The 7 Valedictorian Qualities Every Student Should Have
Valedictorian recipients are important to learn from no matter where you are in your educational journey.
You may be a straight C student (or worse), who is too far into your career to make up ground and earn your school’s top academic prize, but you can still improve your life and future outlook tenfold by emulating the best qualities of these individuals.
Of course, no one is perfect, and not being a valedictorian (or salutatorian, for that matter) does not doom your chance of success. You may even end up more successful.
But these individuals have certain characteristics that will serve you well. Here are seven, in particular.
Valedictorian quality No. 1: A positive attitude.
It is easy to have a positive attitude when you have a bright future, terrific grades, and the adoration of your teachers. But what about those who don’t? Well, you need to start by realizing that the positive attitude is not the result of those things happening to the valedictorian.
The positive attitude is what allows them to be so successful. They go into each class confident that it will get them closer to where they need to be to end up at the top of the class.
If you can start finding more ways to express your positivity about a class or a teacher or a study group, then you will naturally start getting more out of life. Positivity is what allows you to feel good about your corner of the world, so employ it often.
Try this: at the end of each class period, or beginning, write down at least one opportunity or objective that you can accomplish in the next day/class period. Then, work to accomplish it and see how you feel by the end of your efforts.
Incremental improvements will change your outlook, even if you don’t accomplish the objective right away.
2. A willingness to experiment.
The typical student who ends up at the top of his or her class gets to that point because they have a natural curiosity or inquisitiveness about the world around them.
They may not want to be a math major when they get to college, but they are able to harness their spirit of adventure and experimentation long enough to find something that fascinates them about the material they are studying.
This might sound difficult to do, but it is actually quite simple. It begins with one simple question: Why? Start asking “Why?” more, and you will cultivate fascination in a topic where none previously existed.
Now try it on your own. Identify one class subject you have trouble with. From there, identify a single aspect of that subject that stumps you. In English, for example, you might be experiencing difficulty with diagramming sentences.
Why do we have to do this? That’s a viable “why” type of question. After all, you will never need to diagram a sentence the way your teacher shows you while on the job, will you? (Well, not unless you become an English teacher.) So why do it?
The answer: to show how each of the words in a sentence relate to one another. Why is that important? Because by understanding the relationships of words to one another, you become a more effective communicator. Why is it important to become an effective communicator?
You get the point.
3. A drive to be challenged.
Most of the time, your school’s valedictorian will have a desire or drive to be challenged. They know that being challenged is a way to test themselves on what they know, isolate what they don’t know, and break new ground that brings them closer and closer to success.
What would have happened if Steve Jobs and Apple had stopped with the invention of the iPod? We would have still had a great way of porting around our music library, but we wouldn’t be able to communicate as quickly and effectively as we can today.
The device essentially would have remained a niche product, and we’d be stuck in the days of desktop computers and flip phones.
Because Jobs continued to challenge his employees, they turned phones into computers far more powerful and portable than anything we have ever seen before. For all their dangers, these devices have made work, communicating with friends, learning, and entertainment options more accessible.
4. A tough inner critic.
A valedictorian is not the type of student who wants to be given their grade. They are smart enough to know what they don’t know, and they don’t rely on gifts from their teachers to prepare for examinations.
Sure, they may occasionally get rounded up to the next highest letter grade if their percentage ends in .5, but they won’t count on that.
The ability to be tough on and honest with yourself is what will set you apart from others. It may not get you to the top of your class right away, but it will position you well going into college and the workforce.
5. A hobby (or several).
It may come as a shock, but your valedictorian probably doesn’t spend every waking minute of their time reading chapters, doing homework, and putting together study guides. They also make time to enjoy themselves by going to the mall, shopping, watching Netflix, reading, writing, building things, or doing any number of activities for which they receive no compensation, no grade, and no immediate recognition.
Their hobbies are in their lives because they are passionate about doing them.
Similarly, you always should make time for the things that bring you happiness, provided they’re not destructive (so yeah, drinking, drugs, being horrible to others … doesn’t count).
The key is to find something both enjoyable to you and constructive to society, even if that constructiveness is simply “staying out of trouble.”
6. An optimistic perspective.
This is slightly different from a positive attitude. When you are positive, you are happy and filled with wonder and eager to pursue new challenges.
Positivity is about how you tackle the challenge itself. Where optimism differs is in how you respond, even when things are not going your way.
When you adopt an optimistic perspective, you hold it together and play the long game with the belief that things will work out if you continue to make improvements.
It can be tough to stay positive when you have a few defeats, but when your optimistic, you can and will endure.
And the final valedictorian quality: A connection to others.
You will notice that many times your valedictorian is one of the most popular kids in school. People like them, and not because they want to copy answers from their quizzes and exams.
They like them because they are thoughtful, kind, and genuinely nice to be around. That doesn’t make them perfect, but it does make them personable.
They understand that human connections are essential as they journey up the educational and professional ladders. They make time for others and for having fun with others.
Never lose sight of this quality because you never know when it will serve you in business and life.
Again, you do not have to be a valedictorian or a salutatorian or anywhere near the top of your class to be successful in life. But you will go much further with the qualities mentioned above than without them. Good luck!
[Image via Flickr Creative Commons]