(Relatively) bad marks: help me put it in perspective. What doors have I closed to myself?
I've always been an overachiever. In the top three in high school, extraordinarily high marks in first year of university - I never thought that academics would be of any concern to me. I'm used to just walking into exam rooms and coming out assured that I would have a 90% or higher.
Cue second year: suddenly, I'm starting to do fairly poorly. I'm starting to struggle a little bit. I lucked out on all my midterms due to absolute carelessness and failure to read the questions correctly; I even got 66% on one midterm in a subject that I typically excel in with no effort whatsoever. Don't get me wrong: I'm not doing drastically bad. In fact, I'm still well above average, but you have to understand: for someone who's used to consistently getting 90%+ with no real effort whatsoever, looking at an average of 75% for this semester is pretty huge.
I know many people would still kill to be in my shoes. I know it's still a decent average. But I've never been there before, and honestly speaking - academics is an integral part of persona that I've always taken for granted. Everyone, from my peers to my professors to my family, calls me smart. I feel like I've betrayed everyone's perceptions of me because of my academic transgressions. Beyond that, my family's always told me to play to my strengths, so I've always heavily relied on my academics as the path to my future; so now that I'm questioning my academics, it's as if my only route has been shut off. A little hyperbolic, but that's how I'm feeling at this point. I can't help but feel crummy about it!
So reasonably, I'm starting to worry a little bit. Because I've always taken my high average for granted, and because I have such a stellar extracurricular record (which thankfully is still continuing), I've never had to consider my academic options because I've always assumed that for whatever I wanted to do, I would easily have the grades for it.
While it's too early for me to assume this is a trend just yet (maybe it's just a bad semester for me), it still has me panicking a little bit: what if it does
keep up? What am I going to be unable to do in the future? I keep telling myself that it isn't that big of a deal, because it probably isn't. But I'm already noticing that doors are beginning to close off little by little to me: I was recently looking into summer research opportunities, and to my disappointment, most grants require a 80%, 85% average.
A summary of my questions, then:
- How does third/fourth year compare to second year, in regards to marks? I've heard some rumors that you actually do better in 3rd/4th because it's more specialized, but I've also heard that the difficulty ramps way up.
- As someone who hopes to go onto grad school for (eventually) a PhD, how unattractive will relatively low grades make me? Is there any way that I can compensate for this in the realm of extracurricular activities or other credentials, or are academics their primary consideration?
- Research is one of my passions: how much more difficult is it going to be for me to get into that field, as an undergraduate, as a graduate, and beyond, with relatively low academics? Will the fact that I'm beginning to publish review papers at this point help mitigate that?
- Being in a Canadian University, I understand that our marking system is much harsher than that of many other countries. What does this mean should I wish to pursue graduate opportunities aboard?
- Is a 75% average really as bad as my subconscious is making it out to be? I'm already well aware of what the answers are going to be like: but tell me how much marks really matter in the real world so I can put this back into perspective.