01/22/2013 09:35 am ET Updated Mar 24, 2013

Grades vs. Learning

From a very young age, we are told the importance of getting good grades. Especially in high school, we are told time and time again that our grades affect what college we will get into. While grades are extremely important, people often forget about the importance of learning, not just getting good grades. There is a difference between the grade received in a course and the amount of learning that took place in the course.

School has always been extremely important to me and I have always strived for good grades in my classes. I also love to learn and that has always been important to me as well. During my junior year of high school, I was enrolled in all AP and honors classes. I set my sights on getting straight A's in these classes. As I went through the classes, I realized that I was focusing more on grades than actually learning the material. I saw that this was the case with the other students, too. For example, if there was a quiz on a chapter, people would focus on studying what they thought would be on the quiz rather than learning the material in the chapter. It is not that we are bad students; we are just trained to do what it takes to get that A.

Two months into my junior year, I made a decision -- I was going to focus on learning and I would be OK with whatever grades resulted from that. For example, if I was assigned a project on a topic, I would focus on actually learning about the topic rather than just doing what was required for the project. My grades on assignments actually improved from this decision and I did make straight A's in all my classes. That summer, I also took a college course alongside undergrads at Georgetown University. During the class, I once again made the decision to learn and not simply focus on the grade. It once again paid off and I got an A in the course. More so than that, I learned a great deal. Had I just focused on getting an A on a quiz or a project, I do not think I would have learned nearly as much.

I am in no way saying grades are not important -- they are. But it is also important to focus on learning the material. In the end, making the decision to learn, instead of just focusing on the grade, might actually improve your grades.