Opinion: Cutting corners can trim students’ success

Students should focus on the process of doing work and move away from grade-oriented mindsets

Anna Zwahlen, JagWire editor-in-chief, Mill Valley News editor-in-chief

As the final stretch of the school year looms closer, students begin to set their focus on raising their grades, seemingly at any cost. In reality, by focusing exclusively on grades and scores, many students end up cutting corners, which sets  them up for failure in the future. 

For many students, final transcripts are the defining factor of an application’s success, whether it be for honor societies or colleges. However, when a student takes shortcuts to get that “A” on their transcript, they lose the soft skills that they could have gained from the process of doing the assignment with their full effort. 

The long-term learning involved in the process is more beneficial than the alternative of cutting corners.

— Anna Zwahlen

Admittedly, I, like so many others, have fallen into the grade-obsessed mindset. I’ve cut corners to get the grades I want by copying from friends or Google just to complete assignments, for example. However, when tests rolled around and content got harder, I had to heave myself out of those habits. It simply became impossible to succeed without the skills that those smaller assignments had been meant to build.

Instead of focusing on getting a good score on assignments, I should have focused on the skills  those assignments were building, like argumentation, critical thinking and math techniques. Ultimately, my obsession with letter grades let me down. 

Making the change from a grade-oriented approach on assignments to a process-oriented approach is, admittedly, very difficult. It requires not only a shift in mindset but also a shift in work ethic. For example, where I would normally try to get an assignment done as fast as possible, I instead have to take a moment and find the areas where I struggle, then ask myself, “what makes this assignment difficult?” 

Though ending high school with a high GPA may assist in college admissions, that doesn’t guarantee success in university. If you take too many shortcuts to achieve that GPA, you haven’t developed the skills necessary for success at the college level. On top of hard, learned skills, completing assignments with a good work ethic builds the soft skills like autonomous learning and organization that are necessary for that success. Actively seeking out areas of skill development in assignments may take longer than looking up the answer, but the long-term learning involved in the process is more beneficial than the alternative of cutting corners. 

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