You are so much more than the grades you get in classes, the top-tier internships, the score of your post graduate entrance exam.
The thing about college is that through fierce and constant competition, you sometimes forget that. And honestly how could you not? You are told for years leading up to your first day of college: “This isn’t going to cut it in college,” “You will be competing with the best of the best,” “If you want a good career, you are going to have to do better.” It took me four years of undergrad to understand and accept that I am more than my GPA.
This isn’t to say that grades are not important. We are spending a lot of money in school debt for that degree. We all want to learn. That is why we are here. However, an unhealthy amount of pressure can do more harm than good.
My name is Stephanie Cahill and I am a student who sits on the Board of Directors for the National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS). This honor society is for high-achieving undergraduate students who excel in their classes as a first or second-year student. I am also very involved with Active Minds, as I sit on their Student Advisory Council. The close connections I have to these two organizations grants me a unique perspective on how to best balance my own mental health and academic pursuits.
I am and have always been an overachiever. I strived for the best grade in the class and wouldn’t settle for less. I would accept every leadership position I could, even when I didn’t have the time left in my schedule. And when I messed up, and yes I messed up quite a bit, I drove myself into a frenzy. I continued to put an unhealthy amount of pressure on myself. That is until my junior year, when I stopped and realized I had stretched out the days as far as I possibly could.
I had this idea in my head that because I did well in the past, I had to continue doing well or it would make me a failure somehow. But I noticed a pattern: when my grades would slip because I missed one assignment or I forgot a deadline, I would become too worried and stressed to try and catch up for future deadlines and assignments. My stress over the small stuff caused half the problem — and redirected me away from the bigger picture of my life.
If I could give advice to current and future college students, I would tell them this: your worth is not measured by your GPA, it’s not measured by the internships you get, or the age you graduate. This might seem like weird advice coming from a student who sits on a national board for an honor society, that in fact, does focus on student GPA’s. However, I am not there because of my GPA, and that is now what I finally understand. I am on the board because of my personality and characteristics. My passion and drive. I am there because I am me. And I truly believe that my colleagues would feel the same about the scholars in the society. NSCS is here to elevate students who did well and to celebrate their achievements every step of the way. So yes, work hard in college and do your best. Know that sometimes, you are going to slip up, but you are also going to excel.
The important thing is to let go of the slip-ups and take time to celebrate the successes in life.
Key findings from a recent survey by Active Minds and The National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS) of 9,319 academically high-achieving college students nationwide illustrate the unique needs of these students, and how their universities can better support their mental health while on campus. This comes at a time when depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts are on the rise among college students, according to the national Healthy Minds Study and National College Health Assessment (NCHA).