A valedictorian is a very prestigious honor given to the student who is at the very top of his or her class. From the time students are old enough to understand what a valedictorian is, they may decide that this is a goal they want to achieve for themselves. However, becoming a valedictorian is something few people can say they have achieved in their lifetime. Of course, this means that the road to becoming a valedictorian isn't an easy one, and if you're a student who wants this for yourself, prepare to work extremely hard.
Why Do You Want to Be a Valedictorian?
If you want to know how to become valedictorian, then the first thing you need to ask yourself is "Why?" For some people, it's an external reason, like wanting to please their family. For others, it's an internal reason, like simply wanting the achievement for themselves. Sometimes, it's both. Whatever the reasons may be, you really should only pursue this goal if it's truly something you want. Otherwise, the stress can become too much. After all, you will be the one putting in most of the hard work and not the others, so do some reflection to see if this is right for you.
Work Hard From a Young Age
Once you've decided that this is, in fact, an important goal you want to set for yourself, it's time to buckle down. Most valedictorians start working hard from a very young age. If you want to get into the highest-level courses in high school, then you'll need to be in high-level courses from middle school. To get into those, you'll have to make yourself known in elementary school. Of course, there's always room for improvement. If you're not doing well in one subject in sixth grade, that doesn't mean you can't be valedictorian. It just means you have to continue working hard.
Some things you'll have to do as you grow as a student are simple things, like handing your work in on time and making sure it's correct. It also involves taking the time to review topics that you don’t quite understand and meet with your teacher until you feel confident in the material. You'll have to make sure you spend more time studying than watching TV, and you may have to be willing to give up some things you enjoy doing in the meantime. This all starts with building good habits and having some self-discipline. Figure out what will motivate you to work hard, whether it's rewarding yourself with a treat every so often, or taking a break from studying. It will also be important to seek advice and support from family and friends, so they can help make sure you stay on track.
Get Involved in Extracurriculars
In addition to obtaining a standard valedictorian GPA average, you will also have to get involved in extracurricular activities. This is a great way to show your school (and yourself) how you choose to spend your time outside the classroom. To choose an extracurricular activity you can excel in, find things you're interested in and that can help you grow as a person. Of course, there are certain extracurriculars that prospective valedictorians tend to enroll in more than others, like music, language club, honor society, debate team or Model UN, just to name a few. Whatever you choose, make sure you do your best to stick with it and ask the club leader how to get involved in a leadership position. Also, try to choose extracurriculars that don't conflict with one another time-wise.
Make Yourself Stand Out in Class
Speaking of leadership positions, if you're wondering how to become valedictorian, then you must make yourself stand out from your peers by being an exceptional student, one that teachers and other students can rely on. Is there a position you can apply for in your class, or in a club you're in? Take it upon yourself to apply for the role. If you want to be chosen for valedictorian, then you simply have to make yourself unique in the eyes of the administration. Get to know your teachers well, so you can go to them when you need help, and you can also look to them to write you references if needed.
Take High-Level Classes
If you've been working hard since you were a young student, then it's likely you're already quite accustomed to being in advanced classes. You're probably familiar with the demands of these kinds of classes, whether that be numerous assignments, tests, projects and overall time studying. But, when you get into high school, these high-level classes may be a lot different and more difficult to get used to. And, if you want to be valedictorian, you will have to keep pushing forward so that you can be placed in the highest level classes at your school as a junior and senior. By getting into these classes and demonstrating that you're able to dedicate consistent time and effort to them, you'll be on the right path to becoming valedictorian. Some students even take community college classes if they've already exceeded the highest levels at their school.
Maintaining a Valedictorian GPA Average
While it's extremely important to get into honors and AP classes (preferably, all AP), you'll also need to do really well in those classes in order to obtain and maintain the typical valedictorian average. Even though the criteria for choosing a valedictorian is different at every school, it's safe to say that you must have one of the highest GPAs in the school (in addition to all your other achievements) in order to achieve this goal. In general, though, the valedictorian GPA average tends to be a 4.0, or an A, depending on which scale your school uses. Overall, it just needs to be the highest out of your peers. Therefore, if every single person in your class has below a 3.6, then you could still theoretically be selected as valedictorian with a 3.8 GPA. If you're struggling to maintain this average in some of your classes, then don't be afraid to reach out to your teachers for extra help.
Find Out Your School’s Criteria for Choosing Valedictorian
In addition to having that perfect GPA, you also need to discover what the other requirements are at your particular school if you're wondering how to become valedictorian. Though most schools tend to require the same criteria, such as being involved in extracurriculars, having a high GPA, taking on leadership positions and more, your school may also require some other criteria. Find out from teachers or other administrators what those requirements are. Perhaps you have to invent something, start a new club at your school or volunteer. Check these when you first enter high school and keep checking, again and again, to make sure there aren't any changes. You wouldn't want to discover at the last minute that you've missed something you needed.
Take Care of Your Health
If you're pursuing valedictorian, then it's likely you might get a little overworked from time to time. With extra hours being put into your day and many extracurricular activities to attend, it can be difficult to find time for doing basic things like sleeping or just taking a rest. This can have the potential to make you sick or cause you to feel very stressed and anxious. Therefore, if you're interested in becoming valedictorian, it's necessary that you take time to recharge your batteries. Whether this means taking a day off here and there or making sure to get proper care and rest when you're sick, you need to prioritize these things just as much as anything else.
Surround Yourself with Supportive People
Part of taking care of your health means surrounding yourself with the right people. If you're working hard to become valedictorian, there's a chance that you'll have very limited time to socialize. But socializing is important. It helps you to stay positive and build skills that are required in every other aspect of your life. Choose carefully who you want to socialize with, as you should pick friends that encourage you to reach your goals and not take your attention away from those goals.
In addition to spending time with your encouraging peers, you should also reach out to adults who can help and support you as much as possible, especially if you're feeling a little off. Talk to social workers, guidance counselors, your parents as well as aunts and uncles who want you to succeed and be happy.
Valedictorian vs. Salutatorian
Even though you may have valedictorian as your ultimate goal, perhaps you're okay with achieving second-best too, which is salutatorian. In fact, those who shoot for the moon may be just as pleased with landing among the stars. If you don't achieve valedictorian, there's a chance that you will still achieve one of the highest honors a student can achieve in high school, which is salutatorian. Typically, a salutatorian delivers the opening remarks at graduation and gets loads of praise for all the hard work put in over the last four years of high school.
Things to Consider
Being named valedictorian is truly an accomplishment. However, considering in most cases only one student can be valedictorian, you also need to come to terms with the fact that there's always a chance you may not become valedictorian, either. This can be a real disappointment when you've put in so much work over the last four years. But don't get down on yourself. If you don't get named a valedictorian, or even salutatorian, you've still worked extremely hard, and you should be proud of yourself. Hopefully, you were able to learn a lot about yourself throughout the process, and you now know that you're capable of overcoming any obstacles that come your way.
At the same time, many of those who are pursuing the title of valedictorian are doing so because they think it will help them to get into the school they want. But if this is your reason for wanting the title, think again. Being named valedictorian (or salutatorian) doesn't necessarily guarantee you a spot in the school of your dreams. Likewise, just because you're not valedictorian, doesn't mean you can't get into your dream school, either. When colleges look at your application, they are looking at different qualities from what your high school is looking at when it comes to choosing valedictorian. Remember that there are no guarantees.
What Is the Valedictorian Speech?
If you do get chosen to be valedictorian, that's an absolutely amazing honor that only a few people can say they've achieved. It's so rare that many people can't even say that they know a valedictorian themselves. But with great honor comes responsibility, and that's why you'll be required to give a valedictorian speech at some point in your commencement. What is the valedictorian speech? The speech can discuss your experiences, what you hope to do after graduation or it can tell a story that's inspiring to others.
- Never cheat. Not only is it unethical, but you will be punished if you're caught. Colleges will receive this information from your school and it could seriously damage your chances of getting accepted.
Hana LaRock is a freelance content writer from New York, currently living in Mexico. Before becoming a writer, Hana worked as a teacher for several years in the U.S. and around the world. She has her teaching certification in Elementary Education and Special Education, as well as a TESOL certification. Please visit her website, www.hanalarockwriting.com, to learn more.