Like most bright high schoolers, I coasted by in high school, making A’s. I would get home right after school and affix me to the head of the kitchen table, cranking out long homework assignments.
My teachers never batted an eye at me, I continued to appease them by doing well, and no one questioned it. I never had to study for regular tests, only the standardized AP and ACTs. Eventually, I skated by and made my way to college.
Freshman year of college was challenging for other reasons than academics, I aced my exams and did my homework assignments like the good high schooler I used to be. Most of the classes I had were generous in terms of extra credit and were primarily review since I had been in similar classes before.
When I began my first semester of sophomore year, I was carefree, I had just made out with a 4.0 for both of my freshmen semesters, piece of cake, right?
I was in Physics 1 when my perfect little world caved in. On the first quiz of eight, I did extremely well, so I slacked off thinking I knew more than I did. Come time for the second quiz (worth 12% of my grade, mind you) I made a 40%.
Wow. Big difference, right?
Well, in the next quiz I made 50%. Failure, again.
At some point, I was failing physics and a philosophy course. When I made it back to my apartment I was in shambles. I did not know what to do except feel pitiful about my situation and cry for a while.
My parents reinforced my good grades with praise. When I started failing, I was not upset about failing class. Instead, I was upset about disappointing my parents.
Once I knocked some sense into myself, I was able to make a game plan.
I withdrew from philosophy and enrolled in a winter session course to meet the credit hour requirement. I began to question what I knew about physics, too. I went to the physical science center and studied in an empty classroom every week there was a quiz. In that classroom, I sat at a whiteboard grinding out solutions to physics problems. In my classes, I started curating group study sessions and asking more questions. As a result of my re-directed energy, my grades in physics improved because I made the effort to shape them myself, not let them shape me.
Sometimes in life, things change in a way we cannot control. You may think that you nailed an assignment or a test, just to find out that you failed. A lot of times this can lead us to assume that a failing grade is a direct attack on our intelligence and capabilities. The best thing that you can do for yourself after you fail is to see why you failed and work to overcome it. If you internalize your failures and treat them as they are a part of your success, you miss out on what truly makes you successful. It is important to love yourself and believe in your potential to rise above. That, my friends, is true success. In case no one told you today, you are NOT an imposter, your brain is a muscle and you can always strengthen it past where you are now.
Right now, I want you to take in a nice deep breath and think about the reasons why you love yourself and what you take pride in. If you have a piece of paper next to you, write them down. Keep that for the days you fail, I promise it will get you back to action.
Another important part of being successful is attending to your needs and not comparing yourself to others. I, for one, cannot get into the right headspace for a successful and positive day unless I get at least nine hours of sleep. Listening to your body will, in the end, help you to perform your best at school. Do not let yourself go without food, water, or naps if you need them. Taking breaks is something I had to work on recently. If you never allow yourself to take a break once you start on something, you are training your mind to have an aversion to schoolwork. In my personal experience, my success means doing a little more play than I do work on certain days so that I can pick up homework willingly and not out of spite for needing a good grade. This doesn’t mean you should make the same mistakes that I did by assuming I knew things and taking a day off when I needed to study; however, there’s a difference between being productive and overworking yourself.
Buy a planner. Buy a planner. Buy a planner. Now click your heels three times, okay–I’m not a magician so you probably still don’t have one, BUT you should go get one. You can set yourself up for success by getting ahead or at least knowing what is going on for a given class on a day. Log every test and assignment due in your planner and check it often. Most successful people will tell you to make a list and check it off, which is good, but you should be gentle with yourself if you fail to follow through with it. It is never too late to do the right thing, and you should never sacrifice your sanity for the sake of crossing items off a list. The act of trying to get ahead is enough, it always will be.
While it may be hard to invest time into places other than schoolwork, just remember that you will outlive the grades you make in college and it’s never too late to be successful. I hope you all have a good day and a great week.