One of the primary stressors effecting college students is the popular idea that a successful student is one who earns A’s. Freshman through Senior year, many college students forgo sleep, food, oxygen (yes, stress causes you to breath in less oxygen), and sanity in pursuit of the golden A. Even when faced with a draconian instructor who says on the first day of class, “More than likely, you will not earn an A in my course”, students will still anguish for this treasured first letter of the alphabet. I’ve seen nice people become ferocious barbarians after being awarded a B+. This is a debilitating attitude, because it epitomizes the lack of desire to be truly educated. Are the students at fault for being so hard on themselves, or have they been programmed to care more about achieving a letter grade than exploring the subject matter in depth?
Why would I advise against striving for an A? Simply because it is not worth the stress, and more than often stunts the desire to pursue one's own curiosities about the subject. Instead of striving for an A, try striving to inflame your passion for a particular subject – one that touches the depths for your heart and awakens your ambitions.
There is nothing wrong with being a straight A student, unless you are being a straight A student to prove to yourself, parents, or whomever that you are a smart and efficient person. Students are being taught that A's are everything: A’s will prove you’re smart. A’s will get you a good job. A’s will increase your self-esteem and will keep it elevated. A’s will grant you entrance into a prestigious graduate program that you must be admitted into or else. A distorted perspective– built on false expectations.
I don’t promote that everyone forgo the pursuit of the A. Only those who have made the A an idol, are severely stressed by the thought of forgoing an A, and those who have been receiving straight A’s forever. If you have never earned an A, then go for one. It does feel good to earn the highest grade possible in a course, but just keep in mind that earning the highest grade does not mean you have mastered, or even liked, the subject. You may not have even learned anything. It could be that you just did a great job meeting the instructor’s expectations. People have a tendency to learn systems, and play the game. It's human nature. It's efficient. Have we made academia a game, where the final fantasy is straight A's?
Go for a B+. Heck, go for a C+. If it allows you more time to explore your curiosities, then take a risk by turning from the curriculum from time to time. Tell the professor you would like to study something you are passionate about, something that draws you onto a tangent from the establish curricula. Settle for a slightly lower grade if it means you get more time to pursue your own interests, as they relate to the course content. Wouldn’t you rather earn a C+ without compromising your innate curiosities while studying something that captivates your attention, than earn an A by forgoing your true passions?
Letting go of the unhealthy stress of earning an A frees you to explore things you truly desire to learn, allows you to take risks, and gives you time to search for purpose in your education. Who is it, anyway, that really cares if you receive an A ? Your instructor? Your parent? Yourself? In the long term, they don’t. Even you won’t care in 10 years whether or not you earned an A in Molecular Biology or Humanities 101. But you will be thankful that you settled for a B+, so you can pursue the topic that most enthused you.