A Letter to the Freshman Class: An Evolving Education System Starts with You


Editor’s Note: The following is an opinion-editorial.

Dear Freshmen,

You are young; you are eager; you are impressionable; and you have been placed in a complicated position. See, you’re a part of what may very well be the turning point of how we approach education. A war has begun regarding what point of motivation should be the priority of learning: grade or passion. And then there’s you—smack dab in the middle.

All your life, you’ve been told that a grade is what will get you into the college of your dreams. For some, this idea stems from your parents. For others, your peers. Either way, your brains have been etched to believe that an impressive GPA is the most important thing with which you can walk out of this building; but there’s a difference between what you’ve been told regarding how you should approach education and what the senior class was told entering high school back in 2012.

We knew a mixture of grades, standardized test scores and a stacked list of extracurricular activities would be plastered below our names and sent to be judged by colleges in four years. That was nothing new; this concept had (sadly) been a constant throughout middle school, even elementary school for some. In its simplicity, this plan was easy for me and my peers to focus on come time for high school. You’ve grown up being told these same things. Yet, come freshmen year, this message is suddenly being skewed. When you’ve grown up knowing only one way to get into the college you want, how can your teachers, administration and peers begin telling you to care less about your grades and expect you to listen?

It is not a myth: Both the administration and many colleges are beginning to lessen the importance of grades and increase the focus on character. Prestigious schools like Wake Forest University, George Washington University and many others are beginning to become test-optional. This is an initiative where the applicants’ decisions to include or omit their SAT or ACT scores does not affect their admission. Instead, decisions are made based on resumes, essays and interviews, which means these schools value the student rather than the student’s grades. While this is great, it is not an all-encompassing reality… yet. So what do you do in the meantime?

You proceed with passion. You take the classes you want to take—the ones that interest you. If you proceed first with motivation from within rather than motivation from a gradebook, the grades will follow; and if they don’t? Realize that you will live. Your 30-year-old self will not remember the D you got on your biology midterm. Despite popular belief, your 30-year-old self will not remember the A you got either.

Yes, the education system, as it stands now, is not ideal. But life does not always place us in the most ideal situations. Use your current position as experience persevering in circumstances that are not as clear-cut and simple as they once were or may soon be. Look around you. Realize you are in a safe place surrounded by adults who want to see you succeed. Try to see the big picture of your currently magnified world; the further away you can get, the smaller those lost couple of points become and the clearer your priorities will be.