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Finally, I’m starting to write my college essay. I don’t know what is hard, constructing it or trying to think of my achievements, I was raised to be modest about my achievements, whatever they might be. Applying for college is nothing but bragging, and it makes me uncomfortable. Every college essay you are likely to see it entails achievements from top to bottom, that’s not me!
Not yet, I don’t have it all figured it out. I’m still getting myself around this thing called adulthood. Those applicants who have already tasted far-reaching success are well-formed as people. They already know what works and see no reason to change. Why should they? They already have an invention in advance. They have life figured out, or sincerely believe they do. They are wrong. There is no better teacher than failure.
Think about it for a second. Wisdom is what you get from experience. Experience is what you get from failure. The transitive property works out from there. I know this because I failed, and it turned me around in a way that modest or even spectacular success could not have. If I can tell you, I was the first in the race but one slightest mistake I took my eyes off from the race before I knew it I slowed down and there I was a D.
Getting a D probably isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it’s not something anyone wants to see, let alone put, on a college application. It came back to me, scrawled in red, on my mid-year exam. The one the teacher had assured us was a third of our grade. I could already see my chances of a four-year college-going up in smoke before it even began.
What happened? I’m not a D student. I’ll get the occasional B, as well as the occasional A. D’s, is out of character for me, and enough of a stomach punch to really get my attention. The short version is, I didn’t study hard as I should have, and I don’t remember precisely why. There is always a reason not to study, isn’t there? I didn’t study and I went into an exam woefully unprepared and got beaten up.
I had two options here. I could accept that I was, in fact, a D student despite what I had thought. Or I could study hard for the next test and try to bring my grade up by the force of the average. I realized something pretty important: while I had already forgotten the reason I didn’t study, I never forgot the grade. Thus, the grade itself was far more important than whatever it was I was doing instead.
Imagine, instead, if I had gotten a C or even a B. It would have taken sheer, blind luck, but it could have happened. If this had happened, if I had succeeded rather than failed, I would have learned nothing. Or, at the very least, I would have learned that I didn’t have to study, which is the opposite of what any college-bound senior should learn.
I chose to work harder. By my failure, that D, I had already learned the consequences of not studying. At the end of the year, I got a better grade than I should have, based on strict averages. The teacher weighted improvement over other concerns. Those who buckled down and worked harder as the year progressed were rewarded. In essence, my hard work paid off twice over. Had I not failed, I would have learned nothing. I might have done much worse on my finals since I ‘knew’ studying was not important. Instead, by failing, I was able to write my course. Going into college, I have concrete experience with just how important hard work can be.
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