Failing University, or It’s Just an Adjustment Period

University is a big, scary, daunting place. You’re surrounded by intelligent, like minded individuals and you have professors who expect you to dig deeper than you’ve ever had to before.  Naturally, you’ll go through an adjustment period (or several, if you’re like me).

68%. I’ll always remember that number. It was the number scrawled in green ink on the back of my first university essay—a response to Ophelia’s role in Hamlet.  Hastily scribbled next to the number was: “solid work.” That was all the feedback I got.

In the summer between high school and university, I must have become stupid. I was used to my grade 12 high A+ average. Did I accidentally write on the wrong text? Does my professor hate me? Is there another girl named Rachel in this tutorial I got mixed up with? THERE MUST BE A MISTAKE!

Nope. I was dumbfounded. In that tiny, stuffy, dingy Clearihue classroom (I’m sure it was a perfectly lovely room… I just have negative associations with it), a wave of panic came over me. Is this what I had to look forward to in university? Four years of heart-breaking failure?

It was a one-off, of course. I just had to learn how to do university a bit better. As the course went on, I learned that earning higher grades was simply a matter of adapting to a new environment (one where you actually have to study on your own time). Just as I knew what teachers in high school expected from me, I come to understand what it was that my Professors and T.A.s were expecting from me. By the end of the semester, my marks were approaching what they were in high school. They haven’t always remained that consistent, but that’s beside the point.

I’m sharing this story because I want you to know that everyone goes through a period of feeling unworthy in university. At the risk of sounding like a TedTalk, dealing with failure is impossible to avoid, especially in a stress inducing setting like university. The more effectively you learn to handle these feelings of rejection and failure, the healthier and more successful you will be as a student.

By my third year, I’ve come to realize that failure is one of the most helpful things about university. It’s a sure-fire sign that whatever I was doing in the past doesn’t cut it anymore. Failure means I need to work harder, and push myself to do better. Sure, it’s painful at first, and I’ve spent my fair share of nights crying into a 2 litre ice-cream tub and watching Teen Mom, but ultimately, failure saves me from having my heart crushed further down the road.

So, the point is: Nobody’s perfect (other than possibly Taylor Swift), but making simple changes to your study habits, work ethic, and the way you view failure, can make a huge difference in your future success. Taking a deep breath to remind yourself that you’re not stupid and that it’s just a bump in the road is the first step you need to take.

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