09 February, 2008

Grades (or Brains R 4 Zombies)

Well, damn, I was gonna go to bed at a decent time, but then I got a little distracted. I was thinking about how mercilessly ironic it is that, in school, I always got good grades with little effort, where my older brother had some trouble - and yet, now that we've both graduated from college, he's the one with the respectable job and the steady income, and I'm the one holed away from society, living off of my savings. I'll tell you this, grades may have *some* pull in this society, but they sure as hell don't tell you a damn thing about how well a person's gonna do in life. Intelligence is one thing, but there are so many other important factors that the education system (at least the one I went through) doesn't test or gauge - like charisma, work ethic, motivation, innovation, perseverity, etc.

Well, I've always been interested in math, and furthermore, I love organizing things, so I've worked out some basic statistics on the grades I received in college. I had/have plans to integrate them into a future [retrospective] version of the college page on my website (zharth.tenjou.net), but since I'm looking at them, and thinking about them, now, why not pull them out here?

Of course, there's a couple issues to confront when it comes to revealing grades. First of all, grades seem to be this highly secretive thing. And I can understand that. It's nobody's business how well you do in class unless you choose to let it be their business. Well, I don't have any particular problems at this point with letting people know how I performed in the classes I took. I mean, what difference does it make? Anyone who judges me significantly differently just because I got this or that a grade in school is probably not worth my time anyway. And besides, remember that whole truth thing I happen to value highly? Well, talking about this reveals truth, which makes me feel good, and I really can't see any significant benefits to keeping such things a secret.

Now, I have already told you that I've been able to get good grades fairly easily throughout my schooling experiences, so you might think I'm just out to brag about my high scores or something. Well, it may be true that I'd be less willing if I had worse grades (honestly, I dunno), but I can only assure you that my purpose here is merely to explore trends, show another piece of who I am, and give me something to talk about. So keep that in mind, and if ever you start to feel envious about my intellectual capabilities, just remind yourself that you are almost certainly making a much better life for yourself than I am right now. Besides, not all the grades I got in college are what I'd consider 'good'. If it was a line of straight A's, there wouldn't really be much to talk about it, would there?

The key thing I want to talk about is this quick graph I just worked out. There's also a more complete grade sheet which you can look at if you're inclined. Basically, if you wanted to know what grade I got in a class you know I took, or wanted to get an idea of what kind of classes I generally did better/worse in, or if you just want some specific data to make sense of the graph, you can find that info on the grade sheet. You can also see how many credits I took each semester, as well as the names of the instructors for the classes I took.

So take a look at the graph. Time for analysis. As you can see, I was off to a great start, with my GPA consistently increasing through the first three semesters. That trend died in the fourth semester - spring of my sophomore year. Looking at my specific grades, you can see that that may partly be attributed to increasingly difficult physics courses. Still, the drop wasn't too significant...yet.

Then came the Fall of '04 (Semester 5). Everything turned sour at that point. Two major culprits are Quantum and E+M, two classes I struggled with (and Quantum I absolutely downright despised!). But we don't want to make the mistake of assuming that the classes themselves were the only determinant for my performance. We must consider psychological factors as well. Having made my move over the previous summer, while staying on campus to work, only to be completely rejected (if subtly so) by the girl that turned my world upside down, I entered that fall into a deep depression, the darkest period of my life so far. That was when I turned my back on physics, and from then on it was an uphill battle to follow through on the promise I had already made (to myself or the administration or my parents or who, I don't know) to earn that physics degree. And it was a struggle.

As you can see, the following spring semester (Semester 6) was a remarkable rebound, considering the weight of the previous semester. But, as much as I wanted to keep my final GPA above 3.5, the next fall semester (Semester 7) pretty much made that impossible, thanks in large part to Thermo, a class that I despised almost as much as Quantum. I think it's utterly remarkable that my GPA for that term alone was even lower than that of the Fall of '04, and I'm trying to justify it in my mind. I had 4.5 credits in the earlier semester (Semester 5), and 3.5 in this one (Semester 7), which I feel has a likely connection (unfortunately, I don't have the formula on hand - wow, I just did my first math problem in probably two years, trying to figure it out...). On the other hand, that C- in Thermo doesn't help matters. The material wasn't particularly interesting to me, and it's likely I didn't put in as much effort as I maybe could have, because at that point, it wouldn't be surprising if I was starting to get tired of the whole charade.

You can see my final semester was a lot better, though still below average. I only had three credits (I could easily afford to do that), so it was laidback, but it was also my last semester, so I felt like working less than ever. I even quit whatever jobs I had had on campus so I could just take it easy. I would have done much better if I didn't have to take that capstone. On the one hand, it's the one I wanted, and it was fairly interesting. But I had long given up on doing any homework by that point...

(If you're looking at the grade sheet, you might notice that the upper level physics courses I did best in were the ones related to astronomy and relativity. Also of interest is the fact that, in my final semester, I did significantly better in metaphysics than I did in astrophysics - proof that I chose the wrong major? Just may be.)

In hindsight, it's really a sad state of affairs. You could scold me for giving up on physics, but it's not like I decided I didn't want to do physics anymore and just gave it up. I actually couldn't do it anymore, and so I had to say to myself, "this isn't working". Unfortunately, I haven't found anything else that works so far. I am proud of myself for sticking it out, though, as tough as it was. Even if my diploma means absolutely nothing to me now. Dropping (or failing) out of college just isn't my style, and I'm not so sure it would have been something I could have lived with. Still, what the hell do I do now? "But the training that he learned will get him nowhere fast." Aim my sights high, aim my sights low, the problem's still the same - I just can't seem to fire the gun.


  1. Heh, the funny thing is that my cumulative grade curve probably looks a lot like yours, but with a much more severe drop following third semester.

    That's probably because I was totally rejected by Lina in third semester and I also started getting pretty close to you, so I had a way to burn time. I remember that I went from a B+ in Japanese I in the first semester to a C-. Armstrong wasn't pleased, to say the least.

    I think that was also before I actually declared for East Asian Studies and was still set up for a Philosophy major.

    A lot of the time in college, I wasn't really sure what the hell I was supposed to be doing, so I just studied all kinds of things I was interested in... and if I wasn't interested in the course (see also, Lab Sciences), I didn't really put any effort into doing the work, or you know, even being in the class.

    That was pretty retarded.

    I guess, subconsciously, I always had the feeling that as long as I graduated, I was guaranteed an awesome job. I mean, look at Bucknell's propaganda machine -- all of Bucknell's graduates go on to become rich people who have rich kids that also go to Bucknell. All you gotta do is graduate with that special paper!

    Well, I almost didn't even do that.

    I think, if/when I go to college again (and I do want to redo the undergraduate experience and get a separate degree), I'll be able to focus more and take the good with the bad.


    Japan seems to have taught me some self-discipline.

  2. I started off as a bad student and then I buckled down circa 8th grade and started getting good grades. Then disillusionment kicked in at 9th or 10th and each consecutive semester I spent less and less effort into my schoolwork... And yet for some reason my grades never got any worse except for maybe one D I think I might have gotten in math once. And that trend probably would have kept going in college except they saw fit to put me in a room with 5 other people. Probably the best thing that ever happened. I couldn't focus on schoolwork at all, not because we were doing anything or partying or stuff but just because even being near people puts me in a completely different mindset.

  3. I made an amusingly significant misreading error at first: "...there are so many other important factors that the education system...doesn't test or gauge - like charisma, work ethic, motivation, innovation, *perversity,* etc." No, no it doesn't.

  4. lol! That misreading just totally made my day! If *I* had my way with the school system, though... lol