To be blunt: college hit me like a ton of bricks, and I know I’m not the only one.
Coming to Clemson, I was completely unprepared for the workload, the amount of hours needed to put in for each class, and the ability to balance taking care of myself and school. I never needed to study in high school and, unfortunately, this came to bite me in the butt during my first semester of college. No matter how late I stayed up studying or how many hours of brainpower I put in, I wasn’t connecting with the material in front of me; something just wasn’t clicking.
I entered into my college career as a Language and International Health major, convinced I was going to go overseas and open medical clinics for children. After taking a couple of classes, I realized my conception of the major was very wrong and that it wasn’t the one for me. The combination of taking too many hours, being in the wrong major and no educational discipline, the inevitable happened: I failed a class and got so low of a GPA that I was put on Academic Probation.
Even though I felt like a failure at the time, I had to learn that my worth was not in my grades and my performance wasn’t everything. Beating myself up for not doing well in subjects that my brain wasn’t wired for was useless. It’s like that old saying, “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”. I was a fish and Language and International Health was my tree.
There is hope—that isn’t the end of the story. After that semester, I went to the Academic Success Center for help with organization tips, tutoring and advice on what to do next. I went Undeclared for a month, thinking about what I wanted to do. That was when I realized that choosing a college major was something that takes time—it is a big decision for an 18 or 19 year old! In the end, I chose English as my major because I genuinely enjoyed the subject and now, two and a half years later, I’m graduating a semester early from Clemson.
I assure you that it is not the end of the world if you fail a class. In some ways, it can make you more disciplined in your studies and, sometimes, it can lead you to another major where you can excel. I’ve included some tips and tricks that I’ve learned along the way that helped me to graduate early:
Pick the Right Major for You
I cannot stress this fact enough: pick a major that you genuinely enjoy. Odds are, you’re going to be doing it for the rest of your life and you might as well love what you do. I’ve had friends who picked a major because that was what their parents did, only to find in the midst of it that they actually hated it. Another friend felt the need to stay in a major that he absolutely hated because he received a specific scholarship for it. In the end, he didn’t do well in the classes because he didn’t enjoy the major, forcing him to switch, and he hasn’t regretted it since. While there are many different reasons to stay in a major, paying to do something that you hate is not worth it. Find something that you genuinely enjoy or that you are good at and do it!
Do Your Research!
Clemson’s DegreeWorks, located in iRoar, has become my best friend. It tells you exactly what requirements are needed in order to graduate in a convenient list. Glance over it to see what you need and take note of classes that can count for two requirements—they call it “double-dipping.” By taking some of these classes, I managed to knock out some requirements more quickly, saving both time and money.
Course Load Can (and Will) Make a Difference
Choosing to do one more class than you need is, in theory, a good thing. It shows that you’re thinking ahead and, hey, maybe by senior year you’ll only need a handful of requirements. This kind of reasoning, however, is often what gets students in trouble. Being in too many classes adds an extraordinary amount of work including studying, tests, finals and projects. Fifteen to sixteen hours is the average amount for students and is a good place to stop. Focus on doing well in the few classes that you have instead of doing poorly in a ton of classes.
Sometimes you do what you have to do. One of these things includes summer classes. While the thought of tainting sweet summer memories with the idea of doing school work, students have more time to focus on classes during the summer. I had to take classes over the summer to save my scholarships from my freshman year educational debacle. While the price tag wasn’t great, I was able to focus and get the good grades that I needed.
Hopefully these tips were beneficial in some degree to help you to become the student that excels. Remember fishies, stay away from trees!