I was that student who had a mental breakdown if I got any grade below a 90 on anything in high school. Whether it was a vocabulary quiz or a final exam, I wouldn’t want to settle for anything less than the best. The worst part about it is: I had no concept of the idea of doing “my” best only “the” best. I drove myself insane senior year juggling all AP courses, volleyball, and extracurriculars; throw in some college applications and you had a chicken running around with its head cut off. I like keeping busy, but I don’t know how I didn’t get punched in the face during this time of my life because I just know I was super annoying.
Senior year came to a close and graduation passed. I was thrown into a 7 credit summer load for my science program at UNC and it was probably the most stressful situation I had experienced in my life, ever. I was used to spending maybe an hour on math homework in high school and now I was spending 4-5 hours on a fluids problem that involved the entire greek alphabet and somehow the correct answer was 1. I had never been challenged like this before, and honestly I didn’t handle it well at first.
I got through the summer with my 4.0 still in tact and good thing because I wasn’t ready to let go of my little slice of perfection just yet. Fall semester was a punch in the gut. I was struggling so hard in a course that I had to withdraw from because the possibility of it destroying my GPA ate away at me everyday. It was so bad that my roommate noticed the huge turn around when I finally went to Academic Advising to have it dropped.
It’s not worth it. I spent 3 months of my life freaking out about a class that was extremely hard just in general and especially hard in the fall of your freshman year. I wish I wouldn’t have beaten myself up about it and I wish I would have identified my problems early. I loss sight of my little slice of perfection and I just completely shut down. I didn’t try to identify the holes in my study plans or re-evaluate pre-class preparation. I didn’t go to office hours or ask my mentor what to do. I just shut down. And reflecting on it now, I’m glad it happened then and not now.
College is not like high school. If you’re like me and rarely ever felt challenged, buck up and get ready for difficulty. If you don’t question your major and career plans once a week, you’ve chosen the wrong place. If you’re not being challenged, again, wrong place. If you’re not learning, you guessed it: wrong place. And, if you’re not losing sight of your slice of perfection, you’ve ended up at the wrong place. College is meant to challenge you and prepare you for a life of success which is neither easily achieved nor handed to you.
It’s not a change that happened over night, and I still struggle with accepting I’m not the best nor will I ever have a 4.0. It’s not healthy to expect so much of yourself, but don’t settle. I think at times I confuse not beating myself up as an excuse to accept mediocrity in my work. That’s absolutely not the correct answer either. I think the internal struggle between having unreasonable expectations for yourself and not settling can drive you to mild insanity.
This isn’t an advice piece. I don’t have the answer to letting go of straight A’s. I know I haven’t accepted it and I struggle with it all the time. What I can tell you is that you aren’t the only one with that internal struggle *corny alert*. It is manageable and with time, it gets better. I don’t get nearly as bad of panic attacks–don’t judge me– and I have a much better ability to survey my study skills and routines in order to pin point weaknesses and areas that can be improved.
College is a learning curve. How your mind operates under pressure is assessed heavily. Your professors are there to challenge you. You are there to challenge you. I’m trying not to let the inflation of high school GPAs and grading scales ruin the faith I have in myself to get it done. Let go and let God, seriously. There’s always someone smarter than you, and that person is tomorrow’s you. So learn everything that you can, work hard, and smile; your best is all you can expect from yourself. Try to remember that every once in awhile. It helps.