Things you might hear after a first year midterm: “That didn’t go as planned.” “I failed.” “How will this impact by GPA?” “I’m not cut out for this.”
U of T grading rubrics can be unforgiving. After the first tests of my undergrad, my marks were lower than in high school. It was daunting. I didn’t have time management skills and I was constantly frustrated with my grades. In addition to adjusting to different academic expectations, the amount of new things to know and get used to as a first year was overwhelming: Where is everything on campus? What learning strategies work for me? Where and when do I do my best work? I didn’t need to be as hard on myself. It was like using a mirror. A mirror is great to check if your make-up is smudged or if there’s something stuck in your teeth. But staring at your reflection for hours and dwelling on everything you don’t like and feel you can’t change isn’t helpful or accurate.
Since first year I’ve learned this: re-framing failures as opportunities for growth, aka having a growth mindset, can transform your student experience.
Instead of beating myself up after perceived shortcomings, I started to leverage them as ways to identify how I could change my approach or revise my goals.
If I didn’t do so well on a midterm or assignment, I took the time to accept the grade and start to consider ways to improve and better myself in the future. If I didn’t know what needed work, I would talk with friends or family, with faculty or staff, and work together to create an action plan for improvement.
You can start taking small steps to improve. Pat yourself on the back as you take these steps and appreciate small accomplishments. I like to reward myself by going to cute cafés, dancing, watching movies, immersing myself in nature, and taking more opportunities to socialize. I also check-in frequently with myself to assess how happy I feel because when I’m happy I’m more motivated to tackle everyday challenges.
Goals take time to achieve and accepting and reflecting on outcomes is essential. Combine acceptance with a growth mindset, plans for improvement, and self-care, and you might have the winning formula for motivation and progress.
Good luck on midterms and assignments everyone!
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