Grades aren’t the only defining factor of your future

Graphic by Alan LiG

How would you define success?

That isn’t an easy question to answer. After all, what constitutes success is different to each person. To many, it might be about securing that dream job, or getting into a highly coveted master’s program.

Success then, depends – at least in part – on your current performance in university.

In a world where our performance is summarised by a numerical figure such as a GPA, this time of year can feel quite overwhelming.

Exam season is coming. This means two things.

One, the semester is about to end and you will soon have a new set of courses and challenges to focus on for the year ahead.

But, more importantly you have reached the final stretch – the culmination of 12 weeks of hard work.

There have been ups and there have been downs. There are courses you have thoroughly enjoyed and some which you want nothing to do with ever again. You may have even gotten a few grades that you aren’t quite pleased with.

One poor grade does not define you. Academics are just one slice of the university pie. Yes, a strong academic record is important, but it isn’t a magical key that will secure your entire future. Don’t think about it like that.

Instead, make sure you are constantly searching for ways to improve. That means that when you get that midterm or paper back, it’s critical to look through it and implement the feedback you have gotten for the next set of assessments. This is the only way you will truly grow from the experience.

Successful people don’t necessarily have straight A’s. But they work hard. They work really hard. So, you may not be the smartest person in the room, but don’t let anyone outwork you.

There is a theory in development economics that argues that investment and saving are necessary, but not sufficient conditions for long-term economic growth. In my view then a superior academic record is necessary – for many of your future goals – but it is by no means sufficient.

Take a deep breath and don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself. Yes, the next few weeks will be quite hectic, but you haven’t come this far to give up. So, buckle up and end 2017 on a high note. All your hard work will pay off.

Your grades don’t tell the whole story. They do not solely define how successful you are going to be. If they did, law schools, medical schools and masters programs could theoretically fill an entire class of 4.0 GPAs. They don’t.

So, find something you enjoy and look for a way to excel at it. It could mean joining one of our many student clubs, or playing a sport or an instrument. Whatever it is, find time for it. Just because you are at university does not mean you shouldn’t have hobbies.

Another important question to ask yourself is whether or not you did your best. Are you  working to your maximum potential? Anything less than that is, quite frankly, a waste of your own time.

This is the time of year when you should be focusing on your work ethic. Find the study tools and strategies that will maximize your potential. Your study habits are just as important, if not more important, than your actual grades.

A strong study regimen will, in all likelihood, lead to a more consistent academic record.

Remember that you aren’t going to be great at everything. This is why you are here – to learn more about yourself, what you truly enjoy and what you don’t.

That doesn’t mean you should hesitate to take a course you are really interested in. Your university experience should be unique to you. This is your time to experiment – do it wisely.

In my three semesters of university, I have found that it’s the most academically challenging courses which are also the most intellectually rewarding. You are bound to develop a skill you didn’t have before. Perhaps the ability to analyze data, to write effectively, or to work with complex mathematical formulae. You never know when these skills will come in handy, so take each of your courses with an open-mind.

It’s not about doing better than everyone else. It’s about defining what your goals are and doing everything you can to achieve them.

Take a deep breath and don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself. Yes, the next few weeks will be quite hectic, but you haven’t come this far to give up. So, buckle up and end 2017 on a high note. All your hard work will pay off.

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