Focus on learning, not grades

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    By MATTHEW BAKER

    The measure of achievement in classes at BYU is the letter grade — earned by the student, assigned by the professor. The weight these grades carry is enormous.

    Grades can decide if you get scholarships or have to slave at a part-time job to pay tuition. Grades can be the deciding factor to determine what kind of part-time job you get — whether it’s working at a fast-food joint or researching for a professor. High grades can open the doors to good graduate schools or jobs, and low grades can slam those same doors.

    With this in mind, my advice may seem strange at first — don’t worry about grades. That’s right, don’t get caught up in the grade game. Instead, focus on learning. Be passionate about the subjects you study.

    There is an irony to not worrying about grades and concentrating on learning — good grades almost always follow. Since grades are a measure of learning, students who focus on learning instead of grades tend to get better grades while students who focus on grades tend to scrape by or have a glowing resume with no knowledge to back it up.

    Focusing on learning requires enthusiasm for the subject. If you aren’t excited and anxiously engaged in your classes, maybe you should reconsider your major. This may mean doing what you enjoy instead of following the career that promises big money or pleases your parents.

    A thirst and enthusiasm for learning is the key to success. There are several questions often asked by students who are more concerned about grades than they are concerned about learning. You can evaluate if your focus is on learning or grades by whether or not you ask your professors these three questions:

    1. “Will this be on the final?”

    Who cares if it will be on the final or not? Instead, concentrate on learning everything possible, not just the answers the teacher wants regurgitated on the final exam. Delve into learning — that’s why we’re here. The motto of BYU is “enter to learn” not “enter to get good grades.” If learning comes first, good grades will follow.

    Often students are too concerned about producing exactly what the teacher wants. They are so concerned about pleasing the teacher that they forget to quench their own thirst for learning. Teachers don’t assign papers for their own good, but for the good of their students.

    Don’t worry about pleasing the teacher. Concentrate on satisfying your own cravings to learn. This brings up the second question that should be avoided:

    2. “What does the professor want?”

    If you write a paper with what the professor wants in mind, chances are you will have a paper the professor likes, but you hate. You will also tell the professor something he or she already knows. Instead, challenge what your professors say. Professors aren’t gods. They don’t hold a monopoly on all good ideas. Don’t bow to the professors opinion if you disagree with what they think.

    3. “Will this count toward my grade?”

    Too often grades, the measure of academic ability, become the students focus. Understanding and learning are pushed aside and memorizing useless lists and random facts in order to get an “A” take center stage. Focusing on grades is a sad way to waste four years of opportunity.

    A college degree shouldn’t be proof that a student jumped through certain hoops, but evidence that a student spun gears in the brain that can only be activated by a thirst for knowledge. This thirst is quenched by focusing on learning, not grades.

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