By Daphne Chapline ‘22
In high school, I used to obsessively check my PowerSchool app to see my grades. I put so much pressure on myself to get perfect grades. It’s safe to say that the relationship between my self-esteem and my grades was not exactly helping my confidence. My feelings of self-worth were too contingent on how I was doing in school; if I received what I thought was a bad grade, it would linger in my mind for the whole week. I couldn’t separate my success in school from my own personal feelings of success. One bad grade could send me into a horrible spiral where I forgot that I wasn’t just a student, I forgot I was also a valued friend and daughter; I forgot that I was only human.
This changed significantly when I came to Pomona. One thing I have experienced here is a much greater detachment from my grades. In most of my classes, professors never post comprehensive grades. You know what grades you get on homework, tests and papers, but generally, you have absolutely no idea what that means for your overall grade in the class. Of course, you could calculate it, but most people do not. This way, I never find myself being haunted by that paper I thought I could have done better on or the particularly difficult midterm. I find that I have become much less obsessed, and when I do feel discouraged, the feelings of disappointment in myself are much less potent. I have realized the important thing is that I am learning SO much, and I am enjoying my classes. I want to look back on college and remember that I worked really hard, made good connections, and gained valuable learning experiences. The grade simply doesn’t matter as much to me as it used to.
Additionally, no one really talks much about grades here. When tests or papers are handed back, no one tries to peek over your shoulder to see your grade. The environment here is so supportive and collaborative; people do not want to compete with each other. They simply want to help each other excel. Not only do your classmates want you to do well in your classes, but they also want you to be doing well mentally and emotionally. Among students, there is a strong emphasis on mental health and making sure that you put your happiness first. It’s important to work hard, but it’s also important to make sure that you are content.
All that being said, I am not perfect. I still occasionally get upset or beat myself up over silly mistakes I made on a test. But, regardless, I feel I have developed a much healthier relationship to my grades since I have been here. Part of that transition has been due to the student culture here at Pomona and part of it has been due to personal growth: a change in perspective of my own self-worth. My confidence and my grades are no longer so entangled. I can appreciate that I am learning a lot, enjoying the work, and creating valuable relationships with professors and classmates, and that is enough.