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Your grades do not define you

Academic building

Natalie Tanner
March 06, 2017

"Your grades do not define you."

This is my mantra.

In high school we work hard, very hard, to get the grades to make it to college.

Then, when we get to college, we work hard, very hard, EXTREMELY HARD, to get the grades to make it to graduate programs and the jobs of our dreams.

Trust me. I know. 

I am a planner. Ever since I was little, I would stay awake at night thinking about my future goals and all the steps that I would need to take to achieve them. Those steps included things such as graduating high school, going to college and doing well (like, 4.0-GPA well), and going on to have the career and life of my dreams.

I often find myself planning out steps in my head, like how I need to get a good grade on X assignment so that I can pass X class so that I can eventually graduate. This planning (and overplanning, and overthinking) is a common theme for us college kids. We get worked up about grades because, well, they matter. They can affect our chances of doing certain things in our lives. We hear from parents, friends, supervisors and coworkers (and the kid we sit next to in class but whose name we will never remember) subtle messages about how the worst thing we could do is fail.

But here's what people don't tell you: Your grades do not define you.

In the grand scheme of life, we are all going to fail sometimes, but it does not make us any lesser. Also in the grand scheme of life, when you are old and gray, you are not going to dwell on that one time you failed a test in your introductory math class. The F you got (or might get someday) does not make you any less wonderful, intelligent or resilient. That F will be a lesson on how to change, or a chance to take a nap and then reassess, or a lesson in humility. Heck, you know what? Sometimes failing is just failing.

So when you don't get the grade you wanted, even when you pulled that awful, awful all-nighter, don't forget that achievement isn't everything in life. True lessons come from the struggle, so keep struggling and striving and the success will be so much richer. And remember this: YOUR GRADES DO NOT DEFINE YOU.


is a junior at UNC studying Psychology and Human Services. Natalie is the senior resident assistant of North Hall, a Social Media Ambassador for UNC, a former radio host, and an avid Amy Poehler fan. After graduation she plans to go to graduate school and become a therapist.