Attractive High Schoolers Get Better Grades

by Adrienne Vogt

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who has the best grades of all? Good-looking kids, apparently. At least, that's according to a new study, which compared the attractiveness of both males and females (rated as such by study participants in surveys) with their grade-point averages. Researchers observed that students rated as having above-average looks also tend to get better grades. The study followed 9,000 students from the 1994-95 school year into their 20s and 30s. The research, which is set to be published Friday, compiled data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

Interestingly, however, the study hints that the definition of "attractive" doesn't seems to fit a traditional mold (i.e. the tall, blond hair, blue-eyed types). University of Illinois-Chicago sociologist Rachel Gordon says that "standing out from the crowd" is what's most important to teens. Those standouts are most attractive to their peers. (Crossing our fingers that teens don't start sporting Miley-like buzzcuts and leotards. Wait, that's probably already happened.)

However, there are some downsides to being deemed attractive: the study also found that better-looking high-schoolers feel more pressured to date, have more sexual partners, and drink heavily. (Breaking lots of stereotypes there.)

So are teachers themselves drawn toward the popular kids as well — enough to give them better grades, even if they don't even realize it? Gordon says the study wasn't able to directly determine that question. She does believe that the massive study is important, even if others may be prone to scoff at it.

"We did want to highlight the importance of looking at physical attractiveness in high school and adolescents, given that it's been looked at so little in academic literature," she says. "We may be able to help teachers and students get past the way looks affect those initial impressions."

Other attractiveness studies have focused mainly on adults in the workplace. Hotter people bring home more money, and are viewed as more pleasurable to work with. In fact, "Beautiful people tend to bring in more money for their companies, and are therefore seen as more valuable employees and harder workers." (High school: preparing you for the rest of your crappy life since 2002.)

But wait, aren't there a ton of "ugly ducklings" who've been super successful? Try getting this study past people like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, who — let's admit — aren't exactly lookers.

Of course, in the never-ending quest to HAVE IT ALL, women get screwed either way. Because our culture puts looks first, good-looking women may get good jobs at first — but then often remain stuck.

"Attractive women will get a benefit overall in occupations, but when you're talking about leadership positions, being sexually attractive actually works against you," says Caroline Heldman, an associate professor of politics at Occidental College in Los Angeles.

Which (fun fact) is also the school where Clueless was filmed.