fact that having relatively good grades will probably be important later in life isn’t likely to change any time soon, but that doesn’t mean it has to affect how we think.

If you’re anything like me, and you catch yourself sweating over your grades from sunrise to sunset, you think about what’s really important; learning.

Colleges are supposed to be places of growth. If you get a D on a chem exam but you still think you learned something, I’d consider that a success. Besides, everyone needs some D in their life sometimes. 

The point is that worrying over the grade book can be really unhealthy and nowadays, none of us really need that in our lives. Next time you open up Canvas, just remember that you’re the one who gets the final say in whether or not you learn something. With any luck, maybe it’ll clear up some acne too.