Do grades make a star student?

Adina studies BSc International Business and Management at The University of Bradford, and in her blog, she discusses the importance of being a well-rounded person, not just achieving the best grades whilst at university.

Adina Neagu, BSc International Business and Management.

Depending on the education culture we come from, grades play different roles within our own validation and achievement scale. From an early age, a fixation with tracking performance using a standardised grading scale clouds our every step or small achievement.

Now, the majority of us being half adults and in higher education, we struggle with finding our own methods of validating our efforts and pose the (still) unanswered question: what do we actually need to do in order to become great students (or, more generally speaking, our best version)? So far, I’ve come up with some guidance on the matter:

Seek comprehension, not simply memorisation.

If you’re focusing on obtaining the highest possible grades by learning a bunch of content word-for-word and neglecting the actual learning process, you’re losing the scope of the whole education you paid for and engaged in in the first place. You’re here to learn and then to apply what you learnt, to become a problem solver and to develop your abilities, not recite facts and stats.

Everyone grows at their own pace.

Never, and I mean NEVER measure your progress by comparing it to the ones of your peers. Think about the differences in your background, in your opportunities, in the educational systems that you’ve been part of prior to higher education. The only person you should compete with is yourself. Look at where you used to be academically or where you are right now and try to envision who you want to become from this perspective. Track your own progress, make your own goals, take pride in small milestones. Use the services available to you in order to enhance your learning experience (PAL sessions, Library resources, Academic Support services and many more).

From time to time, move away from the desk and get involved in something that gets you out of your comfort zone.

Life at university is so much more than lectures and tutorials. There are a gazillion things you can discover and get involved in while you’re here: be it sports, arts, science, anything you like or even think you’d enjoy (follow the new, the exotic, the thing you’ve never tried but always thought about). It will determine you to challenge yourself, put a bit of constructive pressure on your confidence, enable you to meet new people and enjoy yourself. Check out the university and the UBU website (or the UBU reception, if you’re around) to find out more about the different activities run within and outside the campus.

Does achievement lie in the numbers?

I have this one friend who is close to graduating. She has good grades, but that’s because she genuinely cherishes learning and focuses on the topics she enjoys the most. I’m making a reference to her because I consider her a Star Student- but from a completely different perspective. She left a mark within the community, contributed to a multitude of clubs, activities, programs, events; held many positions, paid and voluntary, in the university and the Students’ Union, helped her peers, advocated for causes she believed in and raised her voice upon different matters that affect us all. Did it matter that she didn’t get the highest percentages in academics? Not for a second. In order to become a great student, you need to look at your growth holistically. What makes you be proud of yourself, what are the things that you take pride in, what enables you to obtain the highest feeling of achievement? The answer depends on your own interests and passions. Make it all count.

Last but not least, take care of your mental health.

Have you had a nice talk with one of your friends recently? Give them a call. Go for a walk. Take yourself out, go see a new place. Think about the things you’re grateful for. Stop for a moment and breathe, appreciate where you are right now in life and accept the fact that you’re doing your absolute best. Quiet your mind, stop the self-criticizing thoughts. Experiment with meditation, mindfulness and/or prayer. And most importantly, speak up and seek help when you need it- it’s a sign of strength, not weakness.

Don’t get me wrong, aiming for the best results is something we all care about. But don’t let yourself be defined by grades and only grades. You’re a work in progress and there are many development opportunities that await you outside the class.  Try to look at the bigger picture and to draw an image of all the things that could help you become the person you’re aiming to be.

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