In my personal experience, it turns out learning for the sake of learning is much more effective than being grade obsessed. When you are solely focused on a certain grade, you become burdened by numerous anxieties throughout the semester. To conquer such anxieties, you begin studying for the purpose of getting at least a certain percentage on an exam or essay. I realized since starting college that such a numbers orientated approach to my education was flawed and unproductive.
This first semester of college, I never asked any of my professors what grade I currently had in their classes. Instead, my goal was to focus on each assignment for its educational worth and not its percent value. This allowed me to learn so much more from my coursework because I was less distracted from obsessing over the percentages and grades. In the end, this new approach ended up benefitting me. It turns out I received an A in every class. This is something that I never achieved in high school.
Though completely ignoring grades and interim progress is not for everyone, I still encourage you to try learning for the sake of learning. I guarantee in the frenzy and pressure of college admissions; this is not always what you are doing. Graded essays may turn into a hoop to jump through rather than an opportunity to become a better writer, which is a skill that will take you much farther in your academic career in comparison to a 95% you got in that one English class junior year.
So challenge yourself more and good luck!