Kaydee Gawlik/Nubian Message
Anna Carlson | Correspondent
With finals season here, it may be dawning on some of us that we might not be finishing our classes with the grades we want or need. Whether you’re struggling to get past a C wall or you just need to pass a challenging prerequisite, there’s a chance you may fail—and that’s okay.
It’s hard to accept failure, though. In academic settings like NC State, where we’re constantly faced with academic challenges and competition with our peers, it’s hard not to beat yourself up when you’re not as successful as those around you seem.
Despite the social perceptions that exist around failure, everyone around you experiences it in one way or another. Your professors have failed. Your friends have failed. I have failed—and you will, too. Though once you learn to look at these losses in a positive light, your ability to learn from them grows immensely.
I came into NC State as a first-year engineering student and unsure of what I wanted to get out of my degree at all. All I knew was that I was pretty good at math and science and I loved design, so engineering was the direction I headed towards.
Throughout my first semester, though, I struggled beyond what I had expected. I had to learn how to study and manage my time in a completely different way from what I was used to in high school, and it was one of my hardest semesters because of that. I was discouraged when I looked around myself and saw other freshman thrive in their courses while I remained overwhelmed by the same classes.
When I came out of my calculus class with a D+, just short of the C- I needed to move on, I felt extremely defeated. It was hard to pick myself back up after that semester. Feeling like a terrible student, I wasn’t sure I would be successful in any of the classes that were most important to me.
Looking back on those first few months of college, however, though I failed in many aspects, I was able to learn more about myself. I better understood my learning style, and my perspective on what interested me degree-wise shifted significantly as well. I learned how to grow from setbacks like these and to see failure in a more positive light.
Daniel Soos, a second-year studying mechanical engineering, expressed his perspective on the value of experiencing failures of various kinds. “Whenever I got a test back that wasn’t satisfactory, not doing well just made me want to do better,” Soos said. “[This] got me into the mindset of ‘if something [isn’t successful], you can always do better on the next try.’”
Describing academic setbacks throughout high school and college as inspiration to persevere, Soos turns failures into the motivation needed to improve.
“You’re going to fail a lot of times in life,” Soos said, “but you can’t let that stop you.”
Maddy Giles, a third-year studying psychology, discussed her experience with moving on from failure, describing her first year of college at another institution in North Carolina as one of the most challenging years of her life. Coming in as an out-of-state student, Giles felt unwelcomed and out of place.
Even though she did very well academically, she expressed that she had failed because she did not fit in socially.
“No one liked me, because I was not from there,” Giles said. “I was different and they didn’t like that. They could tell by the way I talked, the way I dressed – they didn’t really accept that. So I socially failed [there]. I was by myself 95 percent of the day, the other five percent was my two classes per day.”
Once she realized that something needed to change, she transferred here to NC State, and things got a lot better. From this experience, she came to the understanding that how you react to failure significantly impacts how much you grow from it.
“You kind of have to figure out what defines coming back from failure,” Giles said.
Accepting failure as a reality that doesn’t decide your future or who you are allows you to grow from these setbacks. This growth isn’t possible, however, if you don’t make the continuous choice to see failure as a positive. Once you do this, you allow yourself to fully learn from your mistakes, opening up your future to more success than previously possible.