Okay, so in grade school, in high school and also in college, a long face from my parents would scare me, so it would in most part act as an extra motivator for me to get good grades. In grad school though, I always have the option of getting a job and fending for myself. If I want to learn something, I always have MOOCs covering me up. I can have the education without constantly thinking of being admitted to a good school or dealing with social pressure.

Now as I am into grad school, what specific points should I think of while studying? I really love studying, and enjoy the company of smart people; but sometimes I lose the extra impetus (which I used to get because of the fear of dealing with social embarrassment) in order to get good grades. Can someone just shed a different angle on the importance of getting good grades which does not include social stigma or the prospect of having a good job?

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    Good grades are part of a strong application to any scholarship you're eligible for. Apr 28, 2015 at 4:04
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    possible duplicate: How important are my grades to the rest of my PhD career?
    – eykanal
    Apr 28, 2015 at 12:22
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    This is not so much an answer (hence the comment) but I think it's important to mention nevertheless; if you need to find reasons besides acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary to carry out your research, then you've missed the point of graduate studies IMHO.
    – posdef
    Apr 28, 2015 at 12:23
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    I'm a PhD student, and a recruiter for Google contacted me through linkedIn, and asked for an informal transcript. It may not be a generality, but some people will apparently try to assess you through grades. So... it may be worth keeping them up. However, I completely agree with other posters who said that you should not need this motivation. Apr 28, 2015 at 21:09

1 Answer 1


You are confusing cause and effect. Good grades should never be a motivation for a truly good student (in graduate school or elsewhere). Rather, good grades are a byproduct of engaging deeply with the material of a class.

When I was a graduate student, there were some classes that I was quite happy to get a B in, because they were far outside of my main area of work and taking them really stretched my mind; the B was a good reflection of the reality that I am not suited to be a theoretical mathematician, but that I had learned well from them regardless. There were other classes that I would have been frankly ashamed to get anything other than an A in, because they were totally in my wheelhouse; if I had gotten even an A-, it would have reflected a real waste of my opportunity in that class.

In short: forget about grades in graduate school, except insofar as they are feedback on whether you are screwing up your education.

  • I agree with the message of this post especially given the way that the OP has framed the question, but I think the alternative perspective is that there are many real world consequences of grades (perhaps less so in grad school): scholarships, admissions to courses, ability to attract a good supervisor, job opportunities, etc. So they do have some intrinsic value independent of learning. Apr 28, 2015 at 12:37

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