I did the thing!
This post is contributed by Robyn J.
Hey everyone! Tomorrow I’m graduating and I never thought I’d ever get to this day.
For the first two years of my degree, I completely flunked. If you can even get a D and F average, I did just that. I ended up having to withdraw from classes and go into the Back on Track program after my GPA hit 1.5! I was ready to give up and drop out, but the BOT program really put things into perspective for me and allowed me to learn some crucial lessons. I went from a 1.5 GPA and withdrawing from courses, to finishing my honours thesis this past semester, getting on the honour roll 4 times, and finishing with a 3.3 GPA. So, I wanted to share just a few of the things that helped me gain control of my academics.
1. Focus on your mental health.
Have you talked to someone about how you’re feeling recently? Have you reached out to a friend? Do you think you’d benefit from professional help? PLEASE DO! It’s so easy to put your mental health on the back burner for the sake of your midterm grade, but I promise it’s not worth it. At the very least, reach out to someone and come up with a plan for how you can complete your assignments in a way that is both beneficial to your mental health and meets your deadlines.
2. Do you need a break?
If you’re finding that semester after semester you’re failing classes, can’t find the motivation to study, or feel like you need a break, then TAKE A BREAK. I don’t mean take Sunday off for self-care, I mean you may benefit from taking a semester off to breathe, think about why you’re not succeeding in your courses, and figure out a plan going forward. This seems daunting, but I did this and I’m graduating at the exact same time as my peers who didn’t take a semester off, and it truly helped me.
3. It isn't you, it's your courses.
This one may not apply to everyone, but it surely applied to me. While I failed or barely passed the vast majority of my lower-division courses, once I got into upper-division courses I began to average only A’s and A-‘s. I began to realize that a large reason as to why I wasn’t succeeding was because the lower division courses I was taking were not topics I was interested in but instead were just required courses I was trying to get through as soon as possible. Once I was able to take upper-division courses on topics I really enjoyed, I did so much better.
4. No, you are not the only one.
When I got into the BOT program all I could think was “who the hell gets into BOT? no one, I’m an idiot.” It wasn’t until I sat in on my first BOT class that I learned there were more than 500 students in my exact situation. The thing is, no one talks about their struggles, and no one talks about the classes they failed, because they are afraid that everyone else is doing so much better. Trust me, so many people are in your exact same situation. People are struggling, failing classes, staying up until 3am because they didn’t start their paper until the last minute, and people are getting into the BOT program! Just because no one is showing that they’re struggling, does not mean you’re the only one that is. Don’t allow yourself to think that there is something wrong with you, when almost everyone at SFU has faced the same issues.
5. The Student Learning Commons does actually help.
IM NOT JOKING. SERIOUSLY. When I was in BOT, we had weekly classes where different people from the SLC would come and give us advice. The most crucial advice I gained was on how to organize my schooling around my life. After that, I began to really ask myself whether or not I could handle the courses I wanted to take before I enrolled. Like, really, can you handle commuting to those 8:30am courses every weekday? Can you really handle taking 6 BPK courses while juggling a part-time job? Ask yourself whether or not you NEED to take on that amount of work, or if you’re doing it just to reach an invisible finish line for your degree that doesn’t even exist. You will benefit from taking courses that you KNOW you’ll be excited to take and study for, and that you KNOW you’ll be excited to attend.
6. You are not your grades.
Finally, the most important one. You know, at one point in my university career, I would beg the GPA gods to just give me a C so that I could pass. In my final semester, I cried when I got an A- instead of an A. It wasn’t until then that I realized just how much pressure I put on myself to make sure I got the best grades I could get, and I acted as if there was something wrong with me if I didn’t. No matter what grade you get, whether it be an F or an A-, they do not define who you are. My thesis supervisor said to me once: “I handed in my first draft for an academic article I wrote, and it was read over by three different people. The first person said it was amazing, the second person said it was shit, and the third said it should never be published.” Their experience reminded me that, not only do my grades not define me, but it is ultimately based on who your class is run by. You could write the most amazing paper, and there will always be one professor out there that will give you a C-. Don’t let that discourage you, because it doesn’t make your work any less amazing.
Alright, time for me to head out. If any of you are on campus tomorrow, listen for my name during the ceremony! And good luck friends! I am rooting for you.