Counselors, teachers and college admissions officers use a term to describe some students–"Grade grubbers." You don't want to be one.
Grade grubbers focus obsessively on their GPAs. They're not interested in learning–they just want the "A." They'll participate in class discussions…if participation is counted towards your grade. They'll do the outside project or extra reading…if they get points for it. When a grade grubber gets a "B" in the class, he'll go right to the teacher and ask what extra credit is available so he can get an "A." And grade grubbers aren't above having their parents wage the, "My son needs an "A" in the class" fight for them.
Grade grubbers aren't bad kids. They work hard and they're not disruptive in class (that would hurt their grade). But it's hard to really like them. There's no sense of intellectualism, no keen interest in any particular subject matter with grade grubbers. They're all about the grade itself.
It's much better to be branded a "learner."
There's a big difference between grade grubbers and learners. Learner work hard, too. And they earn good grades. But they can also tell you who their favorite class or teacher is. They take hard classes because they want to be pushed intellectually. They enjoy learning new things and aren't afraid to pursue their favorite subjects outside of class through extra reading or classes. They participate in class discussions because it makes the material more interesting.
Teachers feel lucky when they have a couple learners in their classes. Learners make the experience better for everyone. The grade grubbers just take what they need to get the "A," but the learners are giving something back with their enthusiasm.
It's easy for teachers and counselors to write great letters of recommendation for learners. And it's easy for colleges to admit them.