My transition from a local, public high school to a STEM, residential school nearly two hours from my parents, taught me a lot about myself and how to interpret the advice I’m given. Given that this is a program for the top students from many schools around the state, with varying levels of opportunity and rigor, it was a huge adjustment. At my old school, I easily stood out in the classroom and in my extracurriculars, but now I am surrounded with everyone else who is used to being at the top.
During orientation for the program, the staff and students, who would become my peers, explained how we were no longer the top students in our respective classes, and that we would finally find academic challenges in our school experience surrounded by students we were similar to.
New School = New Expectations?
We were told “this is the most rigorous program in the state…you can expect to fail sometimes and that’s okay”. I understand that failure of some degree is imminent and that it causes growth. Does that mean I didn’t cry and call my mom when I nearly failed my first math quiz? No, I definitely did. I considered this a slip in my experience, but I doubted my place in the program often. Fortunately, I got my act together quickly, and I promised myself I would work twice as hard. This year was exhausting for me, mentally, emotionally and physically, but regardless of how tired I was, I never allowed myself to make excuses.
I am capable of success, even when it’s not easy!
The last thing I wanted was to expect myself to be less successful, now that I am in a more taxing environment. Peers told me that it was normal if I failed a test or made my first B in a class, because I was still adapting to being independent. I didn’t like this attitude at all. Why should I settle for something less than my best, simply because I was being challenged? I saw some of my friends begin to adopt this attitude of “well…it’s okay if I don’t do well because it’s hard”. Honestly, this mindset is likely to increase the frequency of failure, because you’ve stopped working against it. Accepting the occurrence of failure as an opportunity to grow is much healthier and beneficial than allowing failures by expecting less of yourself.
Try, Fail. Work Harder, SUCCEED.
As I finish up my junior year of high school, I remain terrified of being considered a failure, by myself or someone I love, but I am no longer afraid of failing. It doesn’t matter if I failed my first math quiz, because I worked harder to prove myself for the rest of the year – and I was actually chosen to be a tutor next year! Individual subpar events don’t mean much when you focus on the bigger picture. It is extremely important to establish standards and expectations for yourself, independent from outside influence. Remember to push yourself to be the best possible version of yourself, and know that failing at one thing doesn’t define you, but gives you resilience.