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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Never Give Up

Myth #8

"It's better to drop a course rather than to risk a low grade."
"I just can't make it."
"No way I'm going to pass this class."
"This guy's the toughest professor I've ever had."
"She'll never give me a passing grade."
"I'm just not as smart as these brains."
"I don't have the background to survive in this course."
"This one's way over my head."

Reality #8

Never give up on a course.

Oftentimes you think you're being smart to cut your losses. But, if you've followed the other survival tips in this book, then I say never give up. Chances are better than even that if you've done your best, shown the professor you care, and all the rest-you will make it through. But I constantly hear of students wanting to drop courses for various reasons: Fear, self doubt, laziness, poor scheduling, and others.

The Chinese symbol for crisis has two characters: One means danger and the other opportunity. This is precisely where students who want to drop a class stand: on the horns of opposing solutions.

First, let's take danger. Despite your best efforts, you're in a course doing poorly. Things don't look good despite your best efforts. You're going to class, doing the work, but your performance in tests and papers is not meeting your expectations. Your professor is supportive, but no pushover. Looks like piles and piles of work to pull this one out. Danger with a capital "D" lurks about. So you think that maybe it's time to drop one.

Second, let's look at opportunity. Most teachers reward those who persevere. They actually do give (though sometimes invisible) points for effort. Everyone likes the student who keeps plugging away. I once got a "C" in a college German class because the professor called me a hard worker and a morale booster-I was amusing. According to my calculations, I should have gotten a "D," but I studied hard, hung in there, and entertained the class and professor, especially with my imitations of both a deep southerner and a Yankee pronouncing classic German.

Professors almost always curve the grades at the end of the semester, though many will deny it. The fact is that most teachers can't afford to have two-thirds of the class do poorly. It doesn't reflect well on the professor's competence.

So, here's my simple advice: Hang in there. Do your best and follow the other advice in the book. If you do that, you'll survive any course and any professor.

Survival Tips:

Don't be afraid of the professor. Often upperclass students will tell wild tales about certain professors whose reputations become legendary, even mythical. Before entering into the classroom, students are many times so overwhelmed by this reputation that they convince themselves that they can't possibly score an "A." Despite the stereotypes, most professors are "been there, done that" types. They have all bombed classes, experimented with life and its various detractors, and been in exactly the same position you're in now. Talk to them. Get their advice about whether it's wise for you to drop or not. Mostly, from my experience, I think they'll tell you to hang in there. Listen to them

Believe in yourself. Most of life's successes depend on confidence. In college, you can underline that. If you think you can-you will. If you think you can't-you won't. The best way to develop self-confidence is to think of the many things you've accomplished in the past that you might have had doubts about when you first began. I've found that discussing with students about the toughest thing they've ever learned, and how they overcame the fear and doubt, works very well. They begin to see how even learning to drive a car was daunting at first, but with practice-even a few accidents-they began to believe in themselves.

Check your assumptions. Sometimes you think, "What's the use? I'm already flunking." Maybe, maybe not. Get to the professor as soon as possible and ask how well you're doing. You may be shocked to find out that you're doing about the same as others in the class even though you think you're about to be shot at dawn. Don't assume anything.

Benchmark with other students. Benchmarking is what corporations do all the time to tell how they're doing. They look at the other companies' products and services and compare their own. Sometimes they find that they're better, other times they find they're worse. In either case, it helps to know where you are. Do that with fellow students. You'll often find that you're doing better than you think. Somehow this kind of check always gave me courage to plow ahead.

Quitters never win, and winners never quit. I know this sounds like another bumper sticker, but I believe it. Hanging in there is one of life's great lessons. There are a lot of ventures that you'll begin in your life and will want to quit early on, thinking, "I'll never get through this one." Learn to face that self-doubt bogeyman now because he will not go away.
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