This past semester I was faced with the decision as to whether or not to drop a class. Im a graduate student and the class was an advanced course on a subject that I wasnt very good at. In fact, it had been about 10 years since I had study the topic as part of my undergraduate degree and frankly, I was happy to have passed that class then by the skin of my teeth.
But I wanted to learn this subject and I really wanted to try, however I was afraid. Afraid of failing and what that would mean. The fact is, the subject was in my major, so I ought to at least be able to pass it, right? Afraid that it would hurt my GPA. Afraid that if I didnt get at least a B, my company wouldnt pay the tuition. Perhaps, my boss would find out.
What does it mean if I fail? It doesnt mean much. It certainly doesnt mean that you arent good or cant be good at something. There are plenty of things that were really hard in the beginning, but over time I got much better at them. It may however, mean that you dont have the background education needed to be successful in the course. If you fail, maybe it simply means that you bit off more than you can chew. Anyone should be able to live with that.
Take the money out of the equation. For me, despite my fears, I really wanted to try. What made it easier for me was to take the money out of the equation. Assume for a moment that I wouldnt get a B and Id have to cover the entire tuition. Or, lets say I withdrawal late in the semester, and would have to pay the bulk of the tuition. Okay, if I just assume that I would pay the tuition, then that will take quite a bit of pressure off. And I can just focus on the course and not worry about the money.
You have options. You could stick with the course and if late in the semester you realize you are going to get less than a C, you could always take a W and not hurt your GPA. If have a scholarship that depends on the number of credits you are required to take, you could always make it up in the summer. Again, if you take the money out of the equation, you have options.
You could also choose to take the prerequisite course(s) and build up to that course. You could wait and take the course from another instructor or take the course at a community college. But again, you have options.
Its like running a marathon. If, as I did, you decide to go for it, know that it will be difficult and at times agonizing. I was constantly debating about whether to drop. I just couldnt get it out of my head. It felt like running a marathon where your brain is always trying to get you to quit. What worked for me was to come up with a plan and to stick to it.
My plan. I knew the drop dates, so I knew when was the last day I could withdrawal without hurting my GPA. I was utterly committed to do my best until that date. At that time I would review my grade thus far; talk to the professor and then make a decision. Until then, I would do my absolute best and no matter what, not give up. I planned out my study schedule and committed to working days; nights and weekends. I started a study group and after each exam, I reviewed what went well and what didnt go so well. I then adjusted my plan to prepare for the next exam.
What happened to me. After the first exam, I was sure I was going to fail. I felt I would be lucky to get a C, but really at that point I was sure that I would withdrawal and had to keep fighting with myself to not just drop now and put myself out of this misery. However, I stuck with it and tried figure out what I would do differently for the next exam. For example, Id meet with the TAs more; I would spend more time on the problems in the book rather than reading the chapters and so on. And low and behold, on the next exam I did much better. As I got further into the course, it became apparent that I would pass and that a B wasnt so out of reach. At the end of the day, I got a B+.
I was exhausted at the end and was happy to have gotten through it. While I would still say that I am not very good at this topic, I did learn so much and proud that I overcame my fears and passed.