An Open Letter to my Younger Brother About Grades in the U.S. Public School System

Subject: An Open Letter to my Younger Brother About Grades in the U.S. Public School System
From: Kaylee
Date: 26 Nov 2022

Dear Clark,
From the moment you were born, I knew that I was going to love being a big sister. For as long as I can remember, we’ve always gotten along well. I’ve always tried my best to help you do what's best for you. I try to relate my experiences to your life and articulate how I handled various situations in hopes that you apply them to what you are going through.
Although this year has been hard on both of us with challenging academic schedules, in addition to you adjusting to a new school, I am really glad that I get to talk to you on the drive home from school every day. I look forward to hearing about your day and all of the crazy things that go on in your head. I know we have spent a lot of time talking about school, and I want you to know that however much pressure you may have whether it's from external or internal sources, there are many people who care for you, are willing to help with anything you need.
I want to remind you that you are not defined by your grades, nor do they reflect who you are as a person. While your peers might talk about how they got a 98% on a test they didn’t even study for, or they cheated off a friend’s test, when I saw you work hard and study for hours only to not do as well as they did, it is okay. No matter what your grades reflect, or how you think of yourself based on your grades compared to your peers, in the long run, you are going to turn out better than them because you put in the work studying for that test. I guarantee that those who get the chance to know the real you will discover that underneath that shell of shyness, you are a very talkative, philosophical, and creative kid.
You are a bright kid, and I want you to know the truth, which we have speculated about for a while, but has been recently confirmed in my current English class. High schools only give letter grades so that they can calculate each student’s GPA. Your GPA, just like everyone else's, is only important for colleges to look at to “evaluate” students. I know you are worried about your freshman grades, but sophomore and junior grades are the most important to colleges. And whether you choose to go down the path of committing to college for soccer or not, you will still have to write some essays. And being the creative one in the family, I have no doubt you will woo the colleges that read your applications, despite what your freshman grades may say. While college is important, being just another number admitted to a school, isn’t for you, or at least I don’t think so. Your charisma will take you to great places, and I think a smaller school that truly cares about each of its students, their thoughts, and ideas, will fit who you are much better than some large university which admits tens of thousands of students per year.
With that being said, it really makes one question what the purpose of school is; I believe it’s to foster a child’s traits such as honesty, patience, and hardwork. Despite this, from a young age, we have been pushed to strive for straight A’s no matter the cost whether it be a literal cost - private tutors - or a metaphorical cost - lack of sleep, depreciating mental health, etc. Getting good grades is how we have been told someone can prove how smart they are, and thus, it is the only way to get into a good college. That’s all B.S. As I said earlier, the purpose of the schooling system is to teach, and unfortunately kids are being broken because of the notion ingrained in their minds that they have to take at least 6 AP classes to go to a “good” college. For example, a few years ago when we went to dinner with Dad’s friend James, who just happens to be a college counselor, he told me that by the end of high school if I hadn’t taken between six and eight AP classes, and have a clear path to a specific major, then I shouldn’t even consider the “higher end” colleges. While I might not end up at an Ivy League school, there will be a college who wants me for what I have to offer, from my personality, passion, constant efforts, and will to always do the right thing. I want you to remember that you are in high school to learn, and to develop your character; strengthen your work ethic, work on your organization and be sure to turn in assignments on time. These are the skills you will need in the real world - 20 years from now when you have a job. No one is going to care if you got a B+ instead of an A- in Honors Geometry Freshman year. As long as you stick to your good morals and values, and stay a genuine person, everything will turn out for you in the long run.
As your sister, I will always try my best to help you. Whether it’s driving you to practice when mom and dad are busy or helping you study for a math test for 2 hours even though I have other work I could do, all you have to do is ask. If you need something and I have the power to help you I will, which is why I am writing you this letter. This is a reminder that your grades do not define who you are, nor will they ever. You are more than just a number to colleges; you are smart, curious, and you can do anything you put your mind to. And right now, you should focus on learning and mastering key skills needed later in life such as tenacity, and responsibility.