Grades. My relationship with them is always changing. We’ve been best friends, worst enemies and everything in between.
In high school, I used grades as a symbol of success. Unfortunately, the pressure of applying to college resulted in my almost unhealthy determination to maintain good grades. On the bright side, this same pressure also kept me motivated to stay up to date in my classes and engaged in the material.
I began caring less about the letters on my transcript my senior year in high school after I was accepted to college in December. Like many others my age, I fell victim to “senior-itis.” Instead of worrying about my GPA, as I had done for three years prior, I focused on my friends, whom I would have to part from in a few short months. Although I wasn’t as stressed about my grades, they did not tank instantly. This left me knowing that I could do well in classes without forcing my life to revolve around them.
When I started college, my relationship with grades remained relaxed. We were acquaintances. We liked each other but didn’t know each other too well or think about each other too much. I was advised to put time and energy into developing fulfilling, supportive friendships instead of an immaculate transcript. Although I began devoting more time to other aspects of my life, I still remained engaged in my classes. My motto became: Which will I remember 10 years from now, the beach with my friends or p-set number four?
As a freshman, this approach was sustainable. I was taking interesting but not extremely challenging classes. Therefore, when time came to choose between the beach and p-set four I could choose the beach and still finish p-set four on time.
Sophomore year, to be frank, has been a slap in the face. Assuming that I was adjusted to college life, having survived year one, I decided to take on a slightly heavier load of not only classes but also clubs and extracurricular commitments. In the beginning of the year, I found myself lacking motivation to dedicate the time and energy necessary to fully absorb all of the material in my classes.
I think this is in part due to a slight disinterest in the coursework as this quarter I’m in many pre-requisite classes (with the intent to take some really exciting ones in the future!). Since my motivation to do well in school in high school was based upon going to a great college, in college, I’ve found myself lacking the drive to push through the tedious coursework in some of my classes.
However, I’ve found that reminding myself the reason I chose to take these particular classes, either because I found them interesting or thought they would help me take an interesting class in the future, is a great way to stay motivated to do well. Additionally, I remember how lucky I am to be taking classes at Stanford, with amazing resources and faculty. Instead of choosing the beach over a p-set, I now try to finish the p-set beforehand, so there isn’t a choice. While it is not always possible to finish p-sets early, making the attempt definitely helps bring less chaos to my academic life.
Ultimately, I think that the key to success in most aspects of life is balance. I should not be choosing between a social life and a good GPA because it is completely possible to have both. For example, I can’t always choose the beach over a p-set. At the same time, I can’t always choose a p-set over the beach.
Contact Phoebe Quinton at pquinton ‘at’ stanford.edu.