I never thought I could learn so much from failing.
This was a hard lesson to learn, especially when I was still in high school mode, where all I cared about was boosting my GPA.
We’ve all failed—or at least struggled—with certain subjects in school, which makes it easy to then give up and decide, “I’m not a ____ person.” That absolves you from trying, which keeps you from failing, which prevents you from learning.
But I didn’t come to Swarthmore to continue doing the things I excelled at—otherwise, college would be just an expensive summer camp.
Swarthmore’s pass/fail semester (which applies to all first-year students) meant that I could spend time on myself, like taking that seminar in philosophy, a topic I thought I’d never study. I could spend my time with new friends, maybe get into a relationship, and exercise to maintain my health, all without the dreaded grades pressuring me.
College is the time to take risks by exploring courses in topics you don’t understand, in topics you aren’t sure you like, and in topics that appear beyond your grasp.
Many students who come to Swarthmore spent their high school career working hard to get a perfect GPA. My advice is: make sure you get a B, and do it early. Once you do, you’ll stop worrying about a perfect GPA because it’ll no longer be attainable.
Challenge yourself and fail, so you can learn. Only then will you be free to get an education.