The Curse of GPA

By Ashleigh Heaton
Entertainment Editor

For some reason, I am in AP Physics. Anyone who knows me knows that, when it comes to math, I kind of crash and burn on a regular basis. So anyone who knows me must also ask, “Why in the heck are you enrolled in one of the most difficult, math-intensive courses at the high school?”

GPA, my friends. GPA.

GPA has become the norm at competitive schools such as our own. Everyone is concerned about their rank, getting into college and getting ahead. In reality, GPA is statistic determining the boom or bust of a student, fuels the competitive fire. This has become a rat race for placement in the top 10 percent – a race leading to cutthroat cheating and unnecessary emphasis on upper-level courses.

And you know what? I hate it. I hate feeling like I am trapped by grades and rank and numbers that colleges are supposedly concerned about. I hate feeling like enrolling in a regular class has become the equivalent of admitting you’re a failure. I hate GPA.

That’s not to say that AP courses don’t deserve the extra GPA – yeah, they still are college-level and, therefore, much more intense. And yes, CHS has been identified countless times for its achievements through the Advanced Placement program. However, the pressure to enroll in these courses – especially if a student is not gifted or even interested in the subject – has gotten out-of hand.

It’s easy to pick out which students aren’t supposed to be enrolled in these higher-level classes, because they are the very ones that cheat their way to a passing grade. Since they aren’t at the same pace as they are expected to be in the class they’re in, they have to rely on others’ answers rather than genuine understanding to get the grade they want for a higher GPA. I know – I’ve been there.

And of course, everyone knows about the new drama GPA has made at the high school through the introduction of the IB program. When the updated class ranks came out, just about every AP student went in an uproar over their drastic rank shifts, blaming IB students (without much cause) for their setbacks due to the fact that all IB classes hold 6.0 weight on the GPA scale.

I saw IB kids being verbally harassed for their involvement in the program, sneered at and constantly put-down for something that was out of their control. It made me ashamed to be a part of such a venomous group of people. Granted, yes, I was angry at first as well – I had thought that, maybe, if I had been enrolled in IB, my rank wouldn’t have suffered like it did. But I had to stop myself and think: would I have been happy in the IB program?

No, I wouldn’t have. The organization and teaching methods of the program would not have translated well for me as a student, and I wouldn’t have been able to be involved in the courses and extracurriculars I love. It only took me a few days to calm down enough to see how stupid I was being.

It’s a number. I was getting genuinely upset over a few digits on the computer screen.

Recently, CHS held a series of GPA committee meetings to discuss the issue of GPA and rank as a whole at CHS. Students from different grades, programs and educational tracks were able to sit down with faculty members and administration and voice their opinion, circling around the topic and how to improve the tensions at the high school.

One of their proposed solutions? Abolishing class rank.

I’ll be the first to say that I would love this to be implemented at the high school: not only would it ease the tensions caused by the rank war, but it would also take away the pressure to exhaust a student to their very core with college-level classes. Southlake Carroll has done it. Highland Park has done it. Why shouldn’t Coppell do it, too?

And let me dispel this misconception to anyone weary of agreeing: I’m assuming you’re worried about what colleges will think if you have no class rank to attach to your application. However, colleges have reported that class rank isn’t a big factor in the admission process – if anything, the only reason a Coppell student should be concerned with class rank is if they want automatic acceptance to a certain Texas university. College admissions are more concerned with the student as a person: yeah, your grades should reflect an aptitude for learning, but they also want to see you living a life outside of school.

This would be a welcome change, not a hindering one.
High school is supposed to be about growing as a person, not learning how to claw our way through academic competition. How can we, as students, get comfortable in our skin if all we feel like is a number?