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What They Don't Tell You About Being a Straight-A Student

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The last time I got a B for anything was in Year 3. Since then, I've managed to get an A or better for every test on every subject that I have taken, from impromptu class tests to official examinations that mark academic milestones.

As you could probably imagine, I have been told my whole life that being a straight-A student, my life is "set", especially coming from a part of the world where happiness is often measured in terms of material and financial security, and where good grades are thought to be the only way of achieving these things.

And so, like many other Asian students, chasing straight As became an obsession for a large part of my growing up. I began believing that scholastic aptitude was all it took for a fulfilling and happy life. But in my pursuit for the only alphabet I would allow to be printed across my report card, I began to realize that there are many things that society and people in general do not warn you about being a straight-A student.

They do not tell you that your drive for success might turn into the fear of failure, which might make you afraid of trying new things and experimenting like you used to because you've become too comfortable with the security of formulaic solutions.

They do not tell you that you might stop being creative or might stop thinking altogether, learning only to regurgitate meaningless data and facts like a parrot.

They do not tell you that you might never be happy because happiness is the simple equation of reality minus expectations (happiness = reality - expectations) and expectations skyrocket when you're a straight-A student.

They do not tell you that you might forget why you loved learning a subject in the first place.

They do not tell you that your Ivy League dreams might be reduced in your sights to becoming only hollow brand names to be collected.

They do not tell you that you might see life in only black and white when in reality, nothing is ever quite so straightforward.

They do not tell you that you're in a bubble that you will eventually need to leave and that you might enter the real world with skills limited to those that can only be validated academically.

They do not tell you that you might become narcissistic as you seek confirmation for your self-worth from the attention you get from good grades and that this narcissism might make you feel entitled to things that you're not.

They do not tell you that more important than book smarts are common sense and street smarts that like anything else in this world, you will lose from a lack of practice.

But most of all, they do not tell you that the single most valuable thing that a straight-A student possesses is NOT their grades, but their competitive attitude and an excellent work ethic, and that the A's are merely a consequence of these things.

So if you're in school or at university, don't pursue academic pinnacles for what they are, but rather pursue what they are a product of. You can always learn what is in a textbook tomorrow, but to learn to be hardworking, disciplined, resourceful and persistent requires a longer time and it might be too late to learn these things if you do not learn them as a student.

Because there is little use for a straight-A student if all he has are his As.