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What I learnt from failing a university module


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Earlier this year, I received 35% on a university assignment: a fail. In my postgraduate degree, module assignments don’t balance out. Any fail is a fail. This is what I learnt from it.

Back in May, I completed some coursework which I unfortunately failed. There are probably many reasons for this; I’m not going to blame my failing on anything but myself, so let’s talk about why. 

Image Credit: Pixabay
Image Credit: 3844328 on Pixabay.

Subject Matter of the Essay  

So, first things first - sociology. I have never studied sociology before, so to complete my first essay in the subject in my fourth year of university was a big leap. The structure to it is pretty much like psychology essays, which I really struggled with in sixth form. When it all came up again, it threw me a little. I didn’t particularly find the unit interesting, which obviously played a huge part in my engagement with it; in all honesty, I wasn't interested in the topic at all. As is the same for many people, I definitely don't perform well in essays that I’m not as interested in. To make matters worse, I picked a difficult essay topic, and well, the rest is history.

Mental Health  

Another huge influence on my low grade was my depression. I’m not sure whether it’s the medication or the illness itself, but brain fog is horrendous; my mind is jumbled and I can’t think straight. I’d have an idea but it would lie there and get stale. Nothing would flourish, I had no ideas and couldn’t really think outside the box.

It might be a bit of a dramatic comparison but think of it like this: an ice skater can’t really skate without skates. They could go on the ice with normal shoes and slip about, but it wouldn’t be anything like their normal performance, however hard they tried. It’s kind of the same with writing. Your brain is your tool and when it’s affected by an illness, it’s hard to perform to the best of your ability. When I read that essay back, I knew it wasn't amazing, but I just couldn’t do anything about it.

Well, there was one thing I should have done - I could have spoken to someone about it. My doctor did inform me that, as I was still in the early stages of my treatment, I could, in fact, apply for special circumstances and extra time. However, I was almost too ashamed to come forward. I didn’t really think I was applicable - I felt as though it would be unfair on those who truly needed it. Despite this, I didn’t speak to any lecturers or course mates about my concerns. In fact, I didn’t really speak to anybody. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it on my own, without listening to anyone else's ideas or suggestions. 

The importance of taking help when you need it 

The thing is, though: you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for extra help, especially when you need it. Medication doesn’t make you weak, however, it does make some things slightly harder than before.  

Author Og Mandino famously said in The Greatest Salesman, "Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough". I love this quote; you can only be knocked back by failure if you allow it. It does hurt; getting knocked back can be damaging, but it can also make you stronger. I feel like I've spent my whole life ‘failing’. I was never the best at school; I got Bs and Cs when everyone else got As and A*s. I went to a polytechnic university when everyone else went to a red brick university. However,  I’ve got to where I am today through lots of determination and I’m not going to let one bad grade get me down.

The thing is, failure is just an opportunity to succeed again. I can try again once I am feeling better. Don’t let anything, especially mental health, hold you back.

If you are struggling with mental health issues at university, contact your GP or wellbeing service. Find out more information about depression here: Mind // The Mix 

Lead Image Credit: 3844328 on Pixabay.


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