7 Things You Should Actually Care About Instead Of Your Grades

Okay, so, I’d like to offer a little bit of a disclaimer before I get into this: If you saw the words “actually care about” and “instead of” and  “grades” in the title of this article, screamed, Chanel Oberlin-style, with delight, and immediately threw your precalc binder into the nearest paper shredder, I’m going to need you to hit pause real quick. (You can salvage the binder with a little bit of tape, I’m pretty sure.)

Obviously, your grades are important. Doing well in school is important. Education is extremely important. For me to pretend otherwise would be thoughtless at best and irresponsible at worst. But, at the same time, doing well in school and having a flawless GPA are not mutually exclusive– and, in fact, I’d argue that there are a few things that actually outweigh your grades in terms of importance.

When it comes down to it, if you want to do well in school–whether you’re in middle school, high school, or college–being an overly competitive, extra credit-hungry, Paris Gellar-wannabe grades monster is actually not the best way to do it. Not only is that the best way to wear out pretty much all of your relationships–with both your friends and your teachers– you’ll exhaust yourself, too, in ways that are completely unnecessary. There’s a much, much better way–check out these things that are actually much more important than your grades:

Relationships With Teachers

So, in high school, I didn't get the best of grades. I mean, I was okay--I did really well in English and History classes and not so hot in math and science ones, making it so my GPA averaged out at decidedly "fine"--but, based on my grades alone, I wasn't the school's golden girl. What I did have, however, was the most powerful weapon of all--a posse of teacher friends. Basically, I made a point of actually talking to my teachers like they were humans (which most people don't do, I guess) and talking over tests that I hadn't done so well on, and by the end of the year, I'd formed genuine relationships with them. Because of this, I can truly say that having a teacher or professor as an advocate is the best thing you can do for yourself--not only will you have a legitimate friend in the classroom at all times, you'll be able to get some killer recommendation letters.

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Extracurriculars You Actually Care About

Everyone knows that extracurricular activities are important, but some people forget that they're supposed to be something that you really enjoy. So, don't join the Chess Club just because your dad thinks you should, even though you swore you'd never look at another pawn again (for personal reasons). Don't join the Cross Country team just because everyone who joins gets a varsity letter, even though you hate running. Instead, join the Mathletes, even if your friend Damian thinks it's social suicide, because you love math. Or the Sandwich Club (a real thing that existed at my high school), because you love sandwiches.Or, better yet, start your own club--while it'll take up a lot of your time, it's genuinely awesome to show initiative with something like that, and you'll be doing something that you genuinely love. Who's to say that you can't start the first all-female a capella group at your school that exclusively sings boy band songs? Dream big.

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Learning How To Love Learning

I know, I know--cue the eyerolls. Saying you learn "because you love it" is about the suck-uppiest thing that you could say, ever. Unless it's true, that is. In your classes, try not to think about what you're learning solely in terms of the grade you can get out of it--instead, try to focus on what you actually like and find interesting about the subject.  This will end up helping your grades by proxy, and you'll leave the school year actually remembering something that you learned in class, for once. Plus, this goes right back to point one--teachers will be incredibly happy to see genuine passion for their subject amongst a sea of apathy and grade-mongering.

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Taking A Challenging Class Over An Easy One

If you're offered a choice between an AP class that you find intimidating but super interesting versus a class that's a guaranteed A (but also a guaranteed snooze), always pick the more challenging one. Not only do colleges and future employers like to see you pick the more interesting option, it'll be more interesting for you, period. Plus, you might surprise yourself--AP European History could be your secret passion. You'll never know if you don't try.

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Getting A Job

Not to sound like your weird old uncle, but, like, get a job. Seriously! Whether you're babysitting or working at the coffee shop in your neighborhood, having a job in high school is one of the best things that you can do for yourself. It'll teach you concrete values like time management and learning how to deal with people that just being in school doesn't really do--plus, you'll have some extra cash, which doesn't hurt.

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Having An Okay Relationship With Your Parents

I'm sure that some of you feel as though your relationship with your parents is contingent upon the state of your GPA, which is fair. Lots of people feel that way. But if you're locking yourself away in your room every day to work on homework without even looking at your parents, and screaming at them should they deign to ask if you want to "take a break" and "join them for dinner, please," you're probably working yourself too hard. Your parents want to see you succeed, obviously, but not at the cost of your own health or relationship with them.

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Your Sanity

This should go without saying, but your mental health is always, always, always more valuable than any grade you get. If you're regularly sacrificing sleep--like, hours of sleep--and any form of social interaction for your grades, it's not healthy. Not only will you burn out quickly, you'll look back on your time in school with a tinge of regret, thinking about all the things you could have done rather than stress over your grades. Instead, set some limits for yourself. Decide to go to bed at eleven every night instead of three, and make sure that you're hanging out with friends and family at least once a weekend. You'll thank yourself for this later.

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Are you stressed about your grades? Is there anything else you think is more important than your grades? Let us know in the comments!

You can reach the author, Sara Hendricks, on Twitter and Instagram.

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