Thought Tuesday

Adulting 101 – Your High School Grades Matter

Nearly all high school seniors believe that they are going to college and bad grade won’t stop them.  Have you listened to the “future plans” of graduates read as they walk across the stage at graduation?  Okay.  A large majority are heading to a community college because open admissions is a “thing.”  But are they successful?  Do they complete college?

This subject has been on my mind for quit some time.

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It is my observation that students who perform poorly in high school most likely will not graduate from college, may even not go beyond remedial course.  Did we really serve them well?  I believe there is a close connection between high school preparation (difficulty of classes offered and grades) and college completion.  I am not alone.  It would appear that researcher are seeing similar trends.

J. E. Rosenbaum published a study of students who graduated in 1982, around the time I graduated from high school.  He reported that 71% of the class of 1982 planned to get a college degree.  Ten years later, 64% of them with an A average had attained an A.A. degree or higher, but only 14% of those with C averages had earned anything. A US Department of Education study in 2004 reported that only 45-49% of students who enter college and earn more than 10 credits actually earn a bachelor’s degree… many even fail to even earn 10 credits.  The trend of students completing higher education continue to decline.  Can we really claim educational success?

Despite an increase open enrollment and an increase in student desires to attend college, the best predictor of a student’s success in college is still a high school GPA.  It seems that our efforts to encourage students to go to college regardless of their grades has given them the impression that their efforts in high school don’t truly matter.  Tragic.  Truly tragic!

Student motivation in school continues to decline.  Time to prepare for college is wasted.  Any college savings students have is used taking remedial classes that they had the opportunity to take in high school (sadly, many students are under the impression that all classes taken in college are college classes when in fact, remedial classes are high-school level classes offering no college credit).  Many discover that because of the added remedial courses, a 2-year degree takes a student 3.5 years to complete.  These student face time and budget issues.  Their chances of completing college diminishes.


It seems like we have created an environment that fosters a relaxed and unrealistic picture of “adulting” success among our high school students.  Sure, a few kids who have their hearts set on attending the “right” colleges see the importance of a high grade point average, however, the majority seem to believe that “grades don’t matter.”

Earning a college degree is tough.  It can be difficult for students who worked hard and did well in high school.  It is nearly impossible for students who performed poorly or who had poor attendance in high school.  College becomes an experience in failure.  Face it.  The GPA is a good indicator of the work ethic a student has learned.  If you want to graduate from college, make a greater effort and get good grades in high school!

Whether you are planning on going to college or not, your grades in high school matter.

There are many non-college training options that can lead to well-paid, respected occupations.  Again, effort in high-school education matters!  Grades matter!  Doing homework matters!  Taking difficult and challenging classes matter!


Employers have a variety of needs, cultures, and ways of evaluating whether or not an applicant will be a “good fit” for their company.  Employers look at your major, leadership positions and opportunities you took advantage of, extracurricular activities you were involved in, schools attended, foreign language skills, and job experience.  Employers are looking for well round individuals who have developed a stellar work ethic and who have sought out a variety of experiences.  Although employers may be looking at a variety of attributes and skills in the applicant pool, a stellar GPA will be viewed as an asset.  A GPA is an indicator of focus, skill, work ethic and dedication.

Your GPA should matter!  It should matter to you, to your family and to potential employers.  Maintaining a high level of academic achievement is something worthy of praise.  It demonstrates the type of excellence employers desire in their employees.  A moderate GPA indicates a level of competence and an ability to commit to getting the job done.


That being said, I cannot underestimate the power of “real-world” experience.  “Real-World” experience can show case your versatility and commitment to excellence.  Seek to gain experience in employment (no job is too small), internships, and even volunteer work. A solid skill set and relevant experience can open doors.  Branch out and build a network.  Seek out internships and work opportunities that will help you to start networking contacts.  Colleges and potential employers will be impressed.  Your employment odds will improve.

Grades strongly predict future careers.  Seriously!  STUDY!  What do you have to lose?  You might as well do all that you can to ensure that you have the best opportunities available.


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