Why Do Intelligent Students Fail And Does Failing Make You A Better Student?

Last year I experienced something new; I failed not one, not two, but three of my nine classes. I had made it through three years of my degree unscathed, occasionally having to push myself harder than I would like, but all in all a successful few years. And then I got to my fourth year of veterinary school and overnight the intensity level of the course sky rocketed.

What surprised me was my response to the upped intensity. Out of the blue I found myself scared of failing and that fear only made things ten times worse; instead of studying on a daily basis like I had been doing for three years, I started to make excuses for why I didn’t need to study that day. Before I knew it I was way behind on my study plan and I felt overwhelmed and yet I still didn’t get stuck in.

In hind-sight I can reason that I kept procrastinating because of this fear of failure. If I never gave it 100%, I could tell myself that I didn’t really fail because I wasn’t giving it my all.

But the consequences of this procrastination were crippling. The stress that I felt for the months leading up to my exams affected my sleep patterns, my inmune system and my eating habits. I was caught in a viscious circle of stressing because I wasn’t prepared to the point of being unable to concentrate on the material I needed to learn and as a result, I stressed myself more because I physically couldn’t calm down enough to study.

When I got my results back, I cried for a solid afternoon; I couldn’t believe I had been so idiotic to let it get away from me. I was angry with myself for not staying on track.

In the short term failure has a strange effect; your natural instinct when you fail is to “abandon ship”. Your brain essentially tells you to give up and do whatever you want because you’ve already failed. It’s the same reason why when on a diet if you slip up and eat something unhealthy, instead of brushing it off and getting back on track, people generally tell themselves they’ve completely ruined their diet and then proceed to eat a whole bag of cookies!
Failure then proceeds to warp how you view future obstacles. You start to believe that your goals are unattainable and as a result you put in less effort and are more likely to fail, thereby trapping yourself in a cycle.

In the long term however, failure is the key to success. Failure is just another skill you have to master, it’s just another thing you must learn to overcome.
Failing whilst you’re in school, whether it be high school, college or university, simply teaches you earlier on to pick yourself up and brush yourself off.
I can guarantee that there will be several, possibly hundreds of failures in any given person’s life. However depending on how you handle it determines whether you turn it into a learning opportunity or an excuse to crash and burn.
It’s only through our mistakes and failures that we learn, that we become more efficient and more adaptable people.

Last year I failed a third of my classes. Now I’m not going to deny that it doesn’t still annoy me and that I’m not frustrated that I have to do an extra semester to retake those classes, BUT it is also the thing that is pushing me to work harder this year, the lesson I repeat to myself when I’m feeling a bit lazy and want to skip a study session. Nowadays, at the first sign of apathy, my brain spits out five words that light a fire under my arse: “Remember what happened last year?”

Failure is not the end of the world, we all fail and in fact some of the most successful people have failed the hardest. But then because of those failures, they went on to succeed more than most. Failure will help to make you a smarter, well-rounded person, so don’t let it hold you back.