On Getting a B in Organic Chemistry (On Balance)

Warning: if you are going to be irritated by the fact that getting a B bothers me at all, you should not read this post. I don’t think that a B is a bad grade. I don’t think that everyone needs to be academically perfect. But I’m not always sure how to earn myself a good future outside of doing well in school, and so grades like these, marks on my record that are less than perfect, scare me.

For those of you sympathetic to my absurd melodrama, read on.

I have actually never received a B in a class before. B+, last in the sixth(?) grade, but never a B.

I’m writing about it on this blog for two reasons. First, I often hear people talk of how social media causes them to feel inadequate because people only publish their brightest moments. So, because I believe in leading by example, I would like to make public something that feels a great deal like failure. Second, in anticipation of a large mass of free time this summer and a slew of temptations to use it unproductively, I’m taking a stab at restarting my blog.

Regardless, back to the matter at hand. I’m trying to figure out how to explain to you that the reason I didn’t perform as well as I would have liked is that I’m pretty happy here. Maybe it’s my own inability to recognize the limits of my intellect, but I can’t help but think I could have gotten an A if not for philosophical discussions and interesting people and not eating meals alone. I was a lonely high-schooler, and it seems the price I have paid to buck loneliness is that I can no longer maintain the fiction that I am the best. This trade-off is one I was hoping to make in coming to MIT, but it still stings. There are people who are smarter than me who don’t have this trade-off, and that stings too.

And I know that grades are not the most important thing. And I know that medical and other graduate schools will likely still take me. And I know that there will be many other opportunities to prove myself, in the classroom and in the lab. It still doesn’t take the frustration out of knowing that there are other people, many people, who are outperforming me in a quantifiable sense.

Hopefully, my performance will improve in at least some of the semesters that follow. Orgo doesn’t play to my strengths, and I can think of some ways to do better that don’t sacrifice balance, such as getting more help from peers on my work (I studied alone almost exclusively this semester, and it was not fun). Even if my grades don’t improve, though, I think I’d still choose to keep regularly prioritizing human connection over studying. Maybe that makes me unsuited to be a doctor. Quite possibly, it makes me unsuited to ever accomplish anything great. I know it’s absurd, and I know I always claim to be okay with not being great, but I’m not really sure if I’m okay being mediocre. I guess I will be whatever I will be, whether I’m okay with it or not.

I’m not sure where I was going with this post, or if I got there. Please read generously- I’m still thinking through this stuff.

Having written a blog post between the hours of midnight and one-thirty, I am going to sleep. Goodnight, all.


3 thoughts on “On Getting a B in Organic Chemistry (On Balance)

  1. Good to see you using your blog again. Point of fact: Earning a B does not equate to mediocre. Point of fact: “Not being great” does not equate to being mediocre.

    When you write about how you are unsure about earning a good future outside of “doing great” in school, that’s the real concern here. We should talk about that. I love you!


  2. As a quality analyst and one-time administrator for academic medical centers I can assure you that prioritizing human connection will make you a better doctor or scientist in almost all cases (perhaps nuclear medicine, radiology and pathology don’t require a lot of patient interaction but everything else does and even those disciplines require one to work with colleagues). Read about narrative medicine to understand why it’s important to understand humans as individuals as well as data. Oh yes, studying with other people is also how you will do a lot of your learning in your post-academic life so you may as well learn now. Gives you richer understanding because the other person may be stuck with something you hadn’t even considered. Oh yeah, any grad school that won’t accept you because you got a B in Organic your Freshman year at MIT is not a grad school you want to attend anyway. Bravo on the B and having great friends!


  3. Tricky topic to write about, y’know? Sure, there were students that got perfect grades this term while taking “harder” classes than you. That stings, and so does the fact that so many of them feel the need to post about it on Facebook. But there were also plenty of freshmen who No Recorded things– some for the second time. There were straight C students, and students who were absolutely thrilled to pull a B in orgo. I know you know this on an objective level, and it’s much harder to actually bring yourself into a mindset where you can look at all of your A’s and your one B and think, “Woah, I’m above average here.” but that’s where you’re currently at.

    I’m personally hoping that our class chills out and stops posting about/focusing so much on grades in the years to come, since it’s really a phenomenon I’ve only observed among 2019’s unless the conversation is, “Ugh, I’m praying I pass this class.”

    If you’re a premed (but this also totally applies if you’re headed to bio/chem grad school), there are some really good older blog posts regarding how perfectly fine it is to “get a smattering of B’s” on your transcript each semester.


let me know what you think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s