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A Valid Measure for a Valedictorian

Valedictorian Should Be Determined by Weighted GPA

Photo by Austris Augusts on Unsplash

A valedictorian is a student with the highest grade point average (GPA) in their class who gives a speech at the graduation ceremony. This title is a huge honor given to only one student in a graduating class with the greatest academic performance throughout high school, typically measured by a weighted GPA. Even though some schools decide their valedictorian by unweighted GPA, using a weighted GPA to do so is a better option.

To begin, weighted GPA considers the rigor of students’ curriculum. This helps recognize students who academically challenged themselves, which is important because a 4.0 unweighted GPA doesn’t mean the same in honors classes as it is in Advanced Placement (AP) classes; it is typically much harder to maintain high grades in college-level classes. Using weighted GPA to determine the valedictorian thus acknowledges the fact that the student went above and beyond to excel even in a difficult setting and adds to the prestige that the title holds.

If unweighted GPA was used instead, there would be multiple valedictorians because the highest unweighted GPA a student can achieve is 4.0, which is not very demanding if students add a few easy classes in their curriculum. Having multiple valedictorians would diminish the value of the title and cause an issue of choosing who is going to give the speech. With weighted GPA, however, there would only be one valedictorian with the highest GPA that varies every year. This would help maintain the purpose behind the tradition of recognizing the highest academic achievement.

Finally, using an unweighted GPA to determine the valedictorian would prompt students to enroll in easier classes just for a 4.0 unweighted GPA. Not only will this discourage students from challenging themselves in their high school career, but it will also weaken their college application because colleges take the rigor of students’ curriculum into account. What should be considered as academic success is working hard with determination, dedication and even struggles or failures, not setting a goal that is just easy enough to ensure perfect grades.

It is true that celebrating one and only one valedictorian creates competition among peers and fails to recognize other students who may be just as talented or even better under different measures of academic success. With the weighted GPA, students are also pressured to take as many AP classes as possible, even the ones they are not truly interested in. This prohibits students from pursuing personalized academic plans to rather become the “best” that is defined by outside influences.

However, there are many other programs that recognize students, such as the National Honors Society (NHS), its subdivisions, scholarships and concentrations in various subjects. All of these programs reward academic achievement but with less competition and greater personal connections to each individual with diverse interests. As a result, they help remove the notion that success only comes with being the best or perfect.

Every graduating senior deserves to be celebrated for their achievements in high school, but using an unweighted GPA would only eliminate the purpose of having a valedictorian at all. While more students should be recognized through other programs, the valediction should still be one student with the overall highest academic achievement across multiple areas to represent the whole class. In this sense, using weighted GPA would demonstrate a better measurement and preserve the tradition of celebrating a valedictorian.


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Andy Poll

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