Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Mistakes, a part of the educational process

By Sara Cody

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There was a point in my academic career at the University of Massachusetts where I failed out of school, or was “suspended for academic deficiency” as SPIRE so eloquently put it.  I was the college cliché who behaved herself during high school and let loose in college. I had no idea how to control myself and how to discipline myself in order to strike a balance. I didn’t know my limits. Throughout my career at UMass, I have constantly been making mistakes and learning the hard way. So, in my senior column, I want to share all the advice I wish I received upon arriving to the University.

It’s important to know your limits and find your balance. This applies both to your social and academic lives. If you’re going out and partying with friends, it’s important to know how many drinks it takes before you lose control of yourself. Have a set number in mind that gets you to that good place. Partying is a part of the college experience, but it’s important to know your limits. It really sucks waking up in Cooley Dickinson Hospital covered in electrodes with IVs coming out of either arm because you let Mr. Jack Daniels get the better of you. It’s completely necessary to blow off steam, but don’t let it negatively affect your schoolwork.

Knowing your limits is important when it comes to school work and extracurriculars as well. Overwhelming yourself with too much to do is a recipe for disaster. I learned this the hard way. As a biology major my first couple years here, I was behind on the major requirements, so I tried to compensate by taking calculus and chemistry in the same semester, as well as three other classes. As a person who struggles with math, this proved to be too much for me. I ended up failing the calculus and chemistry classes and getting C’s in the other three classes I could have easily had A’s in. Make sure you balance your schedule with a workload that is doable for you. Don’t overwhelm yourself.

My own academic suspension was the direct result of not knowing my limits. I was put on academic probation twice; the first time for not knowing my limit with the amount of times I drank and partied, and the second time not knowing my limits with overloading and overwhelming myself with classes. I should have reached out for help as soon as I realized I was dangerously struggling, but I let it escalate to expulsion.

I was not ready to give up. With the help of my mentor, Peg Riley from the biology department, I petitioned for my reinstatement and was allowed back the following semester. If you don’t have someone like this in your life, reach out to your teachers and their teaching assistants, your RAs, your advisors – anyone who can help get you back on track. College is a learning experience. You should never be ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help. While I was lucky enough to get the chance to rectify my mistakes and graduate on time with the help and support of my mentor and family, I realize that a lot of people in similar predicaments aren’t so lucky. Don’t put yourself in that situation. Ask for help the moment you need it.

I don’t want you to think my entire experience at UMass was spent screwing up and trying to fix my mistakes. I was lucky enough to have the guidance to push me in the right direction. I can honestly say that I owe so much of my turnaround to the people I met once I involved myself in different activities. I learned that while having people to get wasted with is all well and good, the unfortunate truth of the matter is that a lot of the time that is all they’re good for. By getting involved with different activities, you meet people who share common interests with you, thus enabling you to have a deeper and more meaningful connection with them.

I began to get involved with the things that interested me, which initially kept me out of trouble and grew to inspire me to succeed. I’m interested in science, and I worked in Peg’s lab in Morrill for three years while on campus. I had the opportunity to work with some of the most intelligent and hard-working people, who in turn inspired me to get my life in order. I would not be graduating on time this semester if it were not for the support of them and my best friend, Gabrielle Bouton.

My senior year was the year I chose to get involved at the Collegian. My one regret is that I didn’t do this sooner. Again, I got the opportunity to work with some of the most inspiring people I have ever met, and I know I will continue to be friends with many of them for the rest of my life. I even met the love of my life, Jeff Larnard, working for the Collegian. I cannot emphasize how important it is to involve yourself, and how much I have grown as a person because I did it. It’s amazing how attached I’ve grown to everyone working at this paper in such a short time. I’d list their names, but you can just check out the glory box on page two of this paper to see the complete list of people who have lit up my life this year.

 I suppose the take home message of my column is that you are not defined by the mistakes that you make. Failure doesn’t make success impossible. Giving up does. When you think about it, some of the greatest stories ever told have come from people persevering after failure. Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard, Thomas Edison made thousands of prototypes before he perfected the light bulb. I like to think of my experience as an academic Cinderella story. As for you, I hope you enjoy the rest of your experience at UMass. Have fun. Work hard. Get involved. Make memories. We’re not kidding when we say the next however many years you have until graduation will fly by.

Sara Cody was the Collegian’s managing editor of DailyCollegian.com. She can be reached at [email protected]

1 Comment

One Response to “Mistakes, a part of the educational process”

  1. Emily on May 4th, 2010 6:33 pm

    This is beautiful writing.
    I’m so incredibly proud of you,
    and I CANNOT believe you’re graduating.
    Congrats, you earned it!

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