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Ousting Grade Gloom

November 14, 2014

This week, I received my first "bad grade"* since coming to college that actually has a significant effect on my grade for a class. Now, I know that my opinion of what constitutes a "bad grade" is very different from many other students I've met, at both high school and college levels. No matter your definition of what makes a grade "bad," it still sucks to get one. It can be very disheartening, and for some people (like me), it can take over your entire thought process and distract you from your other classes. An academic downward spiral is possibly one of the worst things you can fall into in college, and though I still struggle to resist them, I've devised some decent tactics for mental recovery after receiving a "bad grade."

 

1.Don't shy away from catharsis if it won't hurt you, other people, or property. Cry if you need to. Write an angry journal entry. Choreograph an interpretive dance to express your anguish. Catharsis is important because if you don't find an outlet for the negative effects of the grade on your mood, any effort you make to truly move on from the experience may be in vain. You know what they say about bottling things up.

 

 

2.Create a solid understanding of what the grade means for your final grade in the class. Most syllabi detail the percent value of each assignment to the final score. Do the math, and find out where you are so far. Understand how this grade actually affects what grade you can get in the class. Once you have a numerical view of your situation, it becomes much easier to move on (even if the situation doesn't make you very happy).

 

 

3.Accept the situation, and learn from it. Unless your professor has a policy of letting students redo assignments, acknowledge that this is the way things are. You cannot change the grade you've received. (Unless you can, which is great!) Now that you've come to terms with your situation, use it as an opportunity to perform better next time. Look at your professor's feedback on your paper (if there is none, set up an appointment or go to their office hours). Make a list of the topics you missed on the test. Internalize the patterns in your work. Figure out how to change your writing habits to compose better papers. Decide what modifications you need to make to your study regime to accommodate the type of material you've been misunderstanding. If you learn from your mistakes, you probably won't make them again.

 

 

4.Take a shower. Hot, cold, whatever you like best. This may sound silly, but in my experience, feeling physically clean helps me move through tough situations. It's like washing away the feeling of failure. Plus, smelling extra nice can definitely contribute to getting rid of a bad mood.

 

 

5.Do something fun by yourself. Paint your nails. Watch a movie you love, or maybe one you've been meaning to watch. (If that movie turns out to be bad, watch another you love.) Read a couple chapters in a book. Listen to music. Go to the gym. Whatever solitary activity makes you happiest, do it. You'll feel good about yourself, and whether you're an introvert, an extrovert, or somewhere in-between, I've found it's best to recover personally before moving on to social interaction.

 

 

6.Hang out with your friends. Have a movie night. Fill up a table at meals. Talk about everything but your grade. How have they been doing? Have they been putting off doing laundry, too? Who's excited for winter? Who's extremely NOT excited for winter? Being with your friends is one of the best ways to get back in the swing of your normal life. It also puts things in perspective; you don't exist solely to get As at college. You're a human being who has needs and relationships (and who needs relationships). Academics are important, but without a support system of loving folks who make you feel great, it's hard to perform well.

 

 

7.Actually employ those changes you made to your daily routine. Go to class. Take better notes. Do your homework. Review a few more problems. Go to the Writing Center. Recite conjugations a couple more times. Practice identifying those bad writing habits. If you actually encourage yourself to take up these new procedures, you'll become a better student all around. You'll fix what you were doing wrong in that particular class, but you'll also build skills you need to prevent ever dipping below your desired performance.

 

That's all there is to it! I use this system to avoid letting one "bad grade" ruin my week, or even my semester. I've had a lot of practice with the delightful mix of severe anxiety and academics. I'm sure this list won't work for everyone, but I feel that most people can take away at least something useful from it. What are your tips for getting over a bad grade?

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* I use quotes around the phrase "bad grade" because it has a different meaning for almost every person. I also wanted to veer away from the possibility of implying that self-worth can be related to academic performance.

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