The Price of Perfect Grades This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

July 19, 2016
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"What's your biggest wish?"

"I want to get good grades."

Everyone wants to be a straight A student. Everyone wants to ace their exams and secure a great job. Everyone wants to be recognised and praised. The dream of a perfect school report, of impressed parents, of admiring classmates, pushes students through their daily school life and motivates them to do their best.

But the price to pay for such a dream is not worth it.

When I was merely nine years old, my ambition was to become the best in the class. Spurred on by my parents and teachers, I committed myself to this dream. I pored over heavy textbooks. I wrote countless essays and stories. I practised the piano for hours. I applied for competitions eagerly and listened intently during classes, all to satisfy my desire to be the best.

Yet, when that dream was finally achieved, I did not feel satisfied. I did not feel triumph or happiness. Instead, I felt the ache in my back from studying thousands of textbooks. I felt my head grow heavy at the thought of penning another essay or writing another story. I felt the callouses on my fingers from hours of playing scales on the piano.

I did not feel successful. I felt tired. I had thought that getting good grades was my highest priority, but I had simply placed more pressure on myself. Now that I had a line of As sitting on my report, any grade below that was unacceptable.

However, my story is not unique. All around me today, I see others who are going through the same hell as I went though when I was nine. The small details, like the heavy bags covered in dark circles, or the bloodshot eyes in the morning, are grim reminders.

The dream that all students chase after has turned into a nightmare, encouraged by eager parents and the innate yearning for recognition.

I find it sad that people so young are working so hard for something so ultimately unsatisfying. I find it sad that students waste their time because of the pressure placed on them by society. I find it sad when students become cheaters and saboteurs for the sake of a high score.

The piles of homework, the all-nighters pulled before an exam, the harsh scoldings delivered when performances drop - all for what? A letter on your report? Parents' praise? Others' admiration?

The reality is that, even if you ace that test or get a perfect grade, your efforts will never be fully recognised. High achievers get bullied and labelled as 'nerds'. Low achievers are scorned and called 'slackers'. Either way, you cannot win.

Of course, the passion and determination of straight A students should be applauded. However, if too much pressure is placed upon students, these perfect grades could have dangerous consequences. Poor physical health, mental illnesses, hand cramps and low self-esteem are only a few of the many effects caused by stressful studying.

So, before you force yourself to start that three-hour study session, just remember: the price of perfect grades is costly, and, in some cases, not worth it at all.

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