Friday, August 30, 2013

Do Grades Really Matter?

We've written numerous articles on whether it's worth it to go to college or to grad school, and each time we tend to conclude that you should go because an education is a good thing that will open many doors in your life.  Or so we are told.  There's an important element, however, that often goes overlooked during these educational debates that can literally determine whether you graduate and live a life of luxury or whether you graduate and drive a bus: grades.

But grades don't matter, do they?  That's what we always hear from teachers who want to encourage us to do our best.  But at the end of the day, is there any way to escape the harsh reality that the grades we earn going all the way back to our childhood years can have a direct impact on our earning potential as adults?

In the legal profession I'm constantly reminded of this.  Even as a senior associate who has been practicing biglaw for several years, whenever I toss my resume around to see what's out there from time to time one of the first questions I am asked -- if not THE first question -- is "what is your GPA?"  As if the grades that I received nearly a decade ago somehow trump the substantive experiences that I've collected from actually practicing the law for several years.  But that's the legal profession for you - we thrive on turning down qualified candidates if it will help to maintain our prestige-obsessed superiority complex that allows us to look down our nose at other human beings.  So perhaps the legal profession is not the best metric to use in order to help us figure out if grades truly matter.

How about med school?  Obviously if you're going to have a kidney removed, you want the doctor who got the "A" in whatever kidney-removing class doctors are required to take.  Placing high scrutiny on grades under those circumstances would at least seem to be somewhat justified.  But what about other schools?  Grad school?  Undergrad?  High School?  Middle School? Elementary school? Should the grades we make as 4 year-olds in pre-school really determine whether or not we will someday be accepted into an ivy league college?  At least one mom thinks so.

I want to open this one up to the readers:

  1. Do the grades that we make in school determine our path in life?
  2. Should they? To what extent?
  3. Is there a better way to assess knowledge and learning than requiring students to take written exams?  
  4. Is there a correlation between standardized tests and success in life?  If yes, why?  If not, then why do we use them?
  5. If a job posting seeks candidates with XYZ experience and a 3.0 GPA, and a candidate has experience that actually exceeds XYZ but has a 2.9 GPA, should the candidate get the job?

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