10 Things Only Straight-A Students Will Understand

10 Things Only Straight-A Students Will Understand

Ah, the typical straight-A student. If you felt a connection with Hermione Granger, Brian Johnson, or Carlton Banks, you know how it feels to be dedicated to maintaining your grades. As A students, we become brown-nosing, book-loving losers due to our unwavering dedication to earning top marks. Very rarely does excelling so brilliantly in other areas garner such widespread scorn. Here are 10 misconceptions about A-students that everyone with a 4.0 has certainly experienced.

1. People Think You Are Stuck-Up

When someone first learns that you are a good student, you probably see some wariness come over his expression. A-students are often perceived to have holier-than-thou attitudes, even if they remains genuinely friendly and helpful. A handful of vain, derisive geniuses seem to have ruined the reputation of straight-A students for good.


2. People Assume You Are Already Rich

If you have the time to study and earn A’s, you must not need to have a job to support yourself. Other students have a hard time believing that any person can effectively balance work and school to succeed at both. However, having a job doesn’t automatically disqualify a student from earning to marks. In fact, plenty of full-time workers are able to return to school — and excel! — by taking flexible specialized online programs that allow them to study while earning a salary.

3. People Think You Study Night and Day

According to other students, you should own hundreds of highlighters, keep organized binders of notes, and know all of the librarians by name. When you aren’t nose-deep in the course literature, you are flipping through flashcards and listening to your recorded lectures. The truth is no one can study that much and retain a 4.0 with any sanity intact.


4. People Also Think You Don’t Have to Try

Yet, even as people believe in your impossible studying standards, they do not believe that they can ever attain such excellent grades. To some students, your straight A’s are as mythical and elusive as a unicorn. No matter how often you explain that your grades come from dedication and moderation, most other students prefer to imagine that your smarts are absolutely innate.

5. People Expect You to Know Everything

Here’s a scenario you find all too familiar: A person wonders something aloud (“What are hiccups?”) and the entire group turns to you, expecting a thorough explanation. As a straight-A student, you should know the answers to every question — even if those questions fall well outside your sphere of knowledge. Worse, when you can’t immediately provide a satisfying solution, other students will inevitably mock your supposed intelligence.


6. People Don’t Believe You Have Other Interests

When you earn A’s in school, you immediately become one-dimensional; you are smart and studious, which means schoolwork must be your only hobby. However, most A-students harbor a wealth of interests outside what they study in school, including activities that aren’t commonly associated with 4.0s, like sports and music. Because A-students prioritize their academic effort above their other hobbies, other students may not know about their secret second lives as athletes and artists.

7. People Mark You as a Teacher’s Pet

People imagine the straight-A student as the one in the classroom with her hand waving high in the air. Other students often assume that the only way to get good grades is to suck up to the instructor in class and out, but most straight-A students let their work speak for itself. While you might ask the teacher the occasional question, you probably don’t need to go out of your way to garner a good reputation with your instructors.


8. People Think You Don’t Have a Social Life

The misconception goes like this: A-students have neither time nor energy (nor interest, nor ability) to attract and maintain friendships. While there is the occasional socially awkward A-student, most healthy 4.0s are awarded to students who know better than others how to manage their time. Even with 40 hours of work and 20 hours of studying, you have a full 52 waking hours to enjoy an active social life — and you probably do.

9. People Anticipate Your Nervous Breakdown

Every student feels the pressure of maintaining good grades, but straight-A students — who are often perfectionists seeking only the absolute best — can become even more stressed than most. You have undoubtedly experienced your share of anxiety and fear, and it is probable that you have let your tension show in your attitude, dress, or hygiene level. However, even when you are feeling most frazzled, you probably aren’t at risk for any dangerous mental episodes like those your fellow students eagerly look forward to.

10. People Expect You to Do Great Things After Graduation

Not every A-student is destined for a life of greatness, and pressure to excel after graduation can negatively impact an A-student’s performance. However, with any luck (and a firm understanding of who you are and what you want), this misconception will actually come true for you.

Featured photo credit: liquene via

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.


Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.


One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]


But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.


It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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