A Fresh View: Grade Anxiety

Hi everyone! My name is Jee Won Diane Kang and I’ll be your correspondent for A Fresh View this year. This column will chronicle some of my experiences as a freshman at Brown, and will include the highs and lows of that incredible journey.

Hello, friends and welcome back to A Fresh View.

Today I’d like to talk about grade anxiety, because that is definitely a very real thing that a lot of people deal with, especially during midterm season (which, for the record, starts in October and ends when finals begin which makes no sense).

What it feels like when you fail a midterm

What everyone tells you about college, but what you might not quite believe until you get there is how much harder everything is. Objectively, the material that you’re learning is likely more difficult, but even if it isn’t you have to balance academics with extracurriculars in a way that you’ve never had to before. And I don’t care how involved you were in high school or how crazy your life was then: trust me when I say that college is a completely different ball game. I don’t mean to be patronizing because the struggles of high school are very real and extremely difficult. I still remember the stress of it, and I shudder. But college truly is just on a different level.

Your freshman year of college is a confusing conglomeration of things that you’ve likely never had to deal with: really difficult classes, tons of really amazing extracurriculars, homesickness, roommates, scary amounts of freedom, less support… the list goes on and on. And all those factors come together to make a really terrifying stress cocktail. Additionally, at a place like Brown, depending on where you come from, it might be your first time being surrounded by people just as smart as you are. You just may not be used to not being the biggest fish in the pond.

So when you get that first bad grade on a midterm or a paper, you may feel like the world is ending. How could this happen? I’ve always been a straight A student! I would rather die than get a B!

I’ve definitely had these thoughts and many of my friends have as well. Grade anxiety gets ratcheted up to another level in college, especially for people who are looking to pursue graduate degrees (such as myself). The stress to maintain a high GPA is something that carries over from high school for many, and it can become amplified during college because there is so much more that you’re dealing with.

But I promise you: a bad grade on a midterm is not the end of the world. If you studied really hard for a midterm or worked for ages on a paper and didn’t get what you wanted, that is completely fine and normal. There are other ways to boost your grade. Look at the breakdown of how much each test or paper is weighed, and do some fancy math to calculate what you need on the remaining assignments and plan accordingly.

And even if you can’t get an A in the end, it is okay. It happens to everyone, and expecting anything more of yourself is unrealistic and a path to pain. You have to learn to forgive yourself for mistakes, and most importantly, you have to learn to live with yourself. You’re going to be stuck with the person you are for the rest of your life. You need to learn to be happy with them. And trust me, a B or a C or a D or an F is not going to change whether or not you’re a good person. And that’s that most important thing.


Stay classy, friends.

Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments! You can reach me at jee_won_kang@brown.edu.



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