With only about a month left in the semester (!!!), I wanted to actively mentally prepare myself for what academic challenges lie ahead for me.
When I entered this school year as a junior, I was constantly reminded by those around me that my college career is halfway over. Aside from the great memories made and everything I’ve learned about myself, I’ve also thought about how I’ve learned to dealt with failure or disappointment when it comes to academics.
I remember in my freshman year, I heard my peers talking about back in high school, they were at the top of their class and their classes required minimal effort. Yeah, you know those days of orientation when all you can talk to your new peers about is your past four years in high school (reasonable, though – because how else would you make yourself seem super cool in front of these people who know absolutely nothing about you?) Admit it – you’ve done it – thought back to the high school days to remind yourself that, at some point, things were easy academically.
Well, for many of my peers (myself included), university academics came like a wrecking ball to my self-esteem and confidence as a student in the first few weeks of my freshman year. Granted, I always found myself to manage my time pretty well and to be proactive with what I needed to accomplish for my classes. However, the rigor of my classes inevitably brought me to reconsider how I view my success in classes, especially when it comes to taking exams.
You know how it goes – you may commit to study plans in the beginning of the semester for classes that you’ve heard about from your friends, thinking that these are fool-proof and will definitely guarantee success on your exams. Those feelings of anxiety and nervousness for the first exam before the drop date are all too familiar to you. I know for me, that first exam is always the hardest because I do not know what to expect. I have let this anxiety take control of me a number of times, and in this semester where I am taking six classes, I have some reflections on how to approach exams and deal with whatever the result may be.
I’ll be honest – I stress about my grades quite frequently. Therefore, I’ve realized how easy it is for me to spiral into self-deprecation when an exam grade is not what I wanted it to be. Or, I go into panic-mode even after the exam because some things looked unfamiliar even though I know I studied meticulously for weeks beforehand and made sure I knew the material. The point is: exams tend to make me extremely anxious and I haven’t always dealt with the results in a positive and productive way. I tend to dwell over the poor state of my grade for a class, or have multiple venting sessions with my friends about how difficult and unfair the exam was (and of course, sometimes it feels like I’m the only one who feels that way).
But in this extremely packed academic semester, I’ve had to continuously pick myself up after getting grades I did not like. That has involved making meetings with my advisor, going back through material to see where I went wrong, and talking to peers for different study habits. And throughout all of this, I’ve realized I’ve subconsciously, slowly been able to deal with whatever happens with an exam result much better. Because I keep reminding myself: red ink happens and that is okay.
I mess up on exams during the semester, and it really sucks when it happens, but I’ve learned to see that how I perform on an exam is not a reflection of who I am as a person, especially because all of my classes are different. And sometimes, exams will be difficult even if I’ve studied a great deal. But bad grades will happen, and I think being able to recognize that it is possible that I will mess up (often) will help me to deal with whatever other “failures” that may come my way in the future (and plentiful they will come).
Sure, I would not turn down having a perfect semester without bad grades if it were possible. But studying hard and committing time to a class that challenges me have always been rewarding to me. I’ll always work my hardest to do the best I can, but even if I don’t do as well as I’d hoped, it’s best to move forward and keep trying to improve.