High performing people are stressed out. A lot. We get stressed about our jobs (especially lawyers), exams, grad school applications, relationships, and almost every time the bus to work runs late. But we should probably try to stress about it less.
But that’s easier said than done. Our stress rises when the due date gets closer or when we have to speak in front of a group of people. It also rises when we interact with others, especially if they are people whose opinion we care about. We do what we can to avoid it. Some people avoid speeches and stop talking altogether. Others start talking too much.
But there is a lot of evidence that shows that stress is counterproductive.
One study showed that when the stakes don’t feel as high in the classroom, students almost always perform significantly better. Especially those from families with less priviledge. A workplace survey showed that people that stress less tend to have a better reputation among peers than those that stress too much. We all know from that stress doesn’t help relationships much. It also won’t change whether or not you’re admitted to grad school after you submitted your applicaton. And when our 645am bus is late, no need to stress about that either. We might get lucky and strike up a 20 minute conversation with someone we’re glad had the chance to meet.
In short, that project you’re working on, the upcomng exam, or the bus that you are waiting for… try to stress a bit less. It might make things work better in the end.
Easier said than done. But worth a shot.
The person who works at a call center that we’re arguing about our cell phone bill with. They don’t have anything to do with the extra fees we were charged. Neither do they usually have any power to change your bill. But we still take our anger out on them instead of understanding what it’s like to be on that side of the call.
The new cashier at Trader Joes, who doesn’t check you out as fast as the other lines. We think she’s just taking her time, but in reality she just started two weeks ago, and now it’s rush hour and she’s feeling stressed out. But we get impatient, look for an opportunity to switch lines at the last second, and we don’t smile when we finally get to the front.
The person who passess over your resume. We didn’t realize he had to look through 10,000 resumes and pick not just the best one, but also one that fits in with the company rules. In one case, I’ve seen the best candidate by far turned down because she lived a certain distance away, which had nothing to do with her qualifications. Yet we call the HR representative irrational and not good at their job.
The homeless person we pass on the street every day (there are a lot in Chicago). Many times we think, why can’t this person just find a job instead of asking me for money everyday. But maybe maybe they were laid off in the recession or have a long-term disability and now can’t support themselves. And maybe he is an injured war vet who never had got a job due to a disability after being sent back to the US. We don’t imagine how helpless or emabarrassed he must feel.
And new colleagues or friends that we disagree with. People who not only see the world differently but who also don’t know how you see the world because you don’t really know them well. We get upset quickly when we don’t like their tone and when things don’t turn out as planned. But more often than not, it all hinges on a misunderstanding, not the thoughtlessness we accuse them of. This is even more true with significant others when there is more emotion attached.
If you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you will understand what it is like to be them. To see the world how they see it and understand their worries and anxieties. But when we do that, we also run the risk of being told NO, figuring out we were wrong, or being forced to compromise our own views. That’s why most of us don’t do it.
In a world of too many options and too little time, it’s easier than ever to ignore other people’s views and stick with your own.
But that doesn’t make it the best approach.
In just a couple of years the Internet has changed what is possible. We’ve gone from a world that is largely disconnected to one that connects in less than an instant and have created systems that allow us to actively engage the people we connect with.
MBA programs have long been good at emphasizing the importance of connecting. Connecting with classmates, professors, employers and alumni. But now, it’s easier than ever to find someone’s information, reach out to them, and tell them how you are connected.
In fact, this happened to me and my dad just two days ago.
A few days ago, my father’s company brought in a new CEO. The CEO was out around the US looking at the locations and a few days ago he was out where my dad works. My dad is known at every company he’s been at for being very social and friendly, and the top guys welcome him with open arms, even though they do not work together.
Well, on the day the CEO came, my dad met the new CEO of the company. He said they had a good exchange and he had a good feeling about the new CEO. Not only was he capable but also nice and extraordinarily friendly. The day after we met my dad called me up and told me the story. I did not know it at the time, but as it turns out, the CEO went to Kellogg many years ago. When I found out, I couldn’t believe it. Without further ado, I looked him up on LinkedIn as well as the company website, and it was true. He had a Kellogg MBA. In fact, a few folks from the company did.
After that I look up his contact info on the alumni database and sent an email just minutes ago. Like I said, it’s easier than ever to find new connections today.
Stay tuned to see where this connection goes.
I recently received a return email from the Kellogg alum. We will be working to set up a time to grab coffee two or so weeks from now once his calendar clears. This is good news but definitely not a surprise. Kellogg alumni are incredibly friendly and understand the value of staying connected.
Stay tuned for future updates.
Unfortuantely, today’s world makes this more challenging. Not only are there more soundbites to filter than ever but we also don’t always know what work is most important. Is it our upcoming exam in two months? The numbers we have to crunch? The deal we have to close? The memo we have to write? Or something completely unrelated to our jobs?
I don’t know if anyone has the perfect answer. But here’s one rule that sometimes works for me.
The most important work is the work where it does not matter who gets the credit. As long as it gets finished.
In today’s world, those who are the most eloquent are often considered to be the best communicators. But sometimes, it is not enough to speak eloquently. Sometimes you also have to make sure that you are clear and that the other person can not just hear you but also understand you.
See one video example below. Here, the communication was not quite clear enough because one person did not understand. In the end, we learn that even simple things can go wrong when communication is bad.
At our companies, leaders are people that hold a position of power or authority–usually your bosses and managers. Sometimes authority is real because of their tenure or position at a company but other times it’s implied, because the leader’s skill or ability makes her an invaluable employee at her company.
On the other hand, there are also people who lead. These are the people who inspire us not just because of skill but because of their commitment and values. They may not always have the best title or make the most money but they have more passion and more ideas for change.
More often than not we follow leaders because we have to. Not only is that what everyone else does but it’s also helpful for our careers.
But we follow people who lead because we want to. Because they inspire us to be more and do better.
Perhaps not as subtle as you originally thought.
On my blog, I write a lot about interesting people that come from top universities and MBA programs. When I can, I like to write as much as I can about my fellow Stanford alum and fellow bloggers. Well, another person I know is named Azella Perryman. Azella is not only a friend of mine from Stanford but she also graduated from business school, and recently started a blog of her own.
According to Azella’s web-page, it’s shaping up to be a busy month. But that’s to be expected since Azella is two years out of her MBA program and has been hard at work for a while now. But it looks like Azella is also spending a lot of time reflecting, not just about the job she has now but also about her career and MBA path in general.
In my view, top MBA programs need more people just like Azella. Who understand that business school is not only about your next career move but also about reflection on your career in general. The goods, bads and everything in between.
But don’t take it from me, take it from Azella and check out her most recent BLOG POST (10 Things I Wish I knew About Getting an MBA).
Azella, best of luck with your new BLOG. Keep me posted on your progress, and let us know how we can spread the word!
One of my favorite authors once said, “Anxiety is experiencing failure in advance. If you tell yourself the worst possible outcome, you’ll soon come to believe it.”
Not getting in to the program we dream of. Not passing a difficult test. The mistakes we’ll make in our next big speech. Or things not working out with that special someone. It’s easy to think about and even expect things to go wrong. But it’s far more difficult to do the reverse. To put our worry aside. To channel anxiety into excitement. To have hope that things can be better tomorrow than they were before.
When you are anxious and think about why things won’t work, it probably increases the odds it won’t work. Even if it should work out for the best. On the other hand, when you imagine success instead of failure, you’ll be far more likely to actually succeed than you would be if you didn’t.
In short, thinking about failure is a bad use of time, and will probably make you fail more often.
See below for the question and below that for my video response.
I am from India. I was born and raised there and I currently work in India. I have a 760 GMAT and am sure that I can manage a good LSAT score as well. Do you think the odds of getting into a JD / MBA program are greater than getting into an MBA program at H/S/ W ? Would you happen to have the stats on what % of applicants to JD/ MBA program at H/S/W are admitted ?
1. Consider the other great JD/MBA programs.
2. Don’t get caught up on stats.
3. Focus on your story.
4. CLICK HERE for recent admissions advice.
If you were in my shoes, do you know what I would do? Would you know how I feel. Have you even thought about it?
Extending our hand to someone in need is easy. But extending our heart? That’s different. It’s hard. But it’s critical.
As a manager, nothing you do will be as effective as it could be if you can’t see the world from my eyes. You’ll never understand my assumptions, pressures or my motivations.
As a marketer, you can’t even start your work without understanding what a future customer is thinking about. In today’s age, you can’t just throw stuff in front of them on TV and hope to make a sale.
As an elementary school teacher in the inner city, if you don’t know the issues your student faces at home, you’ll never be able to understand them, find common ground with them, and eventually capture their imagination during class.
As a lawyer, if you represent your own agenda (even if it is for justice) without understand the pressures they feel, you will never be on the same page. As the phrase goes, “if you force them to fight and you lose, you’ll go home devastated but your client may not have a home to go to.”
And as a leader, you won’t even be remotely as good as you could be if you can’t imagine life through my eyes. Understand what inspires me and how I view the world.
When we extend our hand, it usually means we have the time or resources to help. We give quick advice. We give a small donation. And then we’re on our way.
But when we extend our heart, we do it because we understand what it’s like to be them. We put ourselves in their shoes for just a second. It takes more time and it’s a lot more risky.
It’s a whole lot easier to extend your hand to someone. But it’s a lot harder to extend our hearts. That’s why there are not many TRULY GREAT lawyers, marketers and leaders.
Just a thought.
Here is text of the 2013 Inaugural Address.Words are those prepared for delivery and provided by the White House.
And below that my favorite quote of the day #EducationMatters
Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:
Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.
For more than two hundred years, we have.
Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.
Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.
Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.
Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.
Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.
But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.
This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun. America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together.
For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.
We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.
We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.
We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.
We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.
We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully – not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice – not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.
It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.
That is our generation’s task – to make these words, these rights, these values – of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time – but it does require us to act in our time.
For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.
My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction – and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty, or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.
They are the words of citizens, and they represent our greatest hope.
You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course.
You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time – not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.
Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.
Thank you, God Bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America.
On Saturday January 19th, people from all over the country will be participating in the National Day of Service.
Earlier this week, President Obama announced there will be a national day of service on Jan. 19 as a day to give back to our communities, and honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose birthday was earlier this week. Back before he was assassinated, Dr. King was dedicated his life to service and lead an effort to bring equality to the country.
There’s never been a more pivotal time to move our communities forward by taking part in public service.
CLICK HERE to see what’s going on near you no matter what zip code you are in.
As usual, I did this during my first take. If anyone has any follow up questions, feel free to send them my way. See below for the question and below that for my response.
My questions are about what to do during the summer before starting your MBA.
1.) What is your take on the Pre-MBA internship programs? Particularly what is your take if you’re transitioning to a new career. Are they absolutely necessary? Do you have any tips on securing one?
2.) Besides an internship, do you suggest any other things I might do over the summer to make myself more competitive during recruiting season?
Thank you very much!
1. Congrats on your acceptance.
2. Pre-MBA internships are definitely catching on. Not just for MBAs but in other schools too.
3. I’ve seen it in marketing, banking, finance, consulting, law, government and nonprofit.
4. Two reasons: (1) Try out new career. (2) Get new experience to help you recruit once on campus.
5. They are not necessary. The majority of people don’t do them.
6. Nonprofits are hungry to get people over the summer
Most advice is mediocre advice. That’s why if you ask more than one person, you’ll often get different responses.
Whether advice for you application essays. Job interviews. Decisions at work. How to find funding. Or how to get attention of that special someone.
Don’t get me wrong. People mean well, especially friends and family. But they still usually don’t give the best advice.
This leads to us to three challenges as we continue to look for ways to do great things in the world.
1. Understand that everyone will give different advice. Many people because they are uninformed on the issues and others who just give you plain bad advice. You have to learn to forget about it before you get stuck thinking too much.
2. Try to figure out the actually useful good advice. Filter through the information. Find people that understand how things work. And people that have been there before.
3. Find people you trust that will help you discern when your mind gets clouded.
All easier said than done. I know from experience. I’m sure you do too.
A year ago today, do you remember what you were focused on?
Last year about this time, I was sitting on the same couch focused on writing a blog post about Wildly Important Goals for the new year. No, not about how much weight you want to lose or the activities to get involved in. But instead about the urgencies you feel. The progress you want to make. And how you want to impact the world.
As I think about WIGs today, the problem I’ve come to find is that today we live in an very unfocused time. And we live in a world where people get very distracted. And it’s harder than ever to keep the goals we make.
But ironically, we all come from a a legacy where people knew just how much focus mattered. People that dedicated their lives to the civil rights movement. That went on freedom rides. That protested entire education systems. And that built companies to have a profound impact no matter what obstacles they encountered. Very focused people that were eventually able to move the country forward.
As you think about 2013, what do you want to focus on? What do you want to be more skilled at? How do you want to change your community? What art do you want to create?
New Year’s resolutions rarely work. Because To-Do lists generally don’t survive when the going gets though. But figuring out how to focus matters more than ever before.
See below for the question and below that for my video response.
Structure of my response
Good question. Business and technology will continue to merge.
1. Dual Degree
2. MBA+ Classes at other schools
3. Traditional Masters + Business courses
- MSM (MS&E) degree. See Wikipedia page with school options
Think about your career goals when deciding.
See below for the question and below that for my video response.
Subject: Professional Development
My name is Manuel. I wanted to thank you for all the work put into his blog. I just watched one of your last videos where you briefly talked about mission and goals in life. I have been thinking a lot about this for a few years now and Wanted to ask you about your personal and professional development experience. What other sources of development did you use besides having mentors throughout college? Do you have inspirational and personal development books that you recommend?
Thank you so much
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Structure of my response
Not enough people think about professional development.
“To become a great leader, first you have to learn to lead yourself. To lead yourself you have to know yourself.” -Harry Kramer
Three things: Mentors, Tips, Books.
1. Mentors are critical. Not only helps the mentee, but also helps you and the community at large.
2. Tips: A) Put yourself in tough situations. B) Think about leaders / thinkers you admire.
A) Thinkers I admire: Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell, Cory Booker, President Obama
B) Books (highlight top 5): Leadership Lessons from the White House Fellows, Never Eat Alone, Whos Got Your Back, Steve Jobs biography, Audacity of Hope, Purple Cow, The Dip, Not without Hope, The Power of One, Start With Why, The Lean Startup, Strengths Finder 2.0, The Leader who Had No Title, Primal Leadership (or anything by that author), Blink, Outliers, From Values to Action
C) Seth Godin 2012 recommendations
I do this very often in Chicago too. More surprising than the fact that nobody else in line seems to do the same, is the fact that employees are always surprised as well. Often times they accidentally interrupt saying “how can I help you” before I can even finish. And sometimes they don’t know how to respond at all.
I propose the idea that each of us should do more of this everyday. Put more value on the human connection. And make people we transact with feel important.
But today’s world makes this more challenging. In today’s technology driven economy, profit margins are lower and stores need more customers to than ever to make money. So often times companies prize efficiency over good customer interactions. Likewise, customers today are in a hurry and more demanding than ever. So customers equally forget about the value of spending 20 seconds to speak to someone else.
But that’s just the problem. That’s why customers aren’t loyal. It’s why they don’t go back to your store again. It’s why they won’t go out of their way to support your idea or invest in your business. It’s also why employees can sometimes have really bad days at work. And why demanding customers will rarely get their way.
I propose the idea that both parties should put more value on the human connection. Companies need to balance the importance of efficiency with the value of human contact. Customers should more time being nice to the people we interact with.
In the end, the interaction will be significantly better for both sides. Employees will be more willing to help you out. And you might just make the employee’s day. All by Saying Hello.
See below for the question and below that for my video response.
Dear Mr. Wilson,
It was a real pleasure meeting you at the networking event last week. I intend to take you advice in my quest for success. I read your blog and I have to say that I am truly impressed. Not only it is very well known, but it serves a purpose that I take at heart. Education.
As I told you yesterday, I will apply to the (Name) Fellowship Program. I went through the application today. For the letter of recommendation, I am not sure if I should ask one of my undergraduate teachers, one of my teachers from grad school, or my boss from my last job, what do you think? Also, when it comes to the personal statement, I was wondering if I should focus on my work experience or on my life experience from my home community.
Any advice would be helpful. I look forward to hearing back from you soon.
See below for my video response.
See below for the question and below that for my video response.
When applying for grad schools/companies after undergrad, are there any differences between being a graduate from Berkeley or LA? How do grad schools weigh a GPA from schools with slightly different prestige/reputation. Specific to Berkeley and LA, how would careers/grad schools weigh a student with the same major and a similar transcript accordingly? Any advice you have would be helpful. Thank you.
Structure of my response
1. Education Matters today more than ever in today’s global, information-based economy.
2. Schools: People choose schools for various reasons.
3. Departments: Different departments will give you different experiences.
4. Grades: Grad schools will put grades in context