I know longer obsess about my GPA like I did at the beginning of my academic career, although it still lies at the back of my mind and causes the occasional panic attack! But I do not run to check my grades. When I feel that I have done a truly good job on a final paper or major project, I don’t feel the need to see what letter-grade it is attached to. I am proud of this work, the letter that has been written on its last page in bright red ink doesn’t mean much at that point. I’ll often find out my “grade” months later, and so far this has worked for me – my professors have always ended up agreeing with me when I think I’ve produced the best work I can during a given period of time. Their “marks” have matched my own, although there is something about evaluating accomplishment with a hierarchy of letters that bothers me a little, and I don’t know if it is the best way to encourage students. When I mark other students’ papers, by the end of a marathon I often feel like I’m assigning very arbitrary “grades” – this may just be a symptom of repetition, like when you say a certain word again and again and again until it becomes meaningless. Only one of the thousands of marks I’ve given out has ever been changed by the professor I was working for at the time – and it was dropped down by two letters.
I like the method that the Canadian Physics Professor, Denis Rancourt, that recently was fired from the University of Ottawa used – the one that resulted in his demise, at least for the time being . He told everyone on the first day of class that he would give all students an “A+”. For me, this would be the ultimate motivation – if I did not produce work that I consider to be at the “A+”-level for that professor, I would feel guilty for a long, long time. I wonder how many other students would feel the same way, or if this is just a “symptom” of my own method, my sensitivity, and my empathy? Rancourt argues that “grades poison the educational environment”.
However, since I’m going to be applying to Ph.D. programs soon, do I need to start obsessing again? I’m trying to figure this one out. It’s making me antsy. This tips for students blog says that GPA isn’t everything…do you agree or disagree? I think I lie somewhere in the grey area, as usual! …Although the matter is somewhat Kafkaesque at this point – how much attention is paid to my GPA over other factors like references and publications is going to differ depending on who picks up that application package that I slaved over for hours and hours, and their personal opinion about what qualifies someone for admission to their program may be the deciding factor.
Do any Ph.D.s out there have some advice for me, or is this in the hands of the occupants of the endless chambers that K. wanders through in bureaucratic dystopia at this point in my career?