Every year students go to school to learn. They learn math, science, social studies, english, and various other subjects. In elementary school, a child's knowledge is based mainly on participation and experience. However, the older they get, the less and less their learning becomes about their capabilities. In High school, courses are designed to prepare you for college, which means preparation for standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT. But what happens to a student who struggles with test anxiety? If they score poorly on one of these tests, are they not smart? Many colleges don't accept students to their program solely based on a poor standardized test score. When you reach college, your academic career is valued upon how well you do on exams. Most courses use a grading scale that makes your exam grades more than the majority of your overall grade. I have even taken classes where my overall grade is 100% from exams.

I've come to the conclusion that being good at academics is a skill set, not a reflection of raw intellect. Grades in the classroom reflect what you are expected to do, not what you are capable of doing. A student who aced an exam because they memorized 150 notecards is not necessarily more intelligent than a student who struggles with memorization, or a student who writes a better short answer is more knowledgeable on the subject than someone who struggles to give an answer in a stressful short period of time. The list of examples goes on and on.

I claimed that academics is more skills than smarts. I believe that these are the 3 keys to academic success:

1. Understanding what the teacher wants

Being able to give the teacher what he or she wants is key to being successful in school. If the teacher wants you to write a certain way, you do that. Your academic career is dependent on how they view your intelligence, not how you can utilize your intelligence.

2. Desire to do well in school

Let's face it, most students HATE school. They hate going to class, learning more and more material every day, and being judged based on their forced performance. If someone does not have the motivation to do well, chances are they won't find the determination needed to get good grades.

3. A good home and school environment

A critical component to a student's life, especially at a young age, is the environment around them. A child who gets bullied or doesn't have too many friends may struggle to focus on school work let alone enjoy his time. If a child faces personal issues at home, whether it has to do with money, parenting, or siblings, most children tend to have these home issues as additional weight they carry when in the classroom. As teens get older, we reach the scary sights of high anxiety and depression, to the extreme of suicidal thoughts and/or actions.

On the other end, a student who is praised by his family has tons of friends and enjoys his or her time at school may find more ease in the classroom. This student most likely has a lot higher self-esteem as the student who faces many obstacles in his or her personal life.

So… what determines a student's intellect? Well, that's a pretty loaded question, and to be honest, there is no definitive answer. Most of you would believe that an IQ test is the best indicator. However, IQ tests help determine your academic intelligence, not raw or general intelligence. Again, it is a TEST, which means it was designed to give people a perspective on their intelligence.

In reality, a person's intelligence is shown through everyday life. Someone who is an excellent writer and can swiftly tell stories may show signs of high linguistic intelligence. Someone who can determine patterns and relationships between things may show signs of high logical/mathematical intelligence. We often forget that people who are musically or athletically gifted are intelligent within those distinct areas. There are tons of different types of intelligence, and none of them are strictly limited to subjects taught in school.

What's the point of me ranting about this? To put it simply together, we need to stop judging others based on their academics, and more on their potential. In today's society, someone with a 3.5 GPA is gonna be seen as more intellectual as someone with a 3.0 GPA. But would we know that the person with the lower GPA has just that because they had to take 4 final exams in 2 days? Or they struggled in a breadth course that doesn't pique their interest? There are way too many factors to seek out one's intelligence. Therefore, we need to focus on what a person CAN do, and not what they have already done.