Most students will be familiar with the experience of receiving a lower mark than expected. As long as it doesn’t happen too often, it’s not the end of the world, right? But sometimes a poor mark can be a huge blow, to the point where you will obsess about it for quite a while afterwards. This happened to me a little while ago. I had worked very hard on a report on gender differences in the way students use social media. When I finally received my mark, it turned out to be rather different from what I had expected. (For those of you who are interested in that sort of thing: I was told I had focused too much on students as an overall group, and not enough on gender differences.)
While taking my Bachelor degree, when revising for exams, I was sometimes prone to focusing too much on certain subjects, at the expense of other important subjects – important subjects which invariably popped up in exam questions. Oops.
In hindsight, the mark I received for my most recent report proved to be a learning moment. You see, I noticed my own mindset was rather different now from what it used to be back when I was taking my Bachelor degree. And so I dealt with the mark very differently, as well.
You see, I used to think that my school marks and academic performance did not depend on the amount of time and energy I expended on them, but rather on my innate intelligence, which was beyond my own control. Therefore, it struck me as unnecessary to put in an effort, because if I were genuinely intelligent, my marks would be OK, anyway.
In hindsight, this isn’t the most helpful way of thinking, because it makes you believe that you must be born with certain capacities in order to be good at something. As a result, setbacks such as low marks may demotivate you, because they would seem to indicate that you aren’t smart enough. In this way, your school or university may actually cause you to underperform, despite your actual potential and capacities.
But now, as I said, my mindset has changed. Intelligence may be partly innate, but if you don’t make any effort, you won’t get far. This is true both for your degree and for many other things in life. No matter what body type you have, you will not exactly get fitter by lying on the sofa all day, doing nothing. And when you are learning new things – be it cramming for an exam, learning a foreign language or learning to repair your bike –it is completely normal to come across some stumbling blocks. What’s more, these are the very moments from which you will learn most. A challenge is a learning moment – in your degree, but also in other things in life.
Pooja Guptar is taking a Master degree in Media and Business