I applied to a graduate school a couple of weeks ago. This required reviewing and requesting copies of all my college transcripts. There is a question on the graduate school application that specifically asks if I’d ever been dismissed from a college program. I had to answer “Yes” because I was.
There is definitely shame and anguish associated with this fact from my past. I was a straight “A” student in high school. I did everything correctly. I took home numerous awards for playing the piano perfectly. I won many debate matches. I placed in the state finals of the Academic Decathlon.
I was also utterly and completely unprepared to venture out into the real world my first year of college. I’d never even considered the possibility that I could fail at anything. I thought I was invincible. I was, however, absolutely socially inept. I decided that I had to learn how to connect with others if I was going to survive. Somehow in my eighteen-year-old brain that included going out anytime anyone asked me to do anything rather than staying home and studying. I knew I wasn’t performing to my capacity in school but I reasoned that I was smart enough to study like mad just before finals and that as a worst case scenario I might get a few “B”s.
I signed up for an 8 am French class in my first semester. All my life I knew that I would love Paris, that I had some kind of strange affinity for all things French. Manifesting my dream of living in Paris one day would certainly require speaking French so I added it onto an already full course load.
To suddenly be in a position where I was the only one responsible to get myself up out of bed at 7 am to make a class that wasn’t required for my Major confounded me. I learned that I really could stay out late the night before and sleep through class. I discovered boys and beer! Halfway through my first semester my midterm grade in this 8 am French class was a “C”. I ‘d never in my life earned a “C”. So I did what any responsible college freshman would do, I dropped the class and continued my pursuit of boys and beer.
That first “C”, that entry level “C” eventually led to my first “F” then to the first notice that I was being put on probation then eventually to the letter that informed me that I was no longer welcome at the University of North Dakota.
I was devastated but strong enough to pull myself together and find a way to get back into school. My parents instilled in me the belief that a college education was my ticket to a better life.
I joined the Army National Guard for the educational benefits, reapplied, and was accepted back into school. I worked hard and graduated with a degree in Mathematics. Even though I graduated with a dismal 2.9 GPA I still managed to get interviews when I graduated and I’ve done well in my career.
I had to write an essay about my dismissal from college on my graduate school application. I know now that failing out of college was preparation for the fact that I would fail over and over again in my life. Everyone who takes chances and goes after the life they want has failed; it’s simply part of the equation. The key is to learn from each and every failure and to move forward wiser but still willing to risk failure again.
I know that I will have failures in my future just as I did in my past. I also know that I AM strong enough and resourceful enough to overcome them, to learn from them, and to continue to take risks in my quest for my own truth.