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The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

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Pressure to have straight As harms students’ academic drive

The letter “A” is a good letter; it stands for accomplishment and achievement. The letter “A” is a letter that, for much of the academic world, represents success, hard work, and drive. The letter “A” is a letter that many students put blood, sweat, and tears into earning.

For many students, receiving straight As is their main academic goal. It’s what their parents want, their teachers motivate them towards, and what appeals to colleges. And while I think it’s an admirable goal worthy of effort and commitment, I’ve seen the detrimental effects of the unrealistic pressure that students place on themselves to achieve it.

While education is an essential commitment and arguably the most time-consuming commitment in a teenager’s life, the stress that many students undergo in order to achieve straight As and flawless scores can only lead to exhaustion. Furthermore, as mental health is becoming a more pressing and recognized concern in our contemporary culture, it is imperative that we explore the causes and effects of the perfect grade pressure. 

For many perfectionist students, an A- or less has become synonymous with “failing” a course. This constant fear of falling below an A discourages students to take risks and test their limits, forcing them to retreat into the safety of their comfort zones. The anxiety Aspen and Grade Corner can present can cause students to steer away from their true interests, and stick with the “safer” options that make it easier to obtain their As. 

In my opinion, the main problem with the drive for straight As is its effect on a student’s mental health. Having such high expectations for students not only causes them to feel constantly burdened by their schoolwork and stressed about their scores, but it also results in their disappointment when they perform at a lower level than they anticipated. 

Honor Roll students who join Jackson-Reed’s AP track and other “advanced” courses experience the feeling of a B for the first time and can be faced with burnout and lack of motivation as a result. The constant pressure and massive workload they place on themselves prevents them from reaching their full potential and often only results in their grades falling further.

And then of course there’s the fact that getting straight As may seem like life or death now, but  in the grand scheme of things, it’s really not. Getting a B+ will not have a large impact on your life. Perfect grades don’t guarantee a successful career, a good economic standing, or a happy life.


Obtaining straight As indicates that you are comfortable with the subject matter and have a thorough understanding of it. To allow ourselves to grow, we should all consider venturing beyond our comfort zones and putting ourselves through novel, unexpected content. Understanding that failure is normal and healthy and helps us to see that, despite internal fears, it’s preferable to experience it now rather than go into the workforce without having failed a task. 

I’m not suggesting that we all give up on aiming for our best on each assignment and exam. In fact, we should do just that: our best. The drive for perfection should never get in the way of living and truly enjoying the short time you have to be a teenager. As long as you put forth your best effort and achieve your goals, why should getting straight As matter?

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