Chances are good that if you’ve found yourself at this blog, you’re at something of a loss. You’ve tried and tried again to get your academic life back on the rails. You’ve failed, or you haven’t made the progress you wanted. Maybe you find yourself looking at long listicles and clickbaity lifehacks about how to do this or that other thing you struggle with.
Wanna know what I think of all that? I think it’s silly. Not necessarily the advice itself – I’m sure most of it is helpful for somebody out there. But there is no “one size fits all” approach to school. People are far too diverse. We have a vast array of experiences – different home lives, different points of view, even different brains and bodies that can all affect how we approach our school lives.
If you’re trying to use advice that wasn’t given with you in mind, it’s natural that it won’t work out. For some people, encouragement to push themselves is exactly what they need to get from point A to B. For others, that’s a recipe for winding up bedridden for days or weeks. We’re all unique, so our strategies and tactics must also be unique.
But how do you know, until you try, what advice is going to work for you and what won’t? The truth is, you probably won’t. So, I’m not going to focus so much on giving specific pieces of advice. Rather, this blog will focus on analysing situations and problem solving, with advice being a secondary function of walking through the problem solving process. I believe in working smarter, not harder.
Obviously, for this approach to work, you’re going to need to put a lot of effort in as well. If you’re looking for easy answers, you’re in the wrong place. But if you truly want to find methods and strategies that work for you, I ask that you do the following:
Be honest with yourself about your weaknesses and problems. If you’re just lazy, that’s fine – I’m not going to judge you. I want to help make things less stressful and more comfortable. If you have a genuine problem or illness, I don’t want you pushing yourself beyond your limits. Rather, I believe there may be a better way for you to work within them. And if you continue to try and realize the problem is school itself and not you, I won’t judge you for that either. Some people actually can’t or shouldn’t do it, and that doesn’t make you a failure or a bad person. We are all only human, after all. There are other, better opportunities out there for you.
Do not discount your strengths and talents, even if they don’t seem relevant. These are the things you can leverage to work through or around your problem areas. If you genuinely don’t believe you have any, consider asking someone to help you think of some, like a trusted friend or a therapist. If you’re good at organizing, for instance, you might be able to use that to work through anxiety. Or if you’re very creative, you can leverage that to help you understand difficult subjects better. Maybe if you’re great at getting along with others, you’ll have an easier time getting notes if you have to miss class.
Try to stick with it, even if you don’t believe in yourself. Maybe you won’t become a straight A student overnight, or ever. Maybe you won’t even become a straight C student anytime soon, depending on your starting point. That’s okay. You can only start from where you are. This is a judgement-free place. I believe that even a 1% improvement is something to be celebrated- it’s certainly more than 0%! And those percentages can add up, if you’re willing to be patient and keep trying. This can be hard if you’re coming from a place of hopelessness, especially if you’re not the only person who lacks faith in you. But I think people are inherently capable of amazing things.
We are rarely as in control as we think we are. But we are also rarely as helpless. I believe in you.