Confessions of an Ex-Grade Grubber
I hate to admit it, but in high school, I was a little bit obsessed with grades. I thought the difference between a B+ and an A- was devastating. I thought 300 extra points on my SAT score would increase my chances of getting into higher-ranked colleges. And I thought that these statistics would go on to determine my career opportunities and ultimately, my success in life.
But such narrow thinking made me miss out on the big picture. Because I was so immersed in my academics, I had not bothered to push myself in other areas. Sure, I was involved in some clubs and sports that my friends joined, but I never took the time to try something new or step outside of my comfort zone. For me, studying was my comfort zone. Making flashcards. Highlighting textbooks. Memorizing definitions and formulas at ungodly hours of the night—these were all in my comfort zone. But things like running for a major leadership position, speaking in front of large crowds, networking with strangers, and applying for an internship were not.
Now that I’ve been in college for more than a year, I’m happy to say that all the things that used to be uncomfortable and unfamiliar to me are slowly making their way into my comfort zone. And the reason is because my definition of success has shifted completely. While I certainly still care about my grades, I no longer study just to see a favorable score scribbled on the top of my paper. Rather, I work hard in my classes to learn something meaningful or applicable or simply interesting.
With this new perspective, I have also focused on enriching my extracurricular life as much as my academic life. Between freshman year and now, I have dabbled in probably 10+ organizations. I’ve learned how to apply business in a real-world context in clubs like Marshall Net Impact, Marshall International Case Competition, and Marshall Women’s Leadership Board. I’ve learned how to take initiative and become comfortable with my own voice in skill-building orgs like Student Government and the Career Advantage Program. I’ve learned how to stay fit and healthy by working out in Badminton Club and Traditional Chinese Dance. And I’ve learned how to be a more empathetic friend and community member through joining close-knit groups like Chinese American Student Association and a service fraternity called Alpha Phi Omega.
Though all of this seems like a lot, I can honestly say that I have never been happier. Being so involved at USC has made me more open-minded, ambitious, and confident—qualities that I certainly would not have gained from my previous mindset. Today, I firmly believe that success is something that comes from enriching experiences. And you just can’t gain a lot of experience if you’re confined to studying in your room. So go out, join something new, and see where it takes you. I can’t promise you’ll love it, but I know it’ll broaden your perspective and add to your college experience. And that’s way more valuable than getting an A on any kind of test.