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Postgraduate Grade Worries

Apologies, this thread is quite general, but it does relate to postgraduate study. Furthermore, I'm hesitant to write because this isn't exactly an issue that can be solved by anyone, and it's more psychological in nature. It feels a bit like complaining over nothing.

I gained a First for my BSc and never thought I'd do an MA Res, yet I submitted my extended thesis a few weeks ago. I'll get my grade at some point by the end of 2023. I'll most likely get a med-high merit, but a shift in my thinking has occurred such that I may feel deeply depressed if I don't get a distinction. There's a lot of self-esteem issues at play here. Without going into all the personal details, I feel like this would impact everything else I do after this chapter of my life has officially ended. I can already predict that anything less than a distinction would lead me to want to do less toward my reading and writing goals. This would be the case because I compare myself to others too much, and it already irks me to think that there are some people who may have a first and a distinction who've actually done less work than me overall. The more work I do from now on and after the grade would honestly make me feel as though I should deserve a first, so I might actually self-sabotage in order to feel better about the merit. In other words, being less productive so as not to feel like I really deserved a distinction. Thus, even though I once was ecstatic at the idea of passing at all, now it seems that my happiness lies in gaining a distinction. But it's not likely.

It frustrates me that there are so many factors that go into marking, so many intricate variables. I had to write my thesis during one of the most stressful years of my life. As for the work itself, I well know the flaws of my thesis, but I've tried to do something unique and progressive in multiple ways, such as tackling an obscure author and asking many questions that scholars haven't asked before. This may just end up giving me a lower grade in the end. Also, there's human error and the vagaries of mood to take into account. I have a tendency to think of all the potential reasons why I might not get a distinction instead of just accepting that it's out of my control. I went out of my way to do so much with this thesis, even putting in references to some earlier authors in a footnote because a lecturer, who's neither my primary or secondary supervisor, mentioned them in the feedback for an unconnected essay. I know that this person may in fact be marking my work. I genuinely almost became ill working on this thesis because I cared so much about it, but I won't get a distinction. I'm sure in time I'll just learn to accept it, but I'd love to just be able to be kinder to myself already, somehow.

Any thoughts will be greatly appreciated.
(edited 1 month ago)
Original post by TaylorH93
Apologies, this thread is quite general, but it does relate to postgraduate study. Furthermore, I'm hesitant to write because this isn't exactly an issue that can be solved by anyone, and it's more psychological in nature. It feels a bit like complaining over nothing.

I gained a First for my BSc and never thought I'd do an MA Res, yet I submitted my extended thesis a few weeks ago. I'll get my grade at some point by the end of 2023. I'll most likely get a med-high merit, but a shift in my thinking has occurred such that I may feel deeply depressed if I don't get a distinction. There's a lot of self-esteem issues at play here. Without going into all the personal details, I feel like this would impact everything else I do after this chapter of my life has officially ended. I can already predict that anything less than a distinction would lead me to want to do less toward my reading and writing goals. This would be the case because I compare myself to others too much, and it already irks me to think that there are some people who may have a first and a distinction who've actually done less work than me overall. The more work I do from now on and after the grade would honestly make me feel as though I should deserve a first, so I might actually self-sabotage in order to feel better about the merit. In other words, being less productive so as not to feel like I really deserved a distinction. Thus, even though I once was ecstatic at the idea of passing at all, now it seems that my happiness lies in gaining a distinction. But it's not likely.

It frustrates me that there are so many factors that go into marking, so many intricate variables. I had to write my thesis during one of the most stressful years of my life. As for the work itself, I well know the flaws of my thesis, but I've tried to do something unique and progressive in multiple ways, such as tackling an obscure author and asking many questions that scholars haven't asked before. This may just end up giving me a lower grade in the end. Also, there's human error and the vagaries of mood to take into account. I have a tendency to think of all the potential reasons why I might not get a distinction instead of just accepting that it's out of my control. I went out of my way to do so much with this thesis, even putting in references to some earlier authors in a footnote because a lecturer, who's neither my primary or secondary supervisor, mentioned them in the feedback for an unconnected essay. I know that this person may in fact be marking my work. I genuinely almost became ill working on this thesis because I cared so much about it, but I won't get a distinction. I'm sure in time I'll just learn to accept it, but I'd love to just be able to be kinder to myself already, somehow.

Any thoughts will be greatly appreciated.

Hi,

I think ultiamtely it won't matter. The fact you have the MA is itself an acheivement and in my experience people tend to look less at a grade attached to it, more so at any relevant work experience etc. when applying for jobs. It sounds like a very unpleasant situation you're putting yourself through though.

I am a postgrad student in psychology, and, not to try and minimise your experiecne, this reads like a textbook case study we'd be given and asked to interpret what might be going on. Perfectionism is clearly a thing here but I would suggest therapy as the way forward to explore why this is such a thing for you.

Keep your chin up, get some help, things will get better
Reply 2
Original post by imjuststudent
Hi,

I think ultiamtely it won't matter. The fact you have the MA is itself an acheivement and in my experience people tend to look less at a grade attached to it, more so at any relevant work experience etc. when applying for jobs. It sounds like a very unpleasant situation you're putting yourself through though.

I am a postgrad student in psychology, and, not to try and minimise your experiecne, this reads like a textbook case study we'd be given and asked to interpret what might be going on. Perfectionism is clearly a thing here but I would suggest therapy as the way forward to explore why this is such a thing for you.

Keep your chin up, get some help, things will get better

Thanks for the response. I think what makes my feelings more frustrating is that I'm aware just how rational and reasonable they are, yet I can't get rid of them. Anyone would be frustrated by getting a lower grade than they'd like. It's just a shame I'm not currently able to access that mindset whereby I'd be happy to have a merit or even a pass. As you say, this ultimately won't matter, although, again, it's not really about people's perception of me, it's how I'd react. I can easily see myself trying to adjust to a lower intellectual level so as to not feel as bad. Practically speaking, that means forcing myself to read less and actively avoiding difficult subjects in the future. I'd say to myself, "What's the point in reading this book or writing this article, since I'd only remind myself that I didn't get a distinction and by doing these things I may actually have more knowledge and intrinsic desire to learn than someone that got a distinction, so I shouldn't." Does that make sense? I'm no psychologist, but would this be considered self-sabotage and avoidance? I think that's more abnormal than simply being saddened by a lower grade.
(edited 1 month ago)
Original post by TaylorH93
Thanks for the response. Indeed, I think what makes my feelings more frustrating is that I'm aware just how rational and reasonable they are, yet I can't get rid of them. Anyone would be frustrated by getting a lower grade than they'd like. It's just a shame I'm not currently able to access that mindset whereby I'd be happy to have a merit or even a pass. As you say, this ultimately won't matter, although, again, it's not really about people's perception of me, it's how I'd react. I can easily see myself trying to adjust to a lower intellectual level so as to not feel as bad. Practically speaking, that means forcing myself to read less and actively avoiding difficult subjects in the future. I'd say to myself,
Yeah that is absolutely sabotage. There's clearly a lot tied up with performing and proving your worth academically, so much so that it seems like you can't distinguish between actual intelligence and a grade. Should grades be refelctive of intelligence? Kinda, yeah, but it isn't a direct reflection. Markers are just people, sometimes they make mistakes etc. I know from my own courses that peers and I have submitted similar work, only for mine to pass and theirs to fail, with markers requesting they revise certain things. These would be things that I myself might have/have not done, but whoever was marking my work didnt pick it up.

The self-sabotage seems like an attempt to preserve your identity and sense of intellectual ability. If you dont try and dont get a good grade you can kid yourself into thinking that you WOULD have got one, if only you had tried properly. This seems like the first (or maybe most important?) time where you have actually tried, and it didn't pay off like you wanted it to. This is a pretty common pattern of thinking people get into, and like I said, something that a good therapist would be able to help you out with.

Best of luck my man

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