Listen, it happens to the best of us. You’re enrolled in a new set of classes, spry and ready conquer the quarter, but it quickly starts to get difficult: the assignments you thought were worthy of a chef’s kiss get you a 60%, every lecture you ask yourself, “wait, when did we learn that?” You start going to tutoring, making sure you attend all the office hours, and actually do the reading. It’s usually by week 6 that you realize there might be a chance you could really fail this class.
This was my experience this quarter, and when I learned about the option to withdraw, I felt relieved to know I had another option that wasn’t a big, fat, capital F on my transcript, but I was also ashamed that I even had to make this decision. While it was the better option, it felt like it was just a softer F— a lowercase f if you will.
I went back and forth on what I should do, until one day, I received a grade for an assignment that I thought was my breakthrough for the class: a glorious 54%. It was a tragedy, the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I withdrew that day, and it’s been incredibly bitter sweet. Doing these assignments only made me feel incapable, like I wasn’t smart enough, and I was finally free of that. On the other hand, I now had to deal with the shame of knowing that I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t pass the class, and I essentially gave up. This kind of shame is normal, but at the end of the day, these thoughts are untrue.
If you recently had to withdraw from a class or are thinking of doing so, there are a few things you should know:
So many factors play into your well-doing in a course; unfortunately, working hard only gets you so far. Not doing great this time around could have been for a multitude of reasons, and you simply not being smart enough is probably not one of them. Don’t be so hard on yourself, you can try again another time.
Academia is a gamble, and in the wise words of Kenny Rodgers, “You’ve gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away,” and unfortunately, you had to walk away this time. The win in this, though, is that you knew you had a bad hand in the game, and it takes a whole lot of self-awareness to buckle down and act on that.
The most important thing of all: you will be ok. That’s it. This is not an end all, be all, and I can guarantee you that you will figure it out. I’m sure right now, it sort of feels like the end of the world, and you have full permission to wallow in that for a second. Eventually, though, you’re going to come back with guns a-blazing, and do just as well as you hoped you would the first time.
While I certainly hope you take these words to heart, I hope I can as well; it’s not easy to take your own advice. One thing’s for sure, though: you and I? We’re gonna be just fine.