Now that midterms are mostly over — though it sometimes seems they never truly end until reading period — many of us are starting to see which final grades are likely or within reach for each of our classes. These realizations are daunting for everyone, but especially first-years, who will soon begin preparing for their first-ever round of college finals.
While it is important to stay motivated and work hard in order to perform as well as possible on finals, it is also important to breathe and remember that B’s, C’s and even no-credit grades are not the end of the world. Our grades do not define us; each one only describes how well we demonstrated our understanding of concepts taught in one particular class.
There are many ways to excel in college, and few of them can be quantified with grades. Elliot Maxwell ’68 and Ira Magaziner ’69 P’06 P’07 P’10 issued the report that led to the creation of the New Curriculum with the idea that grades “only measure a very narrow range of developments.”
While most of us are aware on an intellectual level that it is impossible for everyone to maintain perfect grades at a school as competitive as Brown, most of us ended up here because that is what we are used to doing. Most students accepted to Brown were in the top percentiles of their high school classes. We were some of the biggest fish in the tiny ponds of our high schools, but now we are all swimming together.
We know it is unrealistic to expect to continue being the biggest fish in the pond, but we are not used to anything else. Not receiving the highest grade in the class or ending the semester with few A’s can feel like a failure, especially to first-years who just six months ago were giving valedictorian speeches. It is not.
As cliched as it might sound, college is about developing as a person just as much as it is about quantifying one’s learning with grades. Brown does not calculate GPAs for a reason: Focusing on grades too much can detract from the passion of learning. If you decide to take a challenging class that falls outside of your comfort zone, learn to think in different ways, gain exposure to new ideas and ultimately walk away with a C, is that a failure? Certainly not.
Much more is gained through that process than lost. If you end up with a B in a class you otherwise would have aced because you spent hours every day passionately directing a play, was that a misappropriation of your time? Not necessarily, if the experience of directing was meaningful to you.
We are not writing to you from a fantasy world; we know that having good grades can be very important to post-graduate plans. But we also know that you already know that; we all managed to get into Brown because we are motivated people used to working hard to meet our goals. So take this editorial as a reminder that it’s perfectly fine if sometimes we don’t.
Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Manuel Contreras ’16 and Meghan Holloway ’16, and its members, Emma Axelrod ’18, Noah Fitzgerel ’17 and Aranshi Kumar ’17. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.