'Academic validation' is typically used positively. Validation in the chaos of college life welcomes a sense of certainty. When professors validate their students' work, they are doing well in applying themselves. It lets students know that all their hard work was not for nothing. But what happens when students entirely depend on validating responses from their professors? How does this affect a student's outlook on education? Reliance on academic validation can quickly turn into an addiction. It becomes a constant search for identity that can only be satisfied through continuous praise from educators and results in a harmful mindset.

The addiction to academic validation can begin at a young age. Identity and worth can quickly become associated with academic achievement in developmental years. This could mean that a parent or guardian showed more affection towards straight A's than D's and F's.

Students who struggled in school early on often experience a lack of validation. According to Khiron Clinics, this results in insecurities as an adult. The "gifted kid burnout" phenomenon sometimes occurs for excellent students after they are done with school. This phenomenon appears later in life if a child experiences a lot of stress to live up to a certain expectation, according to the Davidson Institute. This can mean a lack of motivation and exhaustion as an adult or the feeling of being 'burnt out.' Whether a child received a lot or no validation, it all plays into what one expects in adulthood. All of these factors encountered as a child can result in the addiction to academic validation as a college student.

Graded assignments and academic validation

Photo of graded assignments from various subjects

Two UNC Charlotte students with two very different grade point averages spoke of their experiences in searching for academic validation and success. One student has a 1.7 GPA and is on academic probation, while the other has a 3.8.

"I definitely strive for academic validation in education… It lets me know I am doing well and getting where I need to be. For me, it's sort of like a safety net," said the student with a 3.8 GPA. "[Academic validation] fuels your desire to want to go further, to prove people wrong, or to live up to the standards that you want to have for yourself."

A lack of validation from professors can mean a world of uncertainty. The need for validation in school can be from the desire to be accepted, especially in society, as college is one step closer to adulthood. Dependence on validation from others to succeed can mean the difference between fulfillment in school or failure. This pressure to fulfill these expectations can be tremendous, especially for students with everything at stake.

"When I put in all the effort and received no academic validation, it was so much harder to put in the effort and see no results," said the student with a 1.7 GPA. Being in an environment where so much rests on the recognition of others can make education detrimental to mental health. It reinforces a mindset that a lot of academic validation means you are gifted and unique.

The student spoke on how this mindset has caused them to see education in a negative light. 

"[Academic validation] causes me, an underperforming student, to see classwork as the purpose of receiving praise, rather than the proper goal of wanting to educate ourselves," they said.

It is easy to become addicted to this cycle of gaining praise in college, but knowing how to get out of it is important. It is crucial to separate who you are from how you do in school. Everyone learns differently, so making comparisons to others will not help in a better mindset. Measuring worth in academic validation will only result in a negative outlook on education and identity. It does not define who you are.