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Valedictorian victory holds little value

TUES. | 10-11-22 | OPINION

     The supposedly coveted title of valedictorian may not be exactly what one may have initially perceived. Valedictorian is the student with the highest performance out of their graduating class—A.K.A. that one kid who has taken every single Advanced Placement (AP) class, aced every single test and has an absurdly high grade point average (GPA). Valedictorian is indeed a great honor, however, it should not be considered the best achievement in high school and overtake the minds of students.

     First, there can only be one valedictorian. No matter how much time and effort one puts into class, if the kid next door takes higher level courses, no chances remain. It is a ploy, a system set to


Photo by Averi Simpson

deceive students, by placing the label of “best student” on someone who knows to take every AP course and honors class, making it virtually impossible to lose the race by scamming the GPA system. Valedictorian is based on the facts recorded on a transcript, but it says nothing about the character of a person.

     Second, there is no way for a piece of paper to accurately represent the supposed “best student” of a graduating class. Out of a class of hundreds, only one student wins. Yet, there is so much more to discover about each person that will never be discovered in school. High school is similar to a melting pot. Everyone has different ideas, interests, and values. The most intriguing things about people will not be found out by a transcript. To truly represent a graduating class, valedictorians should be selected based on character, personality, morals, and the qualities of a person, not just how well they can play the game of boosting one's GPA. 

     Third, it’s just a title. The singular day of graduation must feel like a celebration for the valedictorian, they give their speech, and another cliche remark about finishing senior year, woohoo. However, besides that singular day, there are very little other benefits to being valedictorian. Imagine spending all of high school running yourself ragged to get this title, but after all it is only a title. Becoming valedictorian does not ensure acceptance into one's dream school, it does not ensure success, it does not automatically hand out scholarships. In many instances valedictorians get rejected from their dream schools, therefore, the idea surrounding the title that valedictorian is the end all be all is fundamentally false.  

     Fourth, colleges look for more than a student who knows how to play the game. When going through the long process of applying to colleges, nine times out of 10, essay questions will be geared towards describing one's experiences. As I am a senior experiencing this now, I guarantee using the storyline of “I was number one in my class” is not going to ensure acceptance in the slightest. There is so much more to life than surface level grades, and colleges are slowly recognizing that fact. More universities have been requiring scheduled interviews with students to truly know the applicant who could possibly become a student. 

     Fifth, half the speeches given by valedictorians at graduation are about how they wish they had not sacrificed their high school years to studies only. The past few years I have heard three valedictorian speeches in person, each with a very similar theme. These themes encapsulated the isolated behavior these students took on to push for first place in the class, and ended with the message of not wasting high school and wishing for younger students to embrace the time they have and meet new people. It is quite ironic how the speeches from the supposed best students seem to highlight the downfalls of their high school process–such as sacrificing fun events, missing out on new opportunities with friends–and focus on the exhausting extent it took to reach where they stand now. 

     At graduation this year, I will be sitting in my chair waiting to hear a speech somewhat similar to past speeches knowing that I wasn’t first in my class but feeling okay with that. My experiences have shaped me as a person, and I made mistakes throughout my high school career; winning valedictorian, or proving that I can get all A’s in every AP class, does not define if I am a good student, for there is much more than what is shown on the surface.

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