In GPA Investigation parts one and two, the history and background of GPA, as well as student’s perspectives on GPA, were looked into and investigated. In GPA Investigation Part 3, the final chapter of this trilogy, the experts on everything GPA weigh in.
When asked why students seem to put so much pressure on themselves to have a high GPA, Susan Canobie, the IB coordinator at ISB, states, “I think some students see the GPA as a measure of success in learning. Also, it is an easy number to point and compare with other students, and Universities in the USA still quote a GPA for admissions.”
Although colleges do take GPA into account, many students seem to think that their GPA is their only ticket into university. However, niche.com shows that this may not always be the case. This graph, right, shows people who were accepted into Harvard University, one of the best universities in the world, with only a 6% acceptance rate.
As can be seen, it is true that many students with 4.0 GPAs were accepted into Harvard. However, many students with GPAs below 3.5 were also accepted. Not only this, but a student with a 2.0 GPA and a 750 SAT score was also accepted. This is surprising, considering that Harvard stated that the average GPA of all accepted students was a 4.04.
In response to seeing the graph, Christopher Bell, Technology Coordinator and Librarian at ISB, he states, “That person (with a 2.0 GPA) has a story. Would a university rather like a person with a 2.0 GPA, but a published book? Or one of the millions of students who apply with 4.0 GPAs? They want someone unique.”
Andy Vaughan, the Dean of Students at ISB, states, “For some universities, GPA does matter, but our fascination with the 4.0 scale is mainly significant in North America. The reality with our student body is there is a good proportion of students applying to schools outside of America, these schools do still consider grades whether they be IB predicted grades or looking at raw transcript data. The common message is that academics does count, but in most application processes schools look at other contributing factors.”
Although teachers seem aware of this, many students still feel that their GPA is the only part of the college application process. They focus solely on maintaining their grade point while dismissing other important things, such as extracurriculars and sports.
“ISB students generally come from high-achieving families who expect lots, ISB teachers also tend to be high-performing so they also hold high expectations for students to achieve their best. This creates a culture of high expectations, which in turn creates lots of peer pressure,” states Mr Vaughan.
Mr Vaughan does seem to realise the overall atmosphere surrounding learning at ISB, stating, “At the moment I do think ISB students are driven by GPA, the school itself is trying incredibly hard to change this, however some of our structures such as NHS, Honors etc… are limiting this. A great move recently was in the Arts and Sports to move away from a ‘Highest GPA Award’ to the Panther Spirit Award, which values much more than a ‘number’.”
ISB is working hard to change the mindset of their students and turn their thoughts farther away from GPAs and more towards being learning oriented. The biggest change coming to ISB is the new grading system. This will hopefully change students mindsets and their misconceptions about GPA.
ISB has two scales in place instead of a 4.0 scale. We have a 4.3 scale as well as a weighted 4.8, and because of this, it is impossible to compare our grade points to other schools which could use a 4.0 scale or even a 7.0 scale. “I think too many of our students are caught in ‘chasing the 4.0’ instead of just developing a passion for learning,” states Mr Vaughan.
Ms Canobie states, “Focusing on learning, strengths, and weaknesses and targeting specific goals in class results in success and the GPA increase follows.” She also addresses the new grading system change, saying that it will allow students to follow their passions and choose subjects they are interested in, rather than choosing a course because it gives a weighted GPA.
“There will still be a GPA, but that will be aligned to the IB 7.0 scale, which instantly removes some of the ‘4.0’ stigmas,” Mr Vaughan says, “the finer details of what this will look like are under construction right now, but these are definitely taking place with the goal to reduce the stress of GPA on our student population.”
Teachers realise the amount of pressure that students are under when it comes to GPA, and the changes that are coming to ISB will address this pressure. Whether you love it or hate it, GPA, without a doubt, looms over us, filling us with expectations, stress, pride, and guilt.