Since entering college, students have been defined by three numbers and a decimal point. If you were not worried about this number, you were advised to start worrying right away. Obsessing over final grade calculators online, weighing the effect of each assignment and anxiously reloading BannerWeb once grades have finally been posted have all made me resent hearing the letters G-P-A.

Grade point average is defined by the Glossary of Education as “a number representing the average value of the accumulated final grades earned in courses over time.” This number typically ranges over a four-point scale and is used to represent a student’s academic achievement by averaging the points earned for each class taken.

Johnny C. Taylor Jr., senior vice president of human resources for the IAC/InterActiveCorp, uses GPA to determine how successful someone will be as an employee. “GPA is the best indicator an individual is likely to succeed," Taylor wrote in a New York Times article. "It demonstrates a strong work ethic and smarts.” He also believes GPA denotes problem-solving skills, he wrote.

I would love to ask Taylor if I could look into his crystal ball and see what these GPAs are telling him. How can a single number that has been averaged across different subjects of varying difficulty level represent one’s academic achievement or future success? One number cannot possibly represent the countless supply and demand curves I have drawn in the Robins School of Business. It does not depict the number of hours a student spent waiting on Professor Hoyle’s bench, under a hanging skull and cross bones, for office hours to start. A GPA cannot articulate the improvement from a 60 percent on the first test to an 80 percent on the final exam.

I would love to imagine a GPA leaping off of a transcript to explain to the person reviewing a high school senior’s college application just how his or her cumulative GPA came to be. The difference of a half point on a pop quiz could be the determining factor between a B- and a B in the class, causing a 3.0 to drop to a 2.7. Three-tenths of a point seems like nothing, but when the scale only goes up to 4.0, that half point on a pop quiz suddenly becomes the reason you made a 2.92 for the semester instead of a 3.0.

Our world has become obsessed with efficiency, the art of skimming, cutting corners and expediting all processes. We read the headlines of the newspaper and rarely make it to the last period on the page. In fact, I'd like to thank you and congratulate you if you've taken the time to make it to this point in my article. 

Life is shown to us in snippets of photos or videos fewer than 10 seconds long. GPA is just another way to skip over the important content, the unique skills and the outstanding work ethic that could be hiding behind a lower GPA.

Standardized tests attempt to boil a student’s academic worth down to a few numbers, or just one number, after a multiple choice test lasting only a few hours. Most internships and entry level jobs require a minimum GPA to even apply, closing countless doors for those students hovering right below the requirement. How can we rely on these numbers to represent a whole person’s ability and potential?

Terese Corey Blanck, founder of College to Career Inc., a company in Minneapolis that offers consulting to college students and their parents, writes that she does not think we can. Blanck states in the same article that if hiring managers are using GPA as a major indicator for success, then they do not understand human potential.

 “You can have all these wonderful skills, but your GPA isn’t high enough so the door might not be open for you,” Blanck said.

GPA cannot be responsible for diminishing the skills, personalities, work ethics and successes of students once their formal education is over. Letting this small number dictate such a big part of someone’s life is not logical, nor is it fair in representing potential. 

Contact opinion writer Liza David at elizabeth.david@richmond.edu

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