To-may-to, to-mah-to. What some may call mistakes, I call a learning opportunity.
We are often told stories about what college like: how it’s the best four years of your life, filled with crazy partying, wild adventures and the best friends you’ll ever make. For some people, that’s true. But for others who feel like their college time falls short of this perfect ideal, it’s a reminder that they aren’t succeeding in college.
However, no one’s college life is perfect. No one goes four years without getting a bad grade or doing something they regret, but these are all chances to learn and realize that despite these mistakes, life goes on and you will be okay.
1. Getting a bad grade
We’ve all been there: getting your test handed back, with that nice big number – in red, no less – scribbled out at the top of the page, or clicking anxiously to check our essay grade online and being greeted with the exact result you were dreading. You feel like it’s the end of your life. You’re going to fail your class. Which means you’ll flunk out of college. Which means everyone will judge you and you will have to live in a hole somewhere.
Commence hyperventilating-into-a-paper-bag time.
But then, when you wake up the next morning, the sun is out and the birds are chirping (and loudly). You eat breakfast like you normally do, you make awkward conversations with your hallmates in the bathroom, as you normally would. You go to class, see your friends and get to work on the next essay, or the next test or the next project – as you normally would.
You realize the fact that probably everyone has gotten a bad grade – your mom, your favorite professor, President Obama, Bill Gates and, dare I say it, even Beyoncé. And it seems like they’re doing okay.
It’s college, where things are more serious than in high school. But it’s college, where people get wasted on a Thursday night and show up to class the next day wearing sweatpants with pizza grease stains. Shit happens. One bad grade won’t kill you.
So, your next move is to make it up anyway you can. Attend a review session. Make flashcards. Go to office hours with your TA or your professor and ask how to improve your work. When I went to see my TA a few weeks ago about my essay, she realized she overlooked some aspects of it and actually bumped up my grade – this could be you! That bad grade does not define your academic career – what will define it is if you don’t do anything about it and let the same thing happen again.
2. Pulling an all-nighter
It’s 11 p.m. You have too much work to do so you decide to forego sleep and work all night. You down as much coffee or Red Bull as it takes you to get in the zone. You feel energized and ready to get down to business.
The trouble really starts at 4 in the morning. The energy you got from that caffeine has worn down and you feel yourself craving just one brief moment of shut-eye. It feels like it takes every ounce of strength left in you to keep your eyes open. You read the same paragraph over and over again, but you don’t understand anything. All you want is to go to sleep/burn your books.
This is NOT a good moment to hit. You can’t get anything done because you’re too tired. But then if you go to sleep now you might oversleep. There’s really no winning.
Getting through an all-nighter session, and realizing how draining it is, makes you realize the strain it takes on you mentally and physically, and how important it is to study for something in advance, so you avoid getting to parts of the night when you just want to die.
3. Having FOMO
With the rise in social media’s popularity, we can see what all of our friends, family, frenemies and I-talked-to-you-once-in-middle-school acquaintances are up to. But that means when you’re hanging out in your room on a Friday night, eating Chinese take-out, you get to see all these people and all the cool things they’re doing without you. It seems like they’re having more fun than you, eating better food than you and making more friends than you. You proceed to eat more of the Chinese food out of bitterness.
But then maybe you go out the next weekend, and you don’t have as much fun as you’d wish. You know that behind the smiley Instagram photos, are a bunch of really cold people standing outside and posing in the middle of winter. You realize that making conversations with people you don’t know are not the best things to be doing. You wish you were back in your comfortable jammies, in your warm room and re-watching Friends on Netflix for the umpteenth time.
Having that fear of missing out is normal for a lot of us, but getting preoccupied on such thoughts means we’re missing out on what we’re doing in the moment. Experiencing that anxiety but then realizing its inevitability means you’ve accepted that there’s always something fun to do, and you possibly can’t do all of it all the time, but it doesn’t mean you’re never going to do anything interesting. Sometimes going out is fun, and sometimes it’s gross and sweaty.
4. Making the wrong friends
If I had a dime for every person I met during orientation my first at college and then never saw again, I’d probably have enough money to buy a whole pizza (apparently pizza is a reoccurring topic in this article). At the time, I thought we’d hit it off and be BFFS, but then by the next week, I’d already forgotten their names. Sometimes it was because we weren’t in the same school or lived too far from each other; sometimes it was because our personalities didn’t mesh.
It can seem like a failure, to lose people you didn’t even have a chance to get to know. I sometimes think about people I met that first week and where they are now, and if we would’ve become friends if we had more classes together or spent more time with each other. But having it happen, it made me realize that I’m not going to be able to be friends with everyone and that sometimes two people just don’t vibe with each other and that’s okay.