The student news site of New Trier High School

New Trier News

The student news site of New Trier High School

New Trier News

The student news site of New Trier High School

New Trier News

How the level system affects students’ psyches

It’s commonly joked that New Trier kids fear any grade lower than an A, but it is more of a reality than we realize. As New Trier students, we put such an emphasis on getting perfect grades and a high GPA to compliment our college applications, that we shy away from an academic challenge.

Often we take a few classes where we know we can get an A without much work or studying. Though it seems favorable for the college process, this mentality is actually hurting us more than it is helping.

There are two distinct responses to getting back an A or C paper or exam. An A paper is often looked at and reviewed for a few seconds, and then shoved into a folder or displayed on the desk for others to see. When a C exam is received, though often an embarrassing and shameful process, the student must review the exam, question by question, to discover what was incorrect or misunderstood.

Though the first response is more desirable, the lower grade provides an opportunity for the student to further their understanding and use skills that are more beneficial and allow the student to grow not only with an understanding of the material, but also as a strategic learner.

Taking classes that are personally challenging and possibly getting lower grades instead of taking easier classes to ensure an A, provides this experience.

Asking for help is an important skill, easily acquired when facing an academic challenge. When a student fails a test, they elicit skills that will apply in many situations they will face in the future.

To better grasp the material, a student must be resourceful in order to receive the necessary help. Teachers, study groups, and other online resources are available for help. Students who enter college with this resourcefulness will benefit when they are faced with more rigorous college courses.

Students who have strategically placed themselves in classes that are not nearly as challenging and are constantly getting As, are missing this skill, and may not know what to do when they are struggling in a class.

I have experienced this situation first hand. My junior year, I moved down a level in one of my courses. Even though it was a class that I easily succeeded in, I did not take the appropriate amount of time working and studying the material. Because the class was easy for me, I focused on other courses that were more of a challenge.

Even though I had a significantly lower grade in my original level, I learned so much more in that class not only in the material, but also with study skills and group work, than I ever did in the class where I received an A. When I got Bs and Cs on tests, it forced me to go back and review the ways that I was studying, and take a more useful approach. I learned what types of study skills were and were not working, which helped me in my classes.

At New Trier, we too often label A students as ‘smart’ and see anyone getting a lower grade as average. Technically, an A is defined as excellent work, a B is defined as good, and a C is the average.
This would mean that given a classroom, the majority of students would be receiving Cs and a few would fall about or below this grade. This scale is barely considered in our school.

Because of New Trier’s high GPA standards and the pressure we put on ourselves to achieve the stereotype of a successful New Trier student C grades are not seen as the average. Some teachers look down upon students who receive C’s.

This stigma contributes to why we fear taking a class where we might not be the best student in the room.

We need to be more accepting and comfortable with receiving lower grades. Once we are comfortable with getting a few Bs or Cs, we will more easily step out of our comfort zone.

Why do you think the Common App asks applicants to write about a time they’ve failed? It’s because the way a student learns to grow from a failure of any sort says more about their character than any 5.3 GPA.