Learning Across Fields (#3): Struggle

Photo by Loren Gu on Unsplash

Hello again,

This is the third entry in my blog series, Learning Across Fields. If you’re familiar with the layout from my original blog post, feel free to skip this next paragraph. I hope you enjoy this week’s theme and question regarding academic struggle.

“My goal for this entire blog series is to help newer students gain perspective. I decided that the best way to do so was to also ask my close friends about their university experience. All of my friends that I’ve gathered here are from a diverse array of fields, most of whom are graduating UVic within a year (me included). My hope now is to give people a chance to engage in a reflective dialogue with themselves and maybe with others in our community. In this sense, I encourage whoever is reading this, to ponder these questions as if they were being addressed to you. After all, novel ideas only take fruition from a transdisciplinary network of people. That is why I named this mini blog series, ‘Learning Across Fields’ or LAF for short.”


Theme #3: Struggle

Question #3: What is one piece of advice you can give others when dealing with academic failure?


Aidan – Taking a Step Back

Computer Sciences

Know that it’s totally fine to do poorly on an assignment, lab, or test.

I feel that we tend to live in a state of “I must do well in everything ALL the time or I won’t be successful.”

Of course you want to do well, everyone does. But when you inevitably get back that test you bombed or assignment you failed, take it as an opportunity to learn from what you got wrong, make changes for future work, and move on.

The feeling of shame or disappointment will pass, and as long as you don’t find yourself in this situation often, you’ve improved your understanding and have grown as a student.


Francis – Growth

Political Science

Firstly, your grades don’t define who you are.

Failure is one of life’s best teachers and will help you discover what you’re truly passionate about. Overcoming failure can manifest itself in different ways. Regardless of how you do it, you will come out as a stronger person.


Jake – Comparing Yourself

Earth and Ocean Sciences

I think that academic failure comes in many shapes and forms. It isn’t the same beast for everyone, and perhaps that’s what makes it so hard to confront.

I think my one piece of advice would be to not compare yourself to others. A lot of evaluation in courses draws upon past experience and knowledge.

I’ve taken courses in geography where the content was previously covered in earth and ocean sciences. If I’d taken a course without previous experience in the topic, it would be more difficult. Likewise, I’ve taken courses where I didn’t know the pre-requisites and ended up having to work much harder to keep up.

At the end of the day, you have to fight your race and not worry about where anyone else is positioned.


Alan – Memorizing


What people don’t tell you when you switch from high school to college is how the exams shift.

Before university, they predominately test your memory. Your teacher gives a lesson about concept A and on the test asks you what concept A is. However, in college, they emphasize the application of these concepts.

For example, a professor will teach concept A, but the exam asks you how concept A relates to concept B, and I think that’s why a lot of students suffer early…

They expect the questions to be the same style as they received back in high school.


Dan – Control & Change


It’s never a good feeling when you get a much lower grade than you expected. Personally, I try to put the result behind me because… almost no one grade makes or breaks a final letter grade.

Instead, I stay focused on what I can control going forward.

Did my study strategy for that last exam work?

Did I give myself enough time to study?

Should I change my study habits completely for this class? Maybe find a study group?

All these questions are good to ask after any major assignment or exam, and sometimes it takes a little humility within ourselves to recognize that we need to change. Perhaps the way we’ve been working is not the best way to achieve the success we want.


Ethan – Mindset


Your emotions are not your enemy.

Often times when I’ve experienced heavy academic failure, I’ve let my feelings get the best of me, which causes me to think irrationally about myself and my decisions. I would then try to block all states of emotion while I studied for exams..only focussing on logical thinking.

However, this mental approach was ill-effective because I soon forgot what I was studying for.

To put simply, the best way I’ve found to deal with academic struggle is to harmonize your emotional and logical states of mind in one direction.

Whatever mistakes you’ve made…forgive yourself, learn from yourself, and work with yourself.


Jose – Moving on

Financial Mathematics

As I like to say, “It is what it is”. Do not let the past define who you are nor control you. There is nothing you can do to change the past, just focus on the present and prepare for the future.

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