'Why do we care so much about our grades?'

You are not your grades

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Why do we care so much about our grades?

Because we feel the need to prove ourselves to the people around us. We feel stupid compared to them and our self-esteem goes down the drain the moment a classmate gets an 8 while we got a 6. We might – or do – also get the impression that the same classmate will judge us or regard us as “not smart enough.” We base our worth on our grades and that is, indeed, scary.

Oftentimes, we get so caught up in the whole grading system that we tend to forget that we are not the numbers that are assigned to us. Two weeks ago, I failed a university course for the first time. My first reaction was to blame myself entirely, calling myself stupid, Miss “not-that-smart”. Then I got mad realising that I did not pass because of half a point. It is always a weird process, how anger turns into sadness and vice-versa, and it feels like there is no easy way out.

The moment I reached out to my classmates, I was relieved to find out that I was not the only one who had failed, which allowed me to blow off some steam, even though there is a part of me that still tells herself I should not be relying on the experiences of others so much.

When you are not used to the grading system in another country, it might be complicated to detach yourself from the pretty marks you used to see in the upper right corner of your papers back in high school. And when adults, either teachers or relatives, have been thinking of you as “such an intelligent child, so mature for her age” since you were six, your first failure leads you to believe you are a fraud. Adults have no idea what kind of unbearable pressure a statement such as “they are destined to do great things if they keep studying” can put on the shoulders of young people. We, the young people, are supposed to have fun, find ourselves, and live like the world was going to end tomorrow! We should not have to worry about a 7.5 which we expected would be an 8 and feel worthless whenever we fail a course.

Perhaps we are secretly scared of disappointing our teachers or ourselves. Maybe we get so close to our professors that we want to make a good impression, which is beautiful and worrisome at the same time, and we associate a bad grade with a personal dislike. To be honest, that is exactly what I thought had happened the day I failed that course. Luckily, the day after I attended an almost heaven-sent teaching evaluation meeting with all my teachers. To cite what my literature professor said, “5.5 is the minimum required but it still means a good job. That number, however low, has nothing to do with how much you are worth”.

You are not your grades ‒ and your grades do not say anything about you either.