That First Fail

Summer quickly rolls to an end as we speak, or as I write, rather. My second year at Rutgers awaits me with new classes, new opportunities, and new challenges. Going back to my first year should only increase the amount of stress and anxiety I currently feel about reentering college after three-and-a-half months, but in fact, I believe it would be necessary, enjoyable in fact, to put down this particular experience that I did not quite expect in order to give you incoming freshmen a more detailed idea of what to expect, and also for me, and you upperclassmen, to relive the ridicule!

Needless to say, there will be classes that make you feel like a hopeless beggar waiting on the streets asking for anyone to give you an A. While most of my classes were enjoyable, there were a few classes that gave me quite a rude awakening (Expos, anyone?) In high school, English classes weren’t totally exciting for me, but they were more of the “fun” variety where I could write about books I personally enjoyed reading, and where I even got some slack if I didn’t exactly meet the page requirement or the Works Cited Page format.

But in Expos, the word “slack” is as true as your professor giving you an A even if you never show up to class and write no papers for them: it doesn’t happen! Five pages means five pages, and answering the question they give you for each essay means you must do it. And summarizing the texts is an absolute no-no! I still vividly remember the night of Friday, September 25, 2015, when I was about to go home for the weekend, all heads-up, confident, ready to rule the world at my new college that I was now well-adjusted to, walking to the car outside my dorm with broad shoulders and a big movie-star like smile, getting in and ready to head off, when my dad suddenly asked me as I entered the car, “Son, how did you do in that Expos essay?”

UH OH! Why? Why did he have to ask me that? Turns out, in all my pride, I completely forgot about the first essay my professor returned to me earlier that day, the essay that had on the last page two big letters I never thought I’d see, especially within the first few weeks: NP! Nice performance? No! Near perfect? No! Needs praise? NO!

Not pass? Finally got something right!

Even this would have been considered calm compared to the way I felt.

I had failed my first essay, with a capital N and P! I wondered how this could happen, and why so quickly! It hit me so suddenly, like a lightning bolt, and I forgot all about it until my dad had to remind me! Looking back now, I realize the mistake I had made was not only ignoring directions by misreading the essay question and summarizing the texts too much, but in thinking that I was any safer than anyone else in experiencing this. I thought I was immune to it, and that all the warnings the upperclassmen in my dorm had given would somehow not apply to me. Had I anticipated that I could potentially go through this, I would have worked much harder on the first essay and wouldn’t have had to struggle later.

While I did find help at the Plangere Writing Center in Murray Hall with my future papers, and I did manage to pull off an A on my fifth and last one through consistent attendance at my professor’s office hours, to this day, I wonder how things could have turned out differently for my first-year college experience had I not taken the warnings of Expos for granted.

I don’t mean to intimidate future students, because I did find a new way of seeing the world through my overall Expos experience, and it definitely taught me more quickly about the difference in level of commitment to college academics vs. that in high school. To those of you who AP’d out of Expos, congratulations and all the best for your future classes! To those of you who thought Expos was a breeze and enjoyable the minute you walked in, my hats off to you! But for those of you who have to take it in the future, don’t be disappointed and upset if you’re hit suddenly like I was. You will learn a lot, and things will get better with the right help and guidance, which is always available, usually for free at Tutoring Centers around campus. To be honest, nothing gets me more motivated now to work harder than the embarrassing memory of that first fail.


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