“Academic success is not the most important thing in my life,” I tell myself while having a mental breakdown because of academic success, the most important thing in my life.
I've seen this quote trending online through the semester as it slowly, yet quickly, comes to an end. As students, we constantly strive to make the best of our grades, to boost our GPA, to want more and better… but at what cost? The cost of a letter that depicts how smart one is? Or is it to gain the actual education of memorizing, retaining, restoring, and sequentially learning the material? Probably the first one, right? As the education system builds, it deteriorates in substance because it tells students that the grade matters, the GPA matters, the score matters. Does the student matter, or the way in which he or she learns matter?
As a college student about to graduate, I used to be incredibly absorbed in the grade I earned. A grade of a C, to me, meant failing. So I would work harder to raise my grade through extra credit, countless sleepless nights, and putting in extra time to raise the letter to something higher. As I did so, I didn’t retain the information I was cramming, and I wasn’t trying to learn anything substantial because I was so caught up in what I could do to make that C be higher. To be better. To feel smarter. To feel successful.
We are in an education system where we get essays back and immediately confront the professor with the same question, “why did I get this grade?” or “how can I get a higher grade?” We fail to ask questions with depth. We should not have to be concerned with what grades we have by the end of the semester, but be consumed with the knowledge we are leaving with. Education is partly defined as “an enlightening experience,” and not “a grade in which a student receives.”
Success is measured by letters, numbers, decimals, and percentages. No one can measure someone’s success when a student has to work three jobs 30 hours a week, try to focus in four or more classes, try to maintain a social life, health, insanity… success is measured by what you can do and do well through the sticky times in life. Do you give up or do you keep going even though life is rough at times? The student who falls asleep in class may be afraid to sleep at home; the student who talks too much might be shut down by a family member; the student who seems to never make it to class and is failing in participating might have to work during that time because rent is due tomorrow and they cannot pay it: these are the students that have their own type of success.
So as school comes to an end, with final exams and essays approaching, try not to worry so much about the grade and focus more on your own individual successes which can be as simple as: you woke up today, you took a shower, you finished a paragraph, you were on time to work, you tried something new.
Make your own successes in a world that tries to control what success is supposed to look like. If you don’t like something, change it. In the end, most of the grades you receive won’t matter on a piece of paper, but what will matter is how you chose to live life to the fullest. School is important, but it’s not a forever thing. Grades are important, but they won’t be engraved on your headstone. You are important, and that’s what matters.