My first exam of university was for Psych 1000 and I got a 47%.
Everybody around me had received a better grade, and I was embarrassed, disappointed, and felt like I would never succeed in university. The catch was, I didn’t learn from my mistake and do better. I barely scraped by the rest of the course, passed with a 60%, and then decided to add a major in psychology.
The thing about failure in university is that we are inclined to compare ourselves with the academic successes of others, and not that of ourselves. Every time exam season comes around and grades are released on Student Centre, all we hear is “What did you get?” and honestly, why does that matter? If we are all unique individuals who possess different learning styles, how can we compare ourselves to the academic successes of our peers?
I wish this was a post about how I was bad at multiple choice exams in first and second year, learned how to study, and then ended my fourth year with a 4.0 GPA and moved onto a masters program. But this is not that post, and the truth is, I still fail everyday. In an academic institution that is biased towards certain learning styles, not all students are set up to be as successful as they can possibly be. We all have incredible potentials, and the hard truth is that this environment benefits the academic success of certain individuals more than others.
This post I’m writing is not to say that I am ungrateful to have the opportunity be here, or that failures should be ignored. It’s important to process your failures, understand and learn from them, and continue to fail in the future. I’ve lost count of the number of multiple choice exams I’ve written on this campus, and my grades have fluctuated tremendously over the past four years. Some students struggle more to memorize facts and dates than others, and have to work harder when put in the position of writing an exam set up in that way. That’s the reality of institutional learning and our education system, and maybe one day, as educators, we can change that.