Ah, Math. The bane of my existence. All right, let’s set the stage. I failed a college class. Bombed it. Finished with a 32/100. Was I devastated? Honestly, not really. Let’s talk about why.
To set the stage, you should know that I graduated high school with a 4.1. I don’t say that to brag; I say that because I know a lot f college students who thought school was the easiest thing in the world. We’re the students who never had to study, who aced almost every test, who was at the top of the recommendations list for every advanced, honors, and AP course the schools offered. We are also the students who missed the gifted program by just a point or two, so we were left in a general class ding the same things as the B average and the C average students except we had nothing to challenge us.
We then become the students who move onto college and fall flat on our faces. Suddenly, we have to study because guess what? College professors don’t review concepts twenty million times
How I Began To Fall
Going into college, I was bored. I wanted a challenge, so I decided to major in Computer Science. Keep in mind, I have always, always hated math. It was my weakest subject, but I still managed to keep As and Bs because I did the homework in high school. College is different.
I took Intro to Stats and did that thing they tell you never to do. I skipped class. A lot. I think I showed up to three classes that entire semester. Went into the final and aced it. The class was beyond easy. We’re talking middle-school-level statistics. That gave me confidence. Probably too much confidence. Actually, definitely way too much confidence.
In case you were wondering, a Computer Science degree requires a lot of math. Calculus, Statistics, Discrete Math, the list goes on. I took most of it before I dropped the major. Managed to keep a C average in Calculus and Discrete math, which was already killing my ego, but I was passing, so I kept going.
That’s when I decided to take “Actual Statistics”. I don’t know what the class was called, but it was the normal, college-level statistics class I needed for my major. Keep in mind, by this point, I had already had to retake one of my CS classes (I got a C, and I needed a B to be allowed to move on), and I struggled my way through Calculus 1 Part 1 and Calculus 1 Part 2.
My Huge Mistake
My biggest mistake was ignoring the fact that I was so obviously struggling with math and deciding to take Stats online. Now, for those of you who don’t know me, I am a HUGE procrastinator. At that point in my life, I had ZERO self-discipline. I couldn’t convince myself to study for tests, let alone actually complete an entire course on my own and meet deadlines without anyone to force me to do work.
So that’s what I did. Let me explain to you how this class was set up. Every week, I had a lesson to complete. There would be notes, examples, practice problems, and a quiz. You had to get 80% or better on each quiz to be allowed to move on. If you didn’t meet that 80% by each week’s deadline, you got a zero for that week. Even after you get that zero, you still have to get 80% before you can move on. So it is VERY easy to get behind and suddenly start accumulating zeros.
Needless to say, it took me about 6 weeks before I couldn’t move any further. I tried everything, took that 10 question quiz 43 times, googled answers, used online calculators, walked into the tutoring room and froze. I didn’t know how to ask for help. In college, my social anxiety skyrocketed (but that’s for a separate post) and I couldn’t ask for help. I sat in that room every day with help five feet away from me, and I couldn’t admit to them or to myself that I couldn’t do this on my own.
How It Ended
I failed the class. By a lot. I dropped my major and switched back to English. I admitted defeat, and I took a huge hit to my GPA. It would have crushed most people, but at that point, I’d lost the ability to care. I burnt myself out. I was tired, and I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in a constant uphill battle with math, so I quit. Did I upset my parents? Oh yeah. Let me tell you, that conversation I had with my dad (who works in IT, wanted me to major in CS and already planned how we would work together and travel together and life would be perfect) was NOT fun. I felt like he saw me as a failure, but at the same time, I knew that I was in the wrong major.
What I Learned
In the midst of this catastrophe, I learned a few important life lessons.
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help
If you, like me, have social anxiety, or find asking for help to be admitting defeat, do whatever it takes to convince yourself otherwise. Find someone you trust to ask for help. Go to tutoring; they won’t judge you, I promise. Their job is to help you. They WANT to help you.
2. Not Every Major is for You.
We are human. Chances are, you’re not going to be good at everything you try. You have strengths and weaknesses. Find them. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but don’t be afraid to give up if that thing is not for you. (Now, I don”t mean give up on everything at the first sign of failure, but if that thing is causing you more stress than pleasure, and you can’t see a way out, and you’re not even excited about the end result, you have my permission to quit.)
3. Failing at One Thing Does Not Make You a Failure
So you failed a class, or you lost a game, or you dropped your major, or you lost your scholarship. That doesn’t make you a failure. The only thing that makes you a failure is the refusal to get back up and try again. Trying again doesn’t mean you have to retake that class or continue with that sport you hate. trying again means you stand up, you reevaluate, and you keep moving forward. Maybe forward leads you to a different major or a different sport or a different college. Just move forward.
4. Self-Discipline is Essential. Learn it. Breathe it.
If you, like me, found high school exceedingly easy, please take the time to learn the skills that most people need to learn in high school. Teach yourself how to study, even if you already know the material; Learn how to force yourself to complete all the homework every time. You need these skills in college. I promise any time spent learning how to learn and how to be disciplined is so not wasted.
Why I’m Okay With Failing a Class
If I hadn’t failed that class, I’d probably have kept going in a major I hated. I would have failed a class eventually, but by then it may have been too late to change my major without adding more time until I could graduate. I needed to fail that class to figure out what I really wanted in life and how to get it. My life doesn’t need Statistics. I am perfectly happy without it, so no, I am not upset that I failed a class in college. I am thankful that I took a chance and learned a few skills from a major that wasn’t for me, and I am thankful that I was strong enough to know when it was time to leave that major and move on.
Have you ever experienced failure? How did you handle it? How did it affect your life? Leave me a comment to let me know your experience with failure!