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Honors Program StudentsA is for Anxiety

It is impossible to go through life expecting to be perfect in everything. If you hold yourself to perfection all of the time, you are bound to have disappointments.

If you are a typical Honors Program student, you have done very well academically in high school or community college. You are accustomed to high grades, and you are willing to work hard for them. That's fine. Going for the "A" can be a personal goal, like going for the Olympic gold medal. And as you well know, the athlete who wins the silver or the bronze usually looks a little sad and disappointed. Being an athlete involves both physical training for victory and mental training for loss. No person can win every race.

When you move from high school to college, you undergo a major transition. The expectations of your faculty might be higher or simply different than the expectations of your high school teachers. And as a result, it will take you some time (probably a semester) to adjust to the new academic environment. It is always a shock for a student accustomed to A's in writing to find a C on a freshman composition paper. High school writing encourages creative, personal storytelling. College writing encourages logic and argument defended by research. The adjustment takes some time. Don't be disappointed in yourself and don't get hysterical.

If you earn less than you expect on a paper or exam, make an appointment to discuss the work with your professor and find out how to improve future work. The more you know about a professor's expectations, the easier it will be to meet them. Don't be afraid to use tutors or get extra help from students doing much better in the course. Find the right resources and use them.

Don't doubt yourself. You were admitted to the Honors Program because of your past achievements. You are an excellent student. Believe in yourself and be receptive to making the adjustments in your learning style required by college.

Don't be afraid of losing your scholarships. One exam, one quiz, one paper--even a few of each or one low grade in a course doesn't mean you will lose your funding or your place in the Honors Program. Every Persian carpet is woven with a deliberate flaw as a symbol of the imperfection of man. Call that exam or paper or class your carpet design flaw. Then forget about it and move on. The poor grade might even be an important clue to your future. If you wanted to go to medical school but got a C in Biology or Chemistry then perhaps training that involves a great deal of basic science is not for you. A music major doing poorly in music theory, an accounting major having trouble with math, an English major who hates to write--these are people who should revise their plans!

It is more common for an Honors Program student simply to have a bit of trouble in one class or with one professor. Often the low grade derives from a particular problem or set of problems that can be easily addressed. At the end of the semester, when Dr. Digby reviews transcripts and identifies students having problems, she asks them to come in for an appointment. Together they discuss the grades and make plans to help the student avoid future problems. If the GPA dropped below 3.2 (freshmen) or 3.4 (sophomore--senior) the student might be put on probation in the Honors Program. This probation is purely internal to the program. It is not on any master record. It will never come back to haunt the student. No scholarships are removed. The student is encouraged to use the following semester to recover grades. Since the review of GPA is done on a semester by semester basis, the student does not have to think about cumulative GPA during recovery. So long as he or she achieves the required 3.2 or 3.4 all is well. Knowing the facts should make you less anxious!

It is difficult to tell an Honors student not to be anxious or embarrassed about a low grade. Anxiety--in a positive way is a great motivator. That same "A" for Anxiety also stands for Achievement. Students worried about an exam study hard. Students afraid that the term paper is not good enough will revise it and make it better. As a result it is not altogether useful to eradicate your anxiety. Doing that is probably impossible anyway since Honors Students are generally Type A personalities. If anxiety is part of your psychological makeup, then what you really need to do is get it under control and harness the energy that it produces. While you may not always make an A, you will surely do some very fine work.