Credit: Akshay Chauhan via unsplash

Do our grades distract from our learning?

We all know why we are here – to get the best marks we can, then promptly exit. Right? Before you came to university, you may have been accustomed to a conception of learning based solely on the grades you receive. Perhaps you were under the impression that anyone lucky enough to make it to university will have a diabolical lust for knowledge and academic prestige. Right? The characters you meet in halls will have promptly proved this otherwise.

Walk with me. Let’s imagine(!) that, at points along your university career, you have crippled yourself mentally over the stress of getting a good grade. Let’s say the worry over your grade was, in fact, negatively affecting the work you produced. A self-fulfilling prophecy, one may say. Let’s say the dread of a bad grade is already looming large, and you have to keep reminding yourself that the semester hasn’t even started yet. This hyper focus on outcome, not process, is a slippery slope, and I imagine a pretty universally experienced helter skelter for students. 

It can be hard to know when you are on such a ride – it is a mindset many inherit from high school. Teachers often need to hit grade quotas, so teach students how to pass exams, not how to learn. When you get to university, the scene changes, because you now have a choice. Are you here to learn or to get good grades? Either way, you are likely to discover something about yourself.

Matthew McConaughey– the known scholar he is – once said he’d rather an experienced C over an arrogant A. Maybe you share this approach to grades, and see a D for the learning experience it is. Or perhaps even a B would throw your five-year plan off course entirely (you my friend, do not want to be helped). The point is – the grade itself is not ruining your mental health, it is your approach to said grades. Is it not better to improve and really understand a subject, than to blag your way through and get A’s without really knowing how? Some of you may be waiting on results from last semester, and I implore you to reconsider your approach. Remember: stressing will not change your grade.

Let’s say you stress and stress, and eventually do get that long sought after A. Did it undo all the anxiety and turmoil you put yourself through to get it? Did it undo that fact you didn’t see the sun for three weeks, didn’t eat properly, didn’t get any solid sleep? These kinds of mindsets never let you feel satisfied. No sooner have you gotten one A before you are dead set on the next. Now you have raised the bar, so an A is all you will accept of yourself, and anything less is a comment on yourself as a person. In this result-focused mindset, an A can prove worse for your mental health than a D. I implore you, instead, to be mindful of the mental states engendered within us, by the institutions we are so privileged to find ourselves in.

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