GPA misses the mark in total college experience

Upcoming students at American University ask questions at the university\'s summer orientation. (Courtesy of Facebook/American University)

Tiffanie Reynolds, special to

WASHINGTON – More students entering college are making the grade, but not everyone agrees it’s a good thing.

Higher grades correlate with high college graduation rates, but counselors say students should not solely focus on grade point averages.

Imran Riaz, assistant director of the George Washington University Counseling Center, says many high achieving high school students can be disillusioned by the challenge of college classes.

“When they get to college, it can be more difficult to maintain a high GPA and do well in other areas. So, there’s more expected out of the student. A lot of times, students get stressed when they’re trying to keep up a GPA they had previously,” Riaz says.

A statistically-weighted 2011 study of college freshmen bears out what Riaz says.

The study found students exhibited behaviors and attitudes consistent with academic success.

The data of 203,967 students entering 270 four-year institutions mined by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program at the University of California, Los Angeles found 71 percent took at least one Advanced Placement course before entering college, while the percentage of students taking five or more AP courses increased from 18.7 percent in 2009 to 21.7 percent in 2011. More than two thirds of the first-time, full-time students reported they took notes frequently as high school seniors.

But at the same time, the CIRP report found the emotional health of the freshmen last year to be in question. Only 52.6 percent said they believed they were in good emotional health, up just 0.7 percent over 2010. In 2010, researchers said the students’ self-rating of emotional health was “at an all-time low.”

Some factors that affected low self-esteem included the economic health of the students’ parents and how much college debt the students incurred through loans and financial aid. Since the 2008 recession, many college students are feeling more of the financial burden.

Researchers advocated that college administrators and faculty members needed to “monitor incoming first-year students for signs of stress and to promote activities that support health and well-being.”

Key to a student’s well-being, according to Amanda Rahimi, assistant director for outreach and consultation at American University, is for a student to be well-rounded.

“Balance is a good thing for students to have,” said Rahimi.

Students need to be able to balance working hard in school with not only having fun with friends, but also with spending time with their families and with relaxing on their own, Rahimi said.

This balance of work and relaxation opens students to more opportunities on campus, which can give them skills to make them more marketable for the working world, she said.

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