Let’s admit it: Many of us are stressed out. Finals week is coming up and you might feel like a heavy load of assignments and tests are on your shoulders. Trust me, I’ve been there. I’m still there. For many of us, this season of finals brings an immense amount of pressure to succeed. When we feel this pressure, it is important to reflect on the purpose of our studies.

Do My Achievements Control Me?

I was raised in a Cantonese-American immigrant household in which my culture says I am defined by my grades and what I am able to achieve. Coupled with the fact that I am a first generation college student, I feel an increased pressure to achieve.

Many of us feel a sense of satisfaction when we successfully accomplish something. However, when we fail to meet our own expectations, we may feel like our world is falling apart and we lose a sense of personal purpose. At the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves: Am I at college just to get good grades?

What Does it Cost?

Getting an “A” might seem victorious in the moment. Securing that substantial leadership role or internship can be thrilling. But what did it cost? Maybe we didn’t sacrifice anything. Or, maybe, we lost a couple of friends along the way when we pushed them aside. Maybe we grew irritable because we spent long hours stuck studying in our rooms. Maybe we stopped caring for our own well-being and started unhealthy eating habits due to stress. Maybe we even cheated on a test or lied on our reading report forms just to get that satisfactory grade that fuels our happiness. Was it worth the cost?

I will acknowledge that getting good grades can be important to some. I plan on pursuing graduate school, so I try to keep my grades up to boost my grad school applications. Part of the responsibilities of being a student is to manage and keep track of our grades. However, we have to draw the line between being academically motivated and academically defined.

Being academically motivated is your desire to pursue your studies through setting healthy goals, staying determined and looking forward to future aspirations. Being academically defined is basing your own self-identity and worth on your academic achievements. The former is healthy; the latter is not.

What is College Really About?

College is about so much more than your grades. Think of your college journey as a warm up to running a full-length marathon: the rest of our lives after college. We need to equip ourselves with tools and skills to strengthen not only our physical and intellectual bodies, but also our character before heading off to the starting line. When studying through our general education courses, we gain skills in reasoning, critical thinking, communication, team-building, leadership, empathy, time management – the list goes on. All these soft and hard skills serve as gadgets in our toolbox to build up our stamina and endurance. Alongside these tools, the friends we gain and the connections we make are the people that will cheer us on in the sidelines or even run in the marathon with us. When we attend chapels and Bible courses, we are molded into godly characters to face the marathon. While an “A” may seem perfect for a brief moment, the other valuable gifts we develop and cultivate throughout our journey in college equip us for a much brighter future than alphabet letters on a piece of paper could ever offer us.

Even when all else fails, never forget: God is by your side. He is proud of how far you have gone and how much you have done to even prepare for this marathon of life. Even if you fall in the middle of the race, He will be there to pick you back up. You are worthy by simply being a child of God and being a part of His blessed creation. Even if you may not feel like the most successful or intelligent individual, you are beautiful and perfect in God’s eyes because He created you personally with His everlasting grace and wisdom.

I know it’s easier said than done. It may seem like the end of the world when we get a bad grade. I still have to continually remind myself why I’m at college and that I am more than what I can achieve. As we approach this finals season, I hope you will be encouraged by these truths: College is much more than the grades you earn. You are much more than the grades you earn. God has more for you than the grades you earn.

Written by Clarissa Chan (Psychology, ‘23), Peer Wellness Ambassador.