Defeating the College Triangle: Lesson Three: Grades

Courtesy of Wikimedia
Courtesy of Wikimedia

We’ve now reached the final stage of our “Defeating the College Triangle” series, aimed to help you dedicated college-goers become the well-rounded, academically balanced students you all want to be. If you’re new to our cause and have no idea what the College Triangle is, just think of all the times you’ve heard your friends say, “Choose one: Sleep, social life or grades, because that’s how your life is going to be in college.” That inequality of priorities right there is the College Triangle, in which it is theorized that you can only successfully achieve two of the three large areas of college life while risking the enjoyment of the other.

Since we don’t believe you should ever have to opt for this hazardous approach to life, we’ve taken you step-by-step in how to thrive in each of the major areas of college life. In this issue, we will go over arguably the most stressful and time consuming of them all (since, it is what you’re here in school for) — Grades.

Grades are a toughy because we’re all on different ends of the academic spectrum. Some of us want to succeed in everything while others may want to do just enough to get by. The latter is fine, as long as you have a plan and know what you want to do post-college. After all, we all lead very different lives and sometimes, a nice college transcript is not enough to get to where we actually want to be, say, a job in dental assistance (which does not require a college degree).

Therefore, it would be inaccurate to say you need to study a certain kind of way in order to get a certain ideal grade. When thinking about academics, it’s more important to consider what your priorities are, what you like to do and what you want to achieve later on.

When doing that, Wall Street College advises, “Find what is the task with more importance in your personal development and will create the most satisfaction.” The first key term we’re looking at within this statement is “importance,” meaning you should rank your responsibilities in order of importance and subsequently assign each one a specified portion of your time. This will guarantee that you are fulfilling your priorities with a particular amount of effort that is accurately proportioned in terms of their significance. The second term to notice here is “satisfaction,” referring to the big picture that happens after you graduate college and begin pursuing your desired career. It can be hard to do that with all the fun and distractions that college offers, but just remember that each day is only one tiny piece in the larger puzzle of the college experience and what matters most is what we continue to do to keep track of our goals every single day.

You may be waiting for the good stuff to be said, as is what happens in many advice columns that offer concrete tips and tricks on how to succeed in a certain area. But the truth is … you won’t find that here, because everything that is found in success is rooted in one’s mindset.

According to “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” a book by the renowned Professor of Psychology at Stanford University Carol Dweck, all students either have a “fixed” mindset or a “growth” mindset. She defines a person with a “fixed” mindset as someone who believes their basic qualities, such as intelligence and talent, are fixed at birth and therefore cannot be altered. On the other hand, someone with a “growth” mindset believes that they can never stop improving; they are constantly looking for ways to better themselves and when something trivializes that, they find a way to grow from it rather than panic and flee.

[pullquote]”…someone with a “growth” mindset believes that they can never stop improving; they are constantly looking for ways to better themselves and when something trivializes that, they find a way to grow from it rather than panic and flee.”[/pullquote]

One of the most common quotes we’ve all heard someone say that derives from a “fixed” mindset is, “I suck at science,” or some other complaint about being perpetually terrible at a specified subject. Dweck uses this exact example when describing a group of students whose grades began declining upon reaching middle school and continued to worsen over the next two years. Meanwhile, the other group of students involved in the study, who were identified as having a “growth mindset,” actually improved over the next two years, even though though they had received similar grades and test scores in elementary school as those in the other group. The reason? Instead of viewing the looming possibility of failure and defeat as a road block, these students with the “growth mindset” mobilized all of their resources to learn and do what they could to get through.

In essence, Dweck asserts that the “fixed mindset” makes you stagnate with accomplishment once you reach a certain point in your life — or in other words, when you start to encounter tasks that are challenging (in an effort to protect your ego, as she offers) and settle with the belief that you are permanently fixed with the traits you are born with.

So the next time you catch yourself thinking that you can’t do something because you aren’t made for it, think about your hero and ask yourself: Would this person be where they are had they not gone through the tremendous amount of effort to accomplish their goal? And the next time someone labels you as “the dumb one” or “the one who can’t learn or do anything,” realize that these are only “fixed mindset” insults that neglect the idea that you can ever improve. After all, Dweck performed a study that found that positively reinforcing kids with “fixed mindset” compliments such as “you’re smart” and “you were born to be a mathematician” ended up lowering their IQ scores.

And most applicable to this final stage of the College Triangle — the next time you judge yourself and put yourself down for not doing so well in a class, hold on to the notion that this can be an opportunity to do even better than before, because you have been given the chance to grow.

It’s all easier said than done, and we’re sorry we couldn’t give you super-secret insider tips on getting an “A” in every class and magically obtaining a 4.0. But we’re also not sorry because your attitude affects everything that comes into your view and therefore what you choose to focus on and how you act. So if you have a positive attitude, naturally all the rest of the tools and resources and knowledge that come with getting good — or shall we say, desirable — grades will deliver.

With that comes the conclusion of our much-lauded yet short-lived “Defeating the College Triangle” series, in which we hope we have given you enough advice to go out and conquer that tumultuous year. Just know that you can master all of these things if you have your priorities straight and keep your mindset open and flourishing. Now we have enough confidence that you own the skills and perspective to go out and vanquish that Bermuda — I mean, College — Triangle.

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