Valedictorian should be by merit, not numbers

Max Greenwald

Valedictorian is an extremely prestigious title, representing the all-around most academically excellent student in a class, and yet today in Liberty High School two digits on a transcript – a 4 and a 0 – are more likely to earn somebody the position than eagerness to learn and effort and success in rigorous classes. Last year Liberty decided not to weight grade point averages when determining class valedictorian, meaning that grades are virtually the only deciding factor in earning the title.

Let me put this in perspective. If a student were to decide to slide by in high school, taking no honors, AP, or accelerated classes, but still earn a 4.0 GPA (and let me tell you, the difference between effort required to earn an A grade in an AP is vastly different from the effort required in a standard class), then that student would immediately become a top pick for valedictorian. A student that had taken AP classes until it hurt, studied hard for tests, and consistently shown a passion for learning but got, say one A- grade in one class, would then be snubbed for valedictorian. Of course if two students have a 4.0, then the rigor of classes comes into consideration, but the fact that it is completely left out of the equation until then is a gross injustice.

Being declared valedictorian is no small merit badge; it is a major achievement that makes a difference in college applications and represents the epitome of academic performance of an entire class of students. Reducing the qualification of it to something as impersonal and specific as GPA is simply not fair.

I’ve recently visited several prestigious colleges and talked with admission officers about the application evaluation process. I have been consistently told that the number one consideration in application is whether the student challenged oneself and showed an interest in learning.

If colleges rate rigor above GPA, why shouldn’t Liberty when picking the most academically apt; after all, isn’t the whole goal of high school preparing for college?