Just like the dashboards of social media that measure
“likes,” “friends,” “followers,” and “connections,”
we have to examine if the numbers by themselves have any real meaning.
It’s the end of the semester and with it comes to usual calls, emails, and urgent pleas for an opportunity to “do whatever it takes” to raise a grade. Unfortunately, the “whatever it takes” was not applied diligently by these students during the semester. They want to “fix” the problem now!
One student asked me a leading question: “If a student has an 89.6% average, shouldn’t the professor give her the other .4%?”
I explained it was a professor call. And, I countered with: “If all you need is .4%, are you telling me that you were not able to be just .4% better to avoid this situation during the previous 16 weeks?”
And there are the other students who constantly have their calculators out, adding and averaging every grade. They are consumed by the “If-I-don’t-get-an-‘A’-my-life-is-ruined” mentality. All energies focus on the grade. They will argue for one point—not because of content or learning. Simply for the grade.
Most times these students’ faces are scrunched up with stress. They get caught in the dreadful grip of grade anxiety. Some believe they must be perfect; they have to be number one. They care about what people think. They tend to take fewer chances/play it safe (if those risks will/might affect the GPA). They miss the journey and the joy that is possible.
Video recommendation for the week:
“When perfectionism is driving, shame is always riding shotgun,” says Dr. Brene Brown.
During my last meeting with my classes this past week, I asked them a simple—and I hope a thought-provoking question, “Are you building a transcript here at college—or are you building a life?”
Please do not misunderstand me. There are a number of students I wish took a little more interest in their grades! And I understand that GPA is a barometer for certain things in higher education like some scholarships or admission to a particular school within a university, for instance. And maybe in some job screening situations, the GPA may be given a quick check. I get that. But as in most things in life there has to be balance and common sense.
I graduated as the valedictorian of my under graduate college class. #1! Nice honor. But guess how many people (in my career space) have EVER asked me about that? How many employers? Schools who call on me to speak? Publishers?
The answer: Not one.
Beyond the ego gratification, it means little. I guess it does show that I was disciplined…but that 3.993 GPA did not build my life. It is a small part of it that I earned nearly 40 years ago. It’s just a number. And more specifically, it was just a number at that given point in my life. It did not measure me as a person. In fact, when I started my first career job just 6 weeks after graduation in 1975, the GPA was already a distant memory. Is GPA a predictor of success? You can find arguments on all sides of this. A better point to measure may be the consequences of the obsession with GPA.
You may know people in your office who measure their importance by how many committees they are on; how many meetings they had this week; how many times the boss called them or (more pathetically) said hi to them in the hallway. They keep score as they attempt to build a résumé and sense of self-importance—but they lose sight of the life they may be ignoring or creating on the job and beyond.
And just like the dashboards of social media that measure “likes,” “friends,” “followers,” and “connections,” we have to examine if these numbers by themselves have any real meaning.
Step back from the numbers. You are more than that. You are not a data point. How do you stand out as a person beyond some ranking?
Make it a wonderful week—H.T.R.B. as needed.
Information on my newest book, Choices for College Success (3rd ed.), can be found at Pearson Education.
(c) 2014. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.