Ever since my preschool days, I have always wanted to achieve the highest for my academics. Initially, I liked having good grades because my parents would give me gifts as a reward. Though don’t get me wrong, my parents didn’t bribe me nor pressure me to perform well. They just wanted to teach me that not all good things in life are easy to get and involve hard work. But outside of the gifts that I received, the most rewarding thing that high grades gave me was to witness how proud my parents were when they saw my name on the honors list and when they co-received my honor cards during recognition programs.
As I grow old, however, this attitude to achieve high grades has been naturally instilled within me. I used to think that having good grades was so important that it would define my future. So whenever I receive grades that I consider low for myself, I question myself and my capabilities. I must also admit that receiving low grades has somewhat created an impostor syndrome within me.
Well, we grow and learn from the different experiences we encounter. So, after going through several lows in my academic life, here’s how I deal with low grades now.
Step 1: I accept the grade that I received, then cry over it.
The first step is to accept the grade because I can’t do much once it's released. Although I tried asking for possible reconsideration, there were instances where it usually didn’t turn out well. That’s why I accept it and rely on my main coping mechanism—crying. It might sound bizarre, but crying helps me a lot when dealing with my challenges. After I cry, I feel like everything is already okay.
Step 2: I reflect on the things that I did wrong about the exam.
After accepting and mourning my low grades, of course, I reflect. I go over the exam and check on the items I did wrong. I usually ask my prof or my classmates what the correct answers are. And if time allows, I ask them to explain to me how they got the answer. If not, I try to figure it out on my own time. Through this, I can learn what went wrong and avoid making the same mistakes for the following tests, especially for the major exams (where I could make up for the lost grades).
Step 3: I move on by looking at the bigger picture.
Once I have accepted my low grades and have learned from my mistakes, I move on. In this phase, I look at the bigger picture and forget about my initial thoughts about grades. Based on experience, I know and understand that moving on is easier said than done. As such, here’s how I affirm myself:
I look back at my past achievements.
Looking back at my past achievements makes me feel accomplished, like my previous efforts have paid off. Likewise, my past achievements served as a self-reminder that I was once able to succeed. Most of all, looking back at my past achievements helps me combat the impostor syndrome, for it gives me concrete validation that I am not what I think I am.
I go through the things I’ve accomplished outside school.
Aside from looking back at previous accomplishments, I also go through what I’ve accomplished outside school. As grades have always been a strong pillar of my definition of my future success, my extracurricular activities are another source of strength I leverage on. My internships and my org positions have proven that there is life outside school (and grades!).
These extracurricular activities never judged me for my grades. None of them asked me what my grades were to consider me as a potential applicant and accept me to be part of their organization. Grades are not what they are looking for, but rather, the work ethic that I have gained from school.
Disclaimer: I'm not saying that you shouldn’t study anymore. Getting that diploma still matters. If there is one important lesson I learned from extracurricular activities, it will be the importance of education and learning. We still learn new things outside of school, by doing actual and real-world work, like communicating and working with others. And that is what my grade-conscious self has taught me: never to stop learning how to learn.
I remind myself that grades will never define who I am.
To further elaborate, a person who constantly receives bad grades doesn’t mean that they aren't a kind, down-to-earth person. Grades are just a measurement used to gauge how much students picked up from the lesson. So if I did poorly on an exam, it doesn’t mean I’m not a good student, but maybe I just didn’t understand the lesson well enough and that I need to take more time to review.
With that said, I’ve concluded that my grades won’t and will never dictate my personality or who I am as an individual/family/friend. Because what matters the most is how I am as a person, my principles, and my values.
Tl;dr, I’ve realized that getting a low grade is like getting a bad day. And as one of my closest friends would always remind me, “a bad day doesn’t mean it’s a bad life.” We accept, reflect, and move on from the low grades we received and look forward to crafting ourselves into better people with a strong aptitude for learning.
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