How Comparing Grades Can Stunt Your Intellectual Development
We all know the feeling, you work hard to prepare for an exam, craft the perfect essay, or develop the perfect project, and now its time to receive your grade. Back in my day, we had to wait until the teacher physically provided you with your score, but now, students in K-12 and college can simply sign into their school’s LMS, and view their grade report. You are ecstatic when you find out that you received 85%, a good solid B. You let out a sigh of relief, but your happiness and sense of pride turn into envy when you find out that your friend received 95%, an A, and a full 10% points higher than yours.
To add salt to the wound, it took you weeks of writing to complete the essay and your friend who barely spent 4 hours on theirs received a 95%. After staying off the social scene, making frequent trips to your professor’s office, and going through 5 rounds of editing, you received a lesser grade than someone who wrote their paper the night before, after spending most of the night drinking and partying with friends. The crushing epiphany that someone completed something in 4 hours, that took you 50 hours is a shock to one’s ego. You worked hard and tried your best, but still, someone else did better.
It is hard for the ego to reconcile that this could happen. You start asking yourself questions like “What does my friend have that I don’t have?” Or make defeatist statements like “Its just not fair.” Unfortunately, all of these thoughts are counterproductive and do nothing to help you grow intellectually. As a matter of fact, I think that comparing ourselves with others academically, can stunt our intellectual growth. By focusing on and fixating on things that are outside of our control, we spend valuable time on the wrong thing.
How to respond when someone else gets a much better grade
Instead of obsessing over someone else’s gifts, we should be focusing on our own, and working on getting better in our areas of weakness. Instead of seeing your friend, who is a gifted writer as a competitor or as a threat, you should see them as an ally. Ask them to teach you their process for writing the perfect essay, and I am sure they will oblige. Yes, you spent hours being tutored by your professor, but sometimes our peers are better suited for that task, as they are able to explain things in a language that we understand. Not to undermine the importance of professors or teachers, as they are an important resource as well.
Focus on your gifts, and that friend who is a gifted writer will be asking you for help with statistics or public speaking. Teach me something, and I will teach you something; that’s the way friendship works, and that’s how the smartest people in the world get smarter. If you take my advice, you will see your intellectual development flourish, instead of being stunted by being obsessed with counterproductive things.
Also, don’t put so much stock in grades, as they do not define you. Only you can do that. Just keep working hard, in a disciplined and focused manner, and I promise that good things will happen.