Emily Study graduated summa cum laude from Loyola University Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a minor in Business Management. Based in Chicago, Ill., she is currently working full time as a reporter for Aging Media Network and part time as a copy editor for the Chicago Tribune. She previously worked for the Dayton Daily News, Nanny Magazine and the Better Government Association.
From sporting events and Greek life to enriching study abroad trips and hundreds of courses just waiting for you to explore — college is full of exciting opportunities.
Maybe you’ve already experienced a little bit of college firsthand — either through an official tour or an unofficial visit with a sibling or friend.
While you may have experienced or read about some of the opportunities college offers, perhaps the biggest opportunity lies in something a little less obvious.
Let me explain. More than four years ago, I stood as a starry-eyed freshman gazing ahead at a beautiful campus along Lake Michigan in Chicago, Ill. Like some students, I had already meticulously planned the years ahead, eyeing courses I wanted to take and clubs I wanted to join.
I was seamlessly transitioning from high school to college and coasting through my freshman year, earning As and Bs and building a good reputation with professors.
Then, it happened. Sophomore year, I saw for the first time in my college career the red marking no student of any age hopes to see: an F.
To add fuel to the fire, that was the first of only three exams the entire semester that were calculated to determine my overall grade. Admittedly, history was never my strongest subject, and, as it turned out, I wasn’t great at memorizing the history of the United States up to 1865.
But when I finally got past my disappointment, I learned something more valuable than any test or paper I had aced: with mistakes and failure come enormous opportunities to learn and grow.
In failing, I had become a better student. I learned that I needed to push myself harder, take more notes in class and ask more questions, all of which I would later find to be the keys to my success in college.
Looking back now, I see that exam as a turning point not only for myself as a student but as a person. When I failed, I was forced to learn from my mistakes — and that is something you won’t learn from any prep test or college pamphlet.
We are too often terrified by the thought of failure that we never stop to think what we may be able to learn from our mistakes.
Even the greatest minds have credited their success to mistakes and failures made along the way. Thomas Edison, for example, is said to have made 1,000 attempts at inventing the lightbulb before finally succeeding.
What’s most important in these cases is not the failure, itself, but the willingness to learn from them and to do better next time.
Henry Ford once said, “Failure provides the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.” That sentiment rang true for me when I failed my first college exam and it still rings true today.
So my biggest advice for college students is this: Don’t be afraid to fail. I’m not talking about sleeping through a final or skipping class the day of a big presentation. I mean don’t give up and miss out on the biggest opportunity of your college career.