Spoiler alert: like everything else in life, it’s about balance.

Every program has three types of students.

First, you have the overachievers. These are the students who routinely stay up all night studying for exams. They seem to have class readings memorized on instant recall, they always have something insightful to add to discussions (even when it’s an early-morning class—seriously, who can think critically at 8 a.m.?) and their minds are like a constant GPA calculator.

Overachievers would do just about anything for good grades—even if it means putting in days worth of extra work for only a few additional percentage points.

A student works feverishly on a computer.

Second, you have the easy-goers. These students are less preoccupied with good grades and more focused on post-grad prospects—because, after all, in their minds, whether you barely pass or graduate at the top of your class, we all get the same degree, anyway.

And then there’s everyone in the middle. Students in this group certainly care about doing well in class—but, if they’re honest, sometimes they wonder if it even matters. Maybe the easy-goers are right, you know? Like, do employers even check to see if you did well in school?

Presumably, if you clicked on this article, you fall into the third group: torn between your ache to ace your assignments and your sneaking skepticism that getting good grades might not actually matter for your future.

So, it’s time to settle this—once and for all. Here’s our take on this age-old student debate:

The case for getting good grades

Sandy Cheeks from "Spongebob Squarepants" tells Patrick Star, "...the new you gets an A+."

Let’s start off by getting one thing straight: getting good grades is, at face value, a good thing. (They’re called “good” grades for a reason.)

For one, at Humber and UofGH, you have to maintain a minimum GPA to stay enrolled and be able to graduate. And, while you’re in school, your marks on exams and assignments can influence your eligibility for and likelihood of getting scholarships. That’s no small deal, considering tuition fees get higher every year.

Plus, while good grades certainly don’t define your intelligence, they can demonstrate to prospective future employers that you have organization skills, effective time management and a solid work ethic. Those things are all great to demonstrate at an interview—especially if you don’t have a ton of related work experience (as most new grads don’t).

The case for taking it easy

Garfield relaxes in a hammock.

On the other hand, the number of employers who screen applicants by their GPA has declined sharply in recent years—from nearly three quarters to just over half. So, depending on where you want to work, your marks might not make or break your chance of getting an interview.

In addition, many employers value related experiences over test scores. Why? Because your GPA doesn’t paint the full picture of you—no set of numbers can. It’s your knowledge of the field, ability to think critically, compatibility with the work environment and passion for the role that really matter. Your grades are just the icing on the cake.

So, by this logic (which many modern-day employers follow) a candidate with an 80 per cent average and ample volunteer experience may have a better shot than one with a 95 and no outside-of-school activities.

Source: The Atlantic

Finding middle ground

So, we know getting good grades can improve your employment prospects; but we also know they may not be a deal-breaker.

What does that mean for you?

Well, essentially, it means you need to find balance (which—we know—is very boring and tedious. Life would be much easier if everything had a black-and-white answer; but it’s the colour that makes things fun).

Examine your attitude towards getting good grades—being honest with yourself—and determine what adjustments you need to make to achieve maximum success and satisfaction.

If you skew towards exhausting yourself physically and mentally for an A, try to be a little softer. Still work hard—but, like, give your brain a break some nights to rewatch Squid Game and look for all the twist-ending clues you missed. Sure, one less night of studying might result in you getting a 92 per cent instead of a 94—but that difference won’t make or break your future.

A shrug.

And, if you fall the other direction—tending to neglect good grades altogether—try to find balance by prioritizing your schoolwork and your post-grad employment options. Study according to your work style, make a schedule or set specific percentage goals—whatever propels you towards your in-class potential.

To sum up: try your best; but don’t stay up for three nights in a row and skip meals because if you don’t get a 100 on your test you’ll cry.

In the end, whether you’re an overachiever, an easy-goer or someone in-between, we could all stand to improve our relationship with those little red numbers in the corner of our essays.

Good grades aren’t everything—but they are something. Here’s how to steer clear of six common first-year exam mistakes.

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