As post-secondary students, our perfectionism can get the best of us. We spend so much of our time and effort on school work that when it doesn’t pay off, the world seems to momentarily end. While poor results on tests and assignments are nothing to feel good about, bombing a single assignment is no reason to throw in the towel.
This semester I received my first failing grade on an assignment since high school math, and the existential dread was almost unbearable. For about an hour, I was sure my academic career was over. I was tempted to straight up drop the class, shave my hair off my head and change my legal name to Brenda.
After I went through the five stages of grief, I managed to calm myself down with a cup of hot chocolate and ask “what do I do now?”
To rid myself of the bubble of panic that had lodged in my throat the minute I saw that 46/100, I tried the following tactics.
First, I calculated exactly how many grades I would be losing from my final mark, based on the percentile worth of the assignment, to find out if I would still be passing the class. I did some more calculating after that—with upbeat music on in the background to fend off the growing dread—to find out how well I would have to do on future assignments or my exam in order to recover my GPA as much as possible.
Next I did some meditative breathing, reflected on all my academic successes rather than wallowing in my failures, and told myself the following:
“I am here to learn. Education is meant to prepare me for future obstacles, and people learn by trial and error. It’s fine that I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped, as long as I grow from the experience.”
With that little pep talk in mind, I moved on to examine where exactly I went wrong with the poor grade. In this instance, it was an issue of time management. I kept pushing it off to the last minute so I could focus on other assignments, and procrastinating was my undoing. Lesson learned: don’t underestimate how long it takes me to create something I’m proud of. Always leave space for revision.
Finally, I used this realization to better plan for how I would tackle my future assignments in that class. For me, this meant starting the next project way further in advance, breaking off each section into chunks and assigning these to specific time slots in the week. It also means I need to work on my self discipline when it comes to procrastinating, and pay more attention to how long it takes me to finish tasks.