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Student Blog: Coping with Disappointing Grades

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How do they grade arts? I think that our grades are not the true reflection of our capabilities.

Student Blog: Coping with Disappointing Grades

In June, I received my grades for the 1st academic year. Gosh, I was actually disappointed with myself. In the first semester, I was hovering slightly below the distinction grade which was 70%. So I thought I could push my grades up if I work slightly harder. Unfortunately, when the second semester ended, it fell lower than it was before, it dropped 2 percent.

Yes I know, that's not the worst thing that can happen and it's not the end of the world. It is way higher than the passing grade, but I wanted to continue my distinction streak that I started in diploma. I was also aiming for the 1st class honors to make my O-1 Visa application stronger and more credible. By doing so, I've actually put unnecessary pressure on myself.

At first, I was shocked by my results and I dwelled on it for weeks, thinking about how I could've worked harder, how I should've been more disciplined, and how worthless I am. I kept comparing myself to others. I was stuck in my thoughts of why I was not as talented as other people, why I wasn't born good. This obviously was detrimental to my mental health, especially during a mini lockdown.

Slowly I started to change my mentality. Unless I am on a scholarship or bursary programme, which requires the recipients to maintain a distinction grade, I should be happy that I don't have that sort of pressure to uphold. It took me a while to finally realise that my grades don't really matter, especially in the arts. We are actually not a goal oriented industry where there's gold, silver or bronze at the end of the race, or where the value of our work is determined by our grades. It's the opposite, sometimes what you do may not be your lecturers' cup of tea, or your technique is suited for a different approach to the work.

Now, I'm at the end of my 4th week of the second academic year. I'm still a little stuck by the need to strive hard, but unlike the year before, it doesn't drown out my eagerness to learn. I've approached it differently. I want to strive hard to be better and not to chase the grades I desire. It takes some getting used to, but I think it's working.

Another way to approach it is to talk to your lecturers and understand what needs to be done to improve your grades. But I think that art is subjective and the subjectivity is reflected in your grades too. Also, comparing yourself to others is also a dangerous habit that limits yourself. On one hand, if you think you are better than them, your bar is set low. On the other hand, if you think you are not as good as them, you will start to have negative thoughts. Instead, compare yourself to your previous self. See what you've overcome and how far you've made it.

Most importantly, take your time. It may be very annoying to see others succeed while you are here sulking about your grades, but you are your own journey. With that, I hope that all of you have a great academic year!


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