“Your grades don’t define you”. An overused and cliché statement that most university students are fed up of hearing. “සිත නිවන කතාවක්”. A mantra to comfort those who aren’t getting the grades they want. If grades don’t matter why is it that grades are all people care about? Why is it that we torture ourselves to attain that perfect 4.0 and above? Is it worth it? The truth is somewhere in between. Grades are just letters and numbers used to determine your placement, and NO, they do not define you. But most students misunderstand this and think grades don’t matter and you don’t need to try to do well. Is this the mindset we should carry?
Although grades do not define you, they do play a part in shaping your future. If you are looking to continue your education overseas some universities consider a first or second upper a mandatory requirement even before calling interviews. That doesn’t mean those who didn’t manage to achieve a class are failures, it just means their path to higher education is harder. Most of us come here with high hopes and dreams of doing a special degree, but the truth is this isn’t school. If you thought the competition at A/Levels was tough, university is 100 times greater. The best young minds in the country have been filtered via a competitive exam and put together to compete amongst themselves once again. Every single one of them uniquely talented, every single one of them smart in their own way. As we repeatedly hear, “අත උස්සල කැම්පස් එන්න බෑ”. No one is here to pass time, but the bitter truth is at least half of a batch does not get into a special degree programme. Even more might not get into the programme they desire.
We only have four semesters, four exams before selection, a little slip up could throw someone out of contention. Most students end up disheartened quite easily, thinking one low grade is enough to decide their future. Learning to accept your grades helps you grow both as a student and a person. In the grand journey that is life, one bad grade isn’t going to kill you. As a student in a very competitive and stressful environment, all I hear about is the importance of GPA and perfect grades. And while they do matter, we mustn’t get too caught up in them and the pressure they create.
It is okay to feel upset if you don’t get the grade you were expecting, that only shows you care. But don’t let it bring you down. Keep your head up and move forward. Nothing is impossible (even getting A+ for every subject in a semester is not unheard of). Analyze your mistake and work to improve it. The key is not to get disheartened and fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. We end up in a hole of despair and overthinking when we cannot live up to this expectation of intelligence, which usually ends up in the dreaded thought of “I give up”. Just think of how many times you have remembered the answer to a question five minutes after your paper was collected, only to receive your results a month later to realize you were a mark short of the grade you wanted. Does that mean remembering five minutes earlier would make you more qualified for a job? How many equations, scientific names and theories have you memorized before an exam never to use them again? You may hate yourself for failing to remember the name of the plant that is used to make the Malaria vaccine, or for not being able find the value of x, but amid your obsession with academics you forget to realize that life at university isn’t only grades. You enclose your worth within the four walls of your lecture hall and forget that achievements are applicable way past your course syllabus. You lose interest in the hobbies you used to pursue, you become a shadow of the bright young mind that came through the gates of the university. And for what? In 10 years will anyone be looking at your academic transcript? No. it will be a mere piece of paper but as long as the fire within you drives you forward that will keep you on your feet.
Nobody is perfect, despite people’s expectations. Whether you put pressure on yourself or others put pressure on you, be it your parents, friends, teachers, remember that you are human and have a multitude of other qualities that make you who you are. At the end of the day its not whether you are the smartest or went to the best university. Its about the hard work you put in and the obstacles you overcame that eventually helped you grow into a stronger human being.
Grades don’t define you. Those letters on your transcripts aren’t labels used to identify you. Good grades are important, but not so much that you should stay up all night till you collapse. Finding a healthy balance is the key. To some students, straight A’s come naturally, requiring little to no effort. Some students require hours of studying to get B’s. As long as you know you have tried your best, you can look at a C and be okay. The purpose of this article is not to start a debate but to let you know that be it a B+, C- or D you mustn’t let an exam result decide your fate.