Frankly Speaking – 5/19/14

Dear Frank,

I was academically dismissed from the college I was attending and it hit me really hard – to the point that I ended up taking about a year off from school in general. This past October I decided to get back on the horse and try to boost my GPA so I could apply for readmission. Now that I have submitted my application I am starting to feel like I might not be able to do this after what happened last time. Do you have any advice on this type of situation?

First of all, I want to congratulate you for “getting back on the horse.” I use the same mantra for the patients I work with, the athletes I coach, and as a general reminder for both myself and others: Not succeeding is not failure, quitting is. As long as you are still trying, then you have not failed and success is still attainable.

There is likely a reason (or multiple smaller reasons) why you were not successful on your first go around. Despite what many people begin to think about themselves, it probably has absolutely nothing to do with your intellectual ability. Colleges do their due diligence when it comes to who they accept. It is in their best interest to accept those that they believe will be successful at their school. That you were accepted and enrolled the first time indicates that you demonstrated the necessary abilities.

However, not everyone experiences success right away, whether that be in college, a new job, or just about anything else you can imagine. The key is figuring out what factors prevented you from being as successful as you could have been the first time. Without proper reflection on what did not work the first time and why, you are setting yourself up to repeat the same mistakes.

There are many differences between high school and college and sometimes it takes students some time to adapt to those. For example, the amount of work and amount of studying required can change drastically from high school to college. You’re also now thrust into a very independent environment, likely for the first time, and must navigate academics in addition to roommates, the social scene, extracurricular activities, potentially being away from home for the first time, among many other things. These are a lot of things, all very important, to have to learn how to navigate all at once.

Understand that college is a learning process. Yes you will learn content in your classes, but it also is an opportunity to push yourself. To expand beyond who you were, what you knew, and what you used to be able to do. Receiving some poor grades the first time around is likely no reflection on your intellectual abilities. Rather it may serve as a (perhaps not-so-gentle-) reminder that you have many more things to be responsible for and there is a learning curve associated with that.

Also recognize that, although it is an environment in which opportunities present themselves to learn how to be independent, this does NOT mean you must learn how to do it on your own. Seek out support from others, including the services available through the school in addition to friends and family. Just as you are doing now, continue to ask others for advice as specific situations arise. Don’t expect to know every answer. The trick is more about being able to ask for help. My guess is, the first time around when you felt things beginning to slip, you kept it more to yourself rather than ask for help from others. Personally, I can remember calling up my mother the first weekend I was ever away at college, standing in front of the washing machine and asking her, “Okay, how do I do this laundry thing?” Sometimes, the difference between failure and success is one tiny piece of information.

Some of the most successful athletes have not made every team they ever tried out for. Some of the most successful businessmen and women were not a success at their first business venture. Sometimes, I truly believe, being successful the first time you try something is more about luck than skill. Sticking with something in the face of adversity, learning from your mistakes, and showing improvement each time around: THAT is success.


“Frankly Speaking” is a weekly segment on this blog that provides an opportunity for my readers to ask questions aimed at better understanding themselves, others, or their relationship with others. Each week I will select some of those questions to answer here. As you can see, the askers of those questions remain anonymous.

To submit a potential question for future installments, the only thing that I ask is that you first become a fan of my Facebook page. “Like” my page, and then send me a private message with your question(s). Until next week!

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