Parents, teachers, and students across the nation all emphasize over-achieving. In high school, students work hard to take Advanced Placement and Honors classes so that they can attend prestigious universities.
Grade point average is everything to students. It is more important than sleep, relationships, and mental health. While working hard in school is often necessary for achieving a successful future, maintaining a perfect grade point average is unnecessary and often harmful to students’ mental health.
Unless a student is trying to get into medical school or the most prestigious ivy league school around, the highest possible grade point average is unnecessary. For instance, the average grade point average at Penn State is 3.6, UC Berkeley is 3.85, and New York State University is 3.7. Even medical school applicants have an average grade point average ranging between 3.7 and 3.9. So in reality, maintaining a 4.0 grade point average in college is not necessary for success.
In addition, to maintain a 4.0 grade point average, many students will sacrifice sleep and sanity. Studies show that the average adolescent student receives seven to seven and a fourth hours of sleep per night when they need nine to nine and a fourth hours of sleep per night.
Of course, there are other variables such as cell phones, video games, and television that keep students awake, but homework and stress are major reasons that students do not sleep enough. Not sleeping enough causes a lack of serotonin in the brain, and serotonin is responsible for regulating mood, appetite, memory, sexual desire, and other important bodily functions. Serotonin is produced mostly during sleep, so sleep deprivation will affect all of the functions listed above. A perfect grade point average is not worth causing harm to all of the most important bodily functions that humans rely on.
To illustrate this, let me tell my story. I maintained a 4.0 for the first two years of college and it was torturous. I only slept an average of six hours every night and never had time to take naps. Every minute of every day that I wasn’t in class or at work was blocked out for homework. I had no time for relationships with my family or friends. I also began to develop anxiety that became nearly unmanageable. I was not able to regulate my emotions or my stress due to my sleep deprivation, so my mental health suffered significantly.
My third year of school, I realized that none of this was worth the toll on me and my family. I loosened my standards to maintaining at least a 3.75 grade point average, and I am so much healthier and happier.