If ultimately you’re not happy with your results
Well, I wasn’t either. Not on GCSE or A level or my second-year results day. During my GCSE, I got all A/A* grades and then for ICT I got a C! I started crying (typical me) and it turned out to be a Level 2 Credit (equivalent to a B) but I cried!
Regarding A levels, I have blogged before how my grades were ridiculous but before seeing my results, I had seen that I was accepted at Warwick so I wasn’t all over the place but I remember being sad that I was joining university with ‘bad’ grades.
First year was my time of redemption and then second year failed as well. I have somehow managed to get onto the MChem but I am so displeased with the result. Part of me wants to blame that I had to go India during the Easter vacation and that ruined everything. This is a genuine reason but I also know other mistakes I made throughout the year.
Firstly, I chose lectures over post-labs – for labs during my two years at Warwick we had one week to do the assignments. There are usually no more than four questions but I am naturally a very slow person with everything. Nevertheless, I chose not to spend as much time working on my assignments because my timetable was packed with lectures and I didn’t want to neglect lectures or my reading for the sake of postlabs. This sounds silly because labs contribute to the result but the number of CATS per postlab are so small I thought I’ll work super hard for exams to compensate (because I am better with exams than with coursework) but never got the opportunity to do so (lesson: never plan too much especially leaving things for later).
Life is ‘Of Mice And Men’ for everyone. Plans fail all the time. I always laugh to myself how my wisdom peaked at GCSE because ever since I have been praying to literally just pass my exams. Naturally we expect to get out what we put in. I always wondered how this couldn’t work with academic work but it indeed always does not. The answer to this riddle is provided by the field of economics. I read the book ‘Economics; A Very Short Introduction’ by Partha Dasgupta and he wrote: “What economics shows us is that neither personal failure nor personal success is entirely a matter of personal effort and luck. Success and failure lie at the intersection of the personal and the social.”
The personal in this case would be what you put in. And the social would be a sudden family holiday planned, or an illness (long term or during exams), or your school badly managing a department, badly funded schools, lack of teachers, or literally any other social factor that may have impacted your ability to achieve your absolute best. Sometimes reasons can be personal too like underestimating the difficulty of a module or the amount of content that needs to be covered. While such mistakes should be avoided, we all make them. Nothing is entirely the result of a social factor. Of course, I made mistakes as well and while the immediate impact of that on results day is me crying, the only helpful thing is reflecting and learning and then implementing the lessons to make sure the same mistakes are not repeated.
Often when I used to think in this way, I thought I was only searching for excuses but this book truly showed me just how little control we can have over the outcome of our dreams and designs. This is the reason why you should never let your grade define you. More than my wisdom, I worry that people may take the liberty to question my passion for chemistry because it doesn’t show on paper. “Surely if you like it so much, you should get the grades” – not always does it happen! Certainly, it hasn’t been happening in my life.
Whatever result you achieve, good or bad, judge objectively how you got it and try to see the big picture rather than just ‘me and my grade’. Also, I think we can use this to look at other people with whatever result they achieve. Not always is it a matter of how much personal effort they put in.