Do My Grades Really Matter?

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Some students who experience serious life challenges and interruptions face a harsh reality when it comes to applying to colleges and programs, because many academic rewards and programs judge them on things like grades and test scores. 

Learning is important, of course, but it's those grades that are important because are the only evidence that shows we've learned.

In real life, students can learn a great deal in high school without actually earning the grades to match their knowledge, because things like attendance and tardiness can affect grades. This means that students who have to take care of family members, or those who work late night jobs, are sometimes penalized for the things that are out of their control.

Sometimes bad grades reflect a true picture of our learning, and sometimes they come as a result of something very different.

Where Grades Matter

High school grades matter most if you have hopes of going to college. The grade point average is one factor that colleges may consider when they decide to accept or deny a student.

Sometimes, the admissions staff have the ability to look beyond a minimum grade point average, but sometimes they have to follow strict rules that have been handed down to them.

But getting accepted is one thing; receiving a scholarship is another matter. Colleges also look at grades when they decide whether to award funding to high school students.

Grades can also be a factor for consideration into an honor society in college. Students find that involvement in an honor society or other club also makes you eligible for special funding and opens the door for incredible opportunities. You can travel abroad, become a campus leader, and get to know faculty when you are part of a scholarly organization.

Core Academic Grades

It’s also important to know that colleges may not look at every grade you earn when making a decision. Many colleges only look at core academic grades when factoring the grade point average they use to make a decision about acceptance.

Grades also matter when it comes to getting into a specific degree program in college. You may meet requirements for the university you prefer, but you could be denied by the department where your prefer major is housed.

Don’t expect to bring up your overall grade point average by taking elective courses. They may not be factored into the calculation the college uses.

Grades for College Students

The importance of grades is more complicated for college students. Grades can matter for many very different reasons.

Freshmen Grades

Freshmen year grades matter most of all for students who are receiving financial aid. Each college that serves students receiving federal aid is required to establish a policy about academic progress.

All students who receive federal aid are checked for progress sometime during the first year. Students must be completing the classes in which they enroll to maintain federal aid; that means students must not fail and they must not withdraw from too many courses during their first and second semesters.

Students who are not progressing at a determined pace will be placed on financial aid suspension. This is why freshmen can’t afford to fail classes during their first semester: failing courses during the first semester can cause you to lose financial aid during the first year of college!

Not All Grades Are Equal

Your overall grade point average is important for many reasons, but there are times when grades in certain courses are not as important as other courses.

For example, a student who is majoring in math is probably going to have to pass first-year math courses with a B or better to move on to the next level of math. On the other hand, a student who is majoring in sociology may be OK with a grade of C in first-year math.

This policy will differ from one college to another, so be sure to check your college catalog if you have questions.

Your overall grade point average will be important for staying in college, too. Unlike high schools, colleges can ask you to leave if you aren’t performing well!

Different Colleges, Different Policies

Every college will have a policy about academic standing. If you fall below a certain grade average you may be placed on academic probation or academic suspension.

If you are placed on academic probation, you will be given a certain length of time to improve your grades—and if you do, you will be taken off probation.

If you are placed on academic suspension, you may have to “sit out” for a semester or a year before you can return to college. Upon your return, you will likely go through a probation period.

You will need to improve your grades during the probation to stay in college.

Grades are also important for students who want to continue with their education beyond the initial four-year college degree. To do this, some students may choose to pursue a master’s degree or a Ph.D. at a graduate school.

If you plan to go on to graduate school after you earn a bachelor’s degree, you will have to apply, just like you had to apply to college out of high school. Graduate schools use grades and test scores as factors for acceptance.

Read About Grades in Middle School

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Your Citation
Fleming, Grace. "Do My Grades Really Matter?" ThoughtCo, Jun. 20, 2021, Fleming, Grace. (2021, June 20). Do My Grades Really Matter? Retrieved from Fleming, Grace. "Do My Grades Really Matter?" ThoughtCo. (accessed January 30, 2023).