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As college students, we would all like a high grade point average. We want to prove to our parents and friends that the hours spent studying in the library or staying awake during lecture have somehow paid off. We want big-name companies to take notice of our knowledge and potential -- and then we want them to offer us lucrative internships and full-time jobs. Most of all, we just want to be the best. We want to score higher than the student sitting next to us during the Chemistry exam or handing in the Management project. And we want to have that slight edge when decisions are made regarding honor societies, awards and employment. Unfortunately, just too many of us are competing for those high grades. And an even greater number, it now seems, are running home to their parents with near-perfect transcripts. Grade inflation is a trend that has taken America's top-tier colleges and universities by storm. According to recent studies, students at Ivy League universities now routinely receive higher marks than their counterparts 20 years ago. That kind of leap may be attributed to the advanced study options available at universities today. It may be linked to the growth of the Internet as a study tool. And it may, some say, just be the result of a harder-working generation of students. But a more plausible explanation is that students today -- embroiled in tighter competition for jobs and graduate school admission -- are more adept at persuading professors to augment their grades or offer higher marks to classes as a whole. Such practices are inherently dangerous, for they establish an artificial bar of achievement that makes it difficult for any employer or admissions committee to identify real accomplishment or potential. It also undermines the legitimacy and integrity of the grading process, which should be based on an established set of distributed requirements. Obviously, each professor or instructor is entitled to establish his or her own system of evaluation. And some of those systems, naturally, are going to be more generous when it comes to high grades. But that type of variation shouldn't stop concerned parties from taking action. Administrators, professors and students at universities as a whole should work to identify just how prevalent grade inflation really is. And then those same groups must take steps to eliminate it. Only then will we have a real measure of achievement to take home to mom and dad.

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