How to Not Fail at College: Advice From an Expert at Failing

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

By: Richard Leeds –

“Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

While college freedom may not quite compare with the civil rights movement, I am sure many of you were thinking this as you moved into your dorms at the end of August. I know it crossed my mind when I moved to Missoula five years ago to start college. But, to steal another powerful quote, “with great power (or freedom) comes great responsibility.”

Kids are always excited to become grown-ups. When you reach adulthood and head off to the great, unknown land that is college, suddenly you are your own master. Do you want to have pizza for every meal, or maybe a Coke with breakfast? Well, now you can! It’s ten o’clock and you should really get to bed, but Netflix just added the fourth season of that show you love. Your parents aren’t here to make you turn it off, so go ahead and hit that next button! Lili Edminson (l) and Sydni Seder (r) You are free to do as you please, but you have to be responsible with this new freedom, because taking too many liberties can really come back to get you.

All through my elementary and high school days I missed maybe one full day of class, excluding extracurricular activities. I was always at school, though many days I did not want to be. Once I got to college, I quickly realized that I didn’t really have to go to these classes anymore. My parents weren’t there to send me out the door. There was no principal or truancy officer to come looking for me. I was paying for these classes, so it was completely my decision whether or not I would go. If I didn’t like a professor or was bored with a subject, I would just not go to class. Sometimes my reason to skip class was as silly as not wanting to miss Deal or No Deal that day. I would always come up with an excuse.

Now, I’m not sure if it was when I was sitting through basic math for the second time or sitting though freshman writing for the third time that I realized the consequences to my actions. Missing class means that you don’t pass, and when those classes are required to have a degree, you get to do it all over again.

If I can offer only one piece of advice to incoming freshmen, it is this: do not skip class. No matter how lame the subject is, and no matter how annoying the professor may be, do not skip class.

If I can offer a second piece of advice, it is this: make sure that even though you need to take your classes seriously (and go to them—I can’t stress that enough), you need to find time to relax as well. Whether you join one of the many clubs that Rocky has to offer, go get coffee with friends at one of the local shops, or even just make time to hide under your blankets with a bag of popcorn and Internet Explorer tuned into Netflix, you need to have some time to relax, too. If you overload yourself, you’ll find yourself snapping.

You cannot take 21 credits, and try out fencing, and work extra hours building the set for the fall semester plays. Not that I’ve tried (and failed) to do that exact thing. With a workload that heavy, you eventually start to believe that seeing what whacky deals Wayne Brady is going to offer today is more important than learning how to cite sources. And as anyone working on a degree can tell you, it really isn’t. You need to set time aside to work and rest your mind, or else you may find yourself giving up that valuable class time to meaningless endeavors, simply because you cannot handle another day in that classroom.

As young adults, we all want freedom. I know I sure did. But take it from someone who has been through it all: if you let it, that same freedom that promised you the moon will turn around, slap you in the face, and make you take freshman writing three times. Do not let your newfound freedom do that to you. Embrace it lovingly, and it will help you succeed at school. Let it go wild, and it will help you to fail.

Trust me, I’m an expert.

Rocky Mountain College senior Richard Leeds poses for the camera photo by Kasha Caprata

Rocky Mountain College senior Richard Leeds poses for the camera
photo by Kasha Caprata

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *