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How I Survived the Pressure of Spiraling Grades


How I survived the pressure of spiraling grades

Madelaine Formica

Freshmen year can be tough between accumulating to a new environment and making new friends, but once you add the pressure of thinking that you might fail a class, it can all feel like it’s too much. For my first semester I had this happen, not with just one class, but two. Going in to college I had honorable goals of being a double major in Creative Writing and Marketing. Well it was honorable until I realized I suck at math. Micro-economics and accounting almost killed me as I failed all my tests and was teetering at Cs for both of those classes.

The thought of failing my first semester was not heartening. I felt like I failed at adulting and that I had to be the stupidest person alive. Accounting wasn’t math, as I had been told multiple times, it was just adding and subtracting. I could do the simple math though, I just couldn’t test.

For both classes I went to tutoring at the basement of Bush Library. This was very helpful for being able to understand the material and caused me to realize I wasn’t truly stupid, I could accomplish the homework, which is what truly saved my grade. I went into my midterms confident, that was until I sat down with the tests and froze. I knew nothing. I was so in my head for my accounting test that I couldn’t finish half the questions. For my economic test I felt like I did better, but once I got my score back I realized that my grade was going to fully drop and that I couldn’t tank my final as badly.

After crying to my mom, who told me to go to my professors, I took her advice. Barely keeping it together I went to my accounting teacher who gave me the best advice I’ve been given. She first told me that I could sign up for Disability Resources and because of my dyslexia it was easy for me to register and gain more time on tests and a private room so I could be less in my head. The time was helpful for it allowed my anxiety to go down a bit and force me to look less at the clock. Of course, more time didn’t help me magically know the material better, but it allowed for there to be slightly less pressure, so I could put what I learned in class and in tutoring to use.

My professor also told me that C is average. It wasn’t that I was stupid, or that I was doing terrible, but that I was average and that I just had to pass. I had heard other business majors tell me this, that ‘Cs get degrees,’ but I didn’t want to believe this. In high school when grades were stressed for getting into college, a C would have been devastating. Somehow the chant ‘Cs get degrees’ made me calmer. It didn’t get rid of the pressure of doing well or the want to do well, but it meant that me getting two Cs my first semester didn’t mean I had failed, it meant I had passed.

Micro-economics happened to be the same situation. I walked into the professor’s office very nervous. For some reason I felt like my professor was more intimidating than my accounting teacher since I had talked to her less. I had felt like I had failed, and I came in thinking they would talk to me like I had, but they didn’t. They asked me what I didn’t understand about my test, walked me through everything and told me tips on how to study for the final.

I learned a lesson because of my tanking grades that first semester. The lesson that I had learned was that Cs don’t mean failure. That even if I had to drop those classes, which I was close to dropping accounting, that I wouldn’t have been a failure, it would have meant that I knew my limits. To say the least I dropped my Marketing major and turned it into a Business minor as to not waste those two classes that I had stressed over. Changing goals is not a failure either. Yes, my GPA did go down, but I’m glad that I kept going with those two classes and now know that I could do it, I could pass. C is average and stressing about being above average if you know math or any thing else isn’t your strong suit is not healthy. I learned to set reachable goals and expectations for myself as to survive all my other semesters.     

Madelaine Formica is nineteen. She is the Campus Correspondent for the Hamline HerCampus Chapter. She's been published for her scripts on jaBlog and for a short story in Realms YA magazine. She's also a senior reporter for The Oracle and a literary editor for Fulcrum literary magazine.
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