“IT IS better to get an honest zero than a dishonest perfect score.” When I was in elementary, my mother used to tell me this whenever I show her my very low exam scores. Even back then, I felt the pressure to do well in school, thinking that I would receive punishment if I did not do well enough to get into the cream section in the next school year. Imagine my surprise when she first said that to me after I had psychologically prepared myself for her anger at my mediocre academic scores.

Fast-forward to 10 years later, right now, at the start of the second semester of my fourth year. I guess for some people like me, this semester doesn’t only mean their last semester as undergraduate students. This also signifies their last attempt at fancy Latin titles such as summa, magna and cum laude.

Since the day I found out I was included in the dean’s list in the first semester of my freshman year, I started aiming for that recognition, thinking that maybe it is possible considering that I made it to the list. Thus, every quiz, every seatwork, and every exam I took was all aimed for that reward come graduation. It came to a point that I was starting to feel burned out since it was not only mentally draining but psychologically taxing given the number of disappointments I had to face back then.

It was probably a blessing in disguise when I was accepted in the Varsitarian as a Science and Technology writer in the summer of 2007. At that time, I was unsure and nervous yet ambitious of what lay ahead. My newfound friends at that time excelled academically to the point of intimidation (they were at the top of their batch) which probably was one of the reasons, not counting the fact that they used to tease me about my grades, why I was so motivated to do well as a student-writer. My efforts paid off since I managed to get into the dean’s list for two more semesters. On top of that, I learned a very valuable lesson from my peers—that grades are not the end-all and be-all of me.

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Derailed?

My junior year, however, took a turn for the worst. I got tired of what I was doing and the subjects were more than double the difficulty of the second-year subjects. Even if I tried not writing for some of the paper’s issues just to recover academically, it was no use as I failed to get into the list in my third year.

Now that I am in my fourth year, sometimes, it still crosses my mind to do what my mother told me not to do. I still wonder if cheating in the quizzes in our seminar class and comprehensive examinations would get me a flat one and if that flat one would be enough to pull my internship grades up so that I can graduate with honors. I sometimes wonder had I cheated in my third year, would I still be faced with this kind of dilemma?

I have occasionally heard of rumors of students, even dean’s listers, caught cheating. I guess the fear of getting caught, my pride of actually attaining something without the need for any unnecessary tactics, and my mother who told me how morally rewarding it is to earn an honest zero is enough to refrain from even considering it. I may not be graduating with honors but I’m sure I will be graduating honorably.

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