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GPA holds perceptions, stress, stereotypes over students

Madeline Lee, News Editor

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In high school, grades can feel like the most important thing in the world. They cause students to stay up until the early hours of the morning, to get up early to talk to teachers, to make sacrifices, and to feel a wide range of emotions from stress to apathy. However one feels about it, GPA is a key part of high school life.

Looking towards the future

GPA is a source of stress, anxiety, pride, and gratification that plays a key role in getting to places after high school.
“All of my friends have 4.0s,” sophomore Adam Hamelback said. “I didn’t want to say anything about my GPA, which was a little low.”
A member of the marching band and cross country team, Hamelback felt insecure about his GPA and therefore did not want to tell his friends what it was, since theirs was higher than his.
While the difference between a 3.8 and a 4.0 is small, it can sound like a lot more. GPA insecurity is something that most students feel- students that have 2.5s to 4.0s. However, it can feel lonely at times.
“I felt left out,” Hamelback said. “I felt like I needed to do better, and my GPA did improve by .2 points. I now have a 3.5.”
Improving one’s GPA is a lot harder than lowering it, and that difficulty only increases with the amount of years a student is in high school. This means that if your GPA is not up to a college’s standards senior year, you should try to rely on other factors to gain admittance.
“I want to go to Mizzou,” Hamelback said. “But if I ever wanted to go to a nicer colleges, then yeah, I’m a little worried [about my GPA].”
How a college decides to admit a student is up to the college themselves. For example, Truman State University, located in Kirksville, MO, does what is called a holistic review.
“This allows us to review all elements of the student’s application to assess if they are academically prepared for Truman,” Associate Director of Admissions at Truman State University, Jill Graves said. “Yes, we are looking for strength and success in the classroom and strong test scores… but we also look at the strength of the coursework… as well as the essay and resume.”
The holistic review mindset is a reason why Truman State does not have a minimum GPA or ACT/SAT score for admission.
“GPA is important,” Graves said. “But at Truman, it’s not just about the number.”
However, not all colleges take part in holistic review.
“[Here at Missouri State] our absolute minimum GPA required for admission is a 2.5,” Associate Director at the Office of Admissions for Missouri State University, Matt Magruder, said. “Then for the test scores, we use a sliding scale. This means that the lower the GPA, the higher an ACT a student will need.”
There are multiple ways that a college can decide to admit students. The Corral reached out to Washington University, the University of Missouri-Columbia, and the University of Kansas, but received no reply.
Applying to college can be a daunting process for some, and the anxiety that a person feels can increase tenfold if one feels that they do not meet the standards of acceptance.
“I’ve been scared to apply to college and to go in general,” senior Payton Shukri said. “I got an 18 on the ACT and that, along with my GPA, is definitely not up to most college’s standards.”
There are many options for after high school including the military, a technical college, and, like in Shukri’s case, a gap year.
“I’m taking a gap year,” Shukri said. “Just to focus on myself and have a mental break before probably going to community college.”
Community college is a popular option for students with lower GPAs and standardized test scores.
“I wanted to go to Harvard,” senior Brenden Tucker said. “I’m slacking on the GPA level though, so I’m going to community college.”
Hoping to raise his GPA, Tucker had a 2.1 during the time of interview.
Community college is not the only option for after high school, and, as stated earlier, students have other options such as the armed forces.
“I’m not applying to colleges or looking for any,” senior Richard Waitz said. “I joined the Army. My GPA(2.4) and my ACT(18) did not affect my decision though.”
All in all, no matter the GPA or ACT/SAT scores of a person, there are plenty of options for the future.

Perception

GPA can affect how a student sees themselves based on how much importance they place of their grades and what their GPA actually is. Often times, this connotation is negative.
“I’m not the wisest bird in the shed,” senior Brenden Tucker said. “Right now I have a 2.1.”
However, GPA can also positively affect how a person sees themselves.
“I take pride in having a high GPA,” freshman Precious Adeoy said. “I like to talk about it since I’m the type of person who has my head straight.”
While maybe not altering a person’s self-perception, it can alter how a person feels about themselves.
“At the swim banquet, I was a little disappointed when I got my scholar athlete award,” junior Thomas Gibson said. “The awards say everyone’s GPA on it for the first six weeks, and it was lower than I expected.”
GPA also affects how a person believes that others see them- if others think highly of them or not.
“My parents asked me what my GPA was,” Shukri said. “It was uncomfortable to tell them.”
Family can often add pressure onto schooling and grades, which can potentially lead to a decrease in self-esteem
“I have the lowest GPA in my family,” Waitz said. “My siblings are both younger than me, so it makes me ashamed.”
Not everyone is hesitant about their grades, though.
“I like to say that I have a high GPA,” Adeoy said. “I don’t like being compared to anyone else.”

To honors or to not

The idea of a weighted grade is attractive to many people, but the difficulty and rigor of honors classes can make the probability of achieving that grade slim.
“Looking at the strength of the coursework is important [to Truman],” Graves said. “Truman is looking for solid, well-prepared students.”
Students have dropped honors classes in order to raise their GPA, because even though no weighted grade is given in regular classes, it is often easier to obtain an A.
“The hardest classes [at Parkway Central] have got to be AP Lit or AP Physics,” Zuanich said. “I’ve heard pretty scary things about them.”
The decision to join an honors class should be discussed with teachers, parents, and oneself. When dropping honors classes or rising up to them, a student must meet with the head of the department in order to discuss their decision. This shows thorough thinking and the understanding of one’s academic future.

Upperclassmen Advice

Already having gone through over half of high school, many upperclassmen advise the younger students over things such as college applications and GPA.
“Ask for help if you need it,” Shukri said. “Don’t be afraid, everyone needs help.”
Many teachers have resources available for help before, during, and after school, and in AC Lab. Utilizing those is important and a key to academic success.
“Setting and striving for goals is important,” senior Anthony Zuanich said. “But know your limits.”
In agreement with this advice is other peers, teachers, and members of the counseling staff.
“If you have a 2.3 and a 12 on the ACT,” college counselor Nana Prange said during Class of 2019 meetings, “Then you should probably not be looking at Harvard.”
Instead, Prange recommends putting schools into categories- reach schools, safety schools, and the middle.
“Reach schools are where it may be a bit of a stretch in acceptance, fit, and financial categories,” Prange’s junior class 2019 PowerPoint read.
This means that the school may not ‘click’ with a student, it may be difficult to get in due to grades, or it may be difficult to afford it.
“A safety school is one where you are almost guaranteed to get in and you are able to afford it,” Prange’s powerpoint said.
Overall, a student should apply to a variety of colleges.

ACT has history few know

The ACT has a long history. Created in 1959 by Everett Franklin Lindquist at the Univeristy of Iowa, its goal was to replace the SAT which dominated admissions for about 20 years. Standing for American College Test, the aim of the ACT was to test information learned in the classroom instead of cognitive reasoning across the board. It tested multiple areas and assesses strengths and weaknesses, and was the first standardized test to include a science section.
Originally, students had 45 minutes each for English, Mathematics, Social Studies, and Natural Sciences on the 0-36 scale.. It became popular in the central and midwest parts of the United States.
13 years after its debut, the number of students taking the ACT had increased to over one million. In 1989, the test was restructured and is now the version that we take today. Natural Science became science reasoning, and has not changed since then. Social Studies disappeared to become the reading section. The math section added trigonometry and pre-algebra, and the English section moved the focus from grammar to writing skills. The scale also moved from 0-36 to 1-36.
In 1996, the ACT changed so that its name no longer was an acronym, and in 2005 the ACT added an optional writing section. In 2015, the time allotted also changed to become 35 minutes for Science, 60 minutes for Math, 35 minutes for Reading, and 45 minutes for English.
The ACT is now the most popular college admissions test.

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GPA holds perceptions, stress, stereotypes over students