I’ve always cared way too much about grades. I constantly worry about what grade I will get on assignments and exams, and any grade that falls below my extremely high expectations is a massive disappointment. For these reasons, I am constantly in a state of anxiety; I am always trying to live up to my own expectations, and punishing myself when I am unable to do that. But why am I like this? Grades don’t even matter, right?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had this pressure to do well in school, not just from my parents but also from myself, my classmates, and my teachers. When I started getting good grades in elementary school, everyone expected me to maintain them, and that set an unrealistic precedent. It got worse in middle school, when I struggled in classes like shop, cooking, and sewing. My bad grades pushed me to try harder, but it just led to extra stress. By the time I got to high school, caring about grades was ingrained in me. I knew I had to do well to get into university, so I spent hours studying every day, and had no social life.
When I got several scholarships for university, one of which was dependent on my grades in my first semester, I knew that I had to try even harder, but since I was a good student who was used to working hard, I thought getting good grades would be easy enough. I was so wrong. I got 67% on my first university paper, and that was a huge wake up call. I was completely shocked that I could do so badly, especially in what I thought was my strong suit. It motivated me to work harder to prove myself, and my grades did go up, but they plateaued around a B in my first semester, which was extremely disappointing coming off an A+ average in high school. My grades fluctuated through the next few years, and I got everything from a C+ to an A+, but over the last few years, I’ve consistently been in the B+ to A range.
Despite my achievements and growth, I still constantly worry about my grades, and feel crushed when I get anything below a B+. Over the years I got used to having my hard work pay off in the form of good grades, but in university it is a lot more subjective and it is impossible to please everyone.
I once had a TA ask me why I cared so much about grades. I was dumbfounded, and I wondered, why wouldn’t I care about my grades? I began to list reasons why I should care, such as acquiring scholarships, getting a good job after I graduate, and maintaining my high school average. She told me that I shouldn’t stress about them so much, that university is much more difficult than high school and my grades will reflect that, and that my GPA will not matter after I graduate. These are good points, but I wasn’t ready to hear them yet; I had spent my entire life obsessing over my grades, and I was not ready to give that up.
I’ve been under a lot of stress in the last year, mostly because of school. Eventually I realized that it was too much and I needed to take a step back and realize that a bad grade isn’t the end of the world, and won’t affect me at all after I graduate. It’s been hard, but I am trying to care less about my grades. Don’t get me wrong, I am still putting effort into my work, but I am slightly less concerned about how I do, because ultimately it is not worth the stress, and I want to focus my energy on things that are more important.