I came across an Instagram account that posts anonymous reflections supposedly submitted by U of T students. They go by <@uoftears_>. A common theme that comes up on the page through these so-called confessions is failing midterms.
Failure is par for the course. Trying something unfamiliar will come with multiple instances of failure. However, at times failures add up, and the result is seemingly catastrophic. This catastrophic “oh no my life is over” failure has hit me a few times. And each time I’ve somehow been able to come back from it.
When it comes to doing worse than I expected on a test or essay, I make it a my mission to quickly narrow down what went wrong. Then, I determine whether I can fix those mistakes in time for the next assessment. It’s OK to drop a course if it might destroy my GPA. My fellow blogger Samantha wrote a piece about dropping courses that is worth a read.
Being a full-time student is almost a job, but instead of clocking out at a given time my homework follows me throughout the weekends. If I didn’t do well because of other time commitments, I either cut down on my course work or attempt to reduce those other things taking up my time. Everyone has different circumstances that impact our lives at school – I have friends that work two jobs to keep the lights on and I have friends that live with physical or mental attributes. My grades are relative to my real-life situation – I don’t exist in a bubble where my only focus is school all of the time. As students we shouldn’t compare ourselves based on an arbitrary number with no other context.
I get better grades when I engage more with course material. But in order to do that a majority of other life things have to be taken care of. Family, money, work, mental health, physical health – the list could goes on. Most of the time doing well in school is not about being inherently smarter, but being able to manage my life, a rather difficult thing to do sometimes.
Failing at something is scary. It feeds into my deepest insecurities about my capability and intelligence. After failing at times in university, I’ve learned that setbacks don’t define me. What I once regarded as catastrophic failures, I now see as critical points of learning and development, which is a difficult perspective to adopt.
Failing allows me to adapt. I change things for the better as a result of failure, rather than relentlessly pursuing a faulty route. For example, I learn better with each time that I fail. I’ve adjusted my studying habits to optimize how I engage with material so I do better on essays and exams.
If needed, it can be helpful to reach out to the Health & Wellness Centre at U of T. They can provide direct help and link you to further resources.
It’s important to understand that comparing myself to 4.0 students is not a fair comparison. Life happens, and that’s alright. I can succeed after failure.