Much ado about low grades

A student struggling with homework

I’m really lucky to be the youngest child in my family, as all the mistakes my parents could have made, they’ve made with Jiang, my elder brother. When he was in high school, my dad had major difficulties with his business, and Jiang was deprived of tutors. Moreover, as my parents thought they might not get through the financial crisis, some high requirements were imposed on Jiang for the first time in his life. After another bad grade in math, mum and dad yelled at him so bad that he started to cry all of a sudden! This was a turning point for my parents. They understood that no matter what financial difficulties they have, no matter how low our grades are, first and foremost they wanted us to be happy and emotionally stable. I was about 10 then, and since that day I was never yelled at because of my grades.

If your parents didn’t go through this kind of experience of turning their children into neurotics, or you’re the first child and huge expectations are imposed on you, remind them of Percy, Fred, and George Weasley. In the Harry Potter books, there was Percy: a prefect and Head Boy with the highest OWLs and NEWTs, who chose to be loyal to the Ministry and betrayed his own family. And there were Fred and George, who didn’t get enough OWLs, completely failed their NEWTs, but were simply brilliant, financially successful for some time, and became heroes. If this classic comparison of a bad person/high achiever with a good person/low-performing student won’t make your mum and dad accept your poor studies and your own perspective of what is important, I’m afraid nothing will 🙁

But anyway, it’s not only your parents you’re studying for, is it?

What if you’ve already got a bad mark? First of all, remember that this really doesn’t matter. And I know what I’m talking about, as I myself used to think numbers are everything. I had several sessions with my shrink concerning an addiction to numbers and grades as a way to measure my success as well. A grade doesn’t matter and it shouldn’t deteriorate your health or make you feel insecure.

The last time I was nervous and got an ulcer because of my exams was at the end of my first year. We were making some mindless revision with my friend and there was a film, “Keith,” on TV. It was about a high school boy with cancer who was trying to live the rest of his life to the fullest, and a high-achiever girl with great plans and huge ambitions. They became friends and then fell in love with each other. During the last year (literally for him and before college for her), the girl realized that grades, college, and career plans are way below love, life, and happiness in the priority ranking. I remind myself of this every time I start to stress out because of grades or studies.

If you don’t like drama and this approach to grades as something insignificant in comparison to the Earth, Milky Way, and the Universe, go into philosophy. Try stoicism—something millennials lack a lot. Stoics say: do what you have to, and what has to happen will happen. This is a great approach, though it’s a bit fatalistic. Don’t procrastinate—do everything you can and in this case, even if you end up with a low grade, you will know that you have done everything possible. The absence of “but if” regrets will save you from stress and will make it easier to accept a bad mark. This approach will also help you to develop a plausible plan for how to improve the situation with your studies.

Disclaimer: I love my parents and I think they’re doing their best in our upbringing. But we try to be honest with each other. And it was they who explained to me why they don’t yell at me because of my grades, and why I should be motivated without them constantly pushing me.

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Mei Lien Wang
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Mei Lien moved to the USA from Hong Kong in 2016. She admires American culture and wants to share her experience of adapting to this new environment with other students from abroad. Mei Lien is fond of traveling, drawing, reading, cooking, swimming, and art. She even dreams of opening a gallery in the future.