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Dean’s list not a marker of success

By Andrew Elmers

Section: Opinions

February 6, 2015

Everyone likes to be acknowledged for their accomplishments. It makes you feel good. Not to go on a cliched rant, but nowadays, awards are handed out a lot more liberally than before. That isn’t necessarily a problem when a seven-year-old gets a ribbon for showing up to every Little League practice. That’s for a child, and at that age they are nowhere close to being mature enough to understand the lack of significance that comes with this handout. They just like being handed something nice.

But at every stage in life, there are awards that are handed out, and the older you get, the more respect comes with receiving something of that sort. Adults aren’t looking to get a ribbon for showing up to work every day, but when they are selected as top salesperson, that actually means something. The same is true for those in college. While the most important types of awards are those that come along with money, like a scholarship, others recognize great sacrifices or achievements. Yet the one award or achievement that has oversaturated the college landscape is the classic dean’s list.

Used to highlight Brandeis students who have recorded at least a 3.50 GPA for the semester, the dean’s list is a completely superfluous accomplishment. Nothing is required to make it beyond having a certain GPA, so it would simply be easier to just post someone’s GPA instead of giving them a haughty status. Yes, it is easier to mention that you have made the dean’s list all four years of college in conversation, and it’s a nice addition to a resume, but people don’t need to be bragging to begin with. Simply graduating from Brandeis should be enough to let a potential employer know that you are somewhat intelligent.

In my experience, it is not necessarily students who get caught up about making the dean’s list or not. Most students are just happy to pass a class, which basically means getting at least a B, and are excited when they get an A. No one goes around actually thinking that making the dean’s list matters, except for parents.

Parents are more than allowed to feel proud of their children for doing well in college. They’re the ones who are either paying for it to begin with or have made other great sacrifices to get their children there. But some parents, just like those driving around with “Hamilton Middle School Honors Student” bumper stickers, become obsessed with the accomplishments of their children, and the dean’s list only feeds their addiction.

I work at the front desk of Academic Services, and a parent called in recently wondering when her daughter’s dean’s list letter was going to arrive. I had no idea how to answer her question or where to direct her, because I’ve never given a thought about making sure I’ve received a dean’s list letter even though I’ve made the list in the past, and I wanted to save her the embarrassment of someone making a lot more than the minimum wage tell her that she’s crazy. This mother was adamant, however, that she eventually receive the letter certifying that her daughter made the dean’s list, although her daughter had probably already told her what her GPA for the semester was. Or the daughter could have completely lied to her mother, said that she had made the dean’s list when really she failed all her classes, and that would just wind up being an even more interesting scenario.

Nevertheless, I suspect this mother wanted the physical letter just to prove to some neighbor or in-law that her daughter is doing well. Living vicariously through your children is a great plan to avoid that mid-life crisis, so I can’t really blame her. I see it all the time when I’m at home. In the local paper, there’s always announcements as to who made the dean’s list, and it is usually for the same people. While I’m sure there a lot more people from my town who make the dean’s list at their respective schools that those that are announced, it is simply a result of a certain breed of parents who absolutely must share their child’s accomplishments to the world.

I would like to say that my parents aren’t like this, but I can’t. Over the last winter break, after I found out all my grades and shared them with my parents, my father asked me if I made the dean’s list. I told him I probably didn’t, but that it really doesn’t matter due to the reasons stated above. Instead, what matters is finding a job. Making the dean’s list all eight semesters of college does not put food on the table or a roof over your head.

So for those parents who are looking for something to brag about, wait until your child can support themselves fully, because that’s when you’ve finished your job as a parent. All of that responsibility of raising a child is gone after they’re able to feed and house themselves without having to look to their parents for support.

The university should do away with the dean’s list and instead provide a list of those graduates who have jobs. That should be the ultimate goal we aim for as students, and should be what makes our parents proud, not a somewhat arbitrary calculation of how much effort was put into a class. They can even still call it the dean’s list, just reassure students that the real point of going to college is to get a job. Unless there aren’t any graduates who have secured a job, which would just be horrifying.

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