Being Thankful… For Failing

01/11/2013 § 7 Comments


Tis the start of the season when we begin to list all the things we are thankful for: Tofurkey, pajama skinny jeans, NFL Sunday tickets, and failing a class in library school.

I know, you probably said, “pajama skinny jeans, really?” but they’ll come in handy on Turkey Day, trust me. More importantly, this post is about being thankful for some of the obstacles we might face during our graduate studies. In particular, it’s about what happens when a set-back like failing a class actually turns out to be the saving grace that motivates you through the remainder of library school.

Now, a quick disclaimer: this post is not meant to downplay library students who are able to successfully balance many responsibilities without having to fail a class, nor is it to excuse the act of failure. The purpose of this post is simply this: you and I will fail at some point in our lives and that’s okay, but how you choose to make that failure work for you is what counts. Failing and giving up are not one and the same.

Here is my story…

By the time the 2013 spring semester rolled around, I was nearing the halfway mark of my program. I started in the summer of the previous year and trudged on through the fall and spring semesters, taking core courses in combination with an elective. I was well underway into the new semester, when I realized that I was becoming exhausted trying to balance my school load with priorities at home and work.

No longer able to properly focus, my school work suffered. Towards the latter end of the semester, I turned in late assignments that were often incomplete and then I simply stopped doing the work all together. My student life slowly unraveled and all I could do was wait for the posting of my final grades. Barely passing my elective, I had failed the core class.

I discussed my situation with the graduate advising office, my advisor, and the financial aid office. I made the decision to take the summer off and made a commitment to myself that I would return in the fall of this year.

My GPA did fall below the program’s requirements and I was immediately placed on academic probation. At Florida State University, this meant that I had one semester to turn my grades around, raise my GPA above 3.0 or I’d get dismissed from the program.

Note, however, that there is a fundamental difference between failing at something and giving up on something. When you fail, you have two choices: try again or quit. Fellow HLS writer Nicole Helregel emphasized the importance of perseverance when she wrote in her recent blog post Obstacles & How to Deal with Them, “Do not see these instances as failures, but rather as learning opportunities that can help you in the future.” Instead, hold yourself accountable and figure out if it’s time for a break, or to revise your current program track.

If you feel that you are in need of a break and it shows in your work, consider these three action steps before deciding to take a break or even leaving the program:

1. Speak with your advisor or graduate advising office and ask them:

  • Will I be placed on academic probation?
  • If so, what are the requirements that I need to meet the following semester in order to lift the probation period?
  • Do I need to fill out paperwork requesting my extended leave from school?

2. Speak with your financial aid department and ask them the following:

  • Will I keep my aid if I take a semester off?
  • Can it only be done in certain semester, like the summer term?
  • Will my aid still be available when I return?
  • Will a hold be placed on my aid?

3. Speak with someone in your support circle: a friend, parent, colleague, professor, mentor, spiritual guide, or anyone who is aware of your situation and can help you brainstorm solutions.

Once you have confirmed that a semester off does not affect your standing in the university or your aid. Take the break. Give yourself time to reflect, recharge, and refocus. Learn about how to improve time management in library school or try something else entirely and make this momentary setback work for you.

So what are some of the obstacles you’ve encountered in library school? What advice would you give to others who might face a similar challenge? Are you too, a fan of pajama skinny jeans?

Be sure to comment below.

Find me on Twitter @msbooksy or if you need some hearty advice on this topic, email me at msbooksy [at] gmail [dot] com.

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