The Path of my Degree: Failure is an Option

<Disclaimer: this one got really long. Sorry. :P>

I’ll be the first to tell you I’m no brilliant star student. I’m not naturally inclined to study. I’m not one who finds it easy to take and pass tests. As part of the CollegePlus forums, I read about people who got their degrees in 2 years. People who scored ridiculously high in various CLEP and DSST tests, and people who boasted about never failing one test.

I of course, wanted to meet those standards, and in my mind- I was going to do so. Failure wasn’t an option for me. And with that mindset, I took tests and passed. Not with high scores mind you, but the passing score (which in a CLEP… A Passing score is the same as the highest possible score. There are not grades. It is Pass/Fail). I was starting to think to myslef… “Heh, this is easy. I can do this no sweat.” And with those thoughts came a lax style of studying. I got closer and closer to the bare minimum passing score- a 50. 56- 52- 54- 51… As a 17yr old College freshman, I turned into “How can I study the least amount possible to get the passing score?“Then one day it happened.

The test was US History I. I whizzed through the test, after passing psychology and sociology with a 58 and 62. I thought I was doing great. I clicked, in some ways carelessly, through the Qs. I finished in 30 min,,, clicked “submit” and saw my score.

49.

I blinked. Shook my head. Squinted… Nope. Still there.

49.

Sneering at me from the screen, a score one correct question short or the passing grade. To say I reacted badly, would be an understatement. I blamed the testing prep materials, the breakfast I had that morning, the random test I was given… even the Forum information I used to study. The only thing I didn’t blame was me. I was mad at the system, because it beat me.

Mr. Beeman, my coach, let me use those blame-shifting things. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but he agreed with my position, as it was the first test I’d failed. He was sympathetic and helped me get motivated enough to take US History 2. I “studied” for it, and took it.

51.

Boom! I had figured out the system. I’d focus on the bare minimum and ace this program. That Other test was really just a hiccup from bad information. Right? That’s what I told myself anyway. And began the next test- American Government. I was excited about this one. I had been to TeenPAct of course, so already knew everything about government. With that arrogant attitude… I studied for four weeks (instead of the recommended six) and took the test.

42.

I got mad. Not just “oh that’s frustrating” but… Mad. You know the volcanoes that spit and spew ash and toxic gas for weeks on end without really ever erupting? That’s the anger I get. And spit and spew I did- on my coaching call too. I blamed everything I previously had blamed. This time though- Mr. Beeman asked me a question. “Can you tell me you you studied for this test Austin?” So I told him about TeenPact, that I read the recommended books, used “Now clearly faulty” info. He asked to see some notes I took. That’s when it hit me. For this test, I had one page of notes. One. Stinking. Page.

Mr. Beeman took it well. He said “Well, I think we have found the problem.” I was proudly ready to reject the premise of taking notes for tests. I was ready to explain how I organize all of the stuff in my head. How all the time writing stuff down could be better used soaking up more information in my brilliantly organized brain. But Mr. Beeman didn’t ask about study methods. He didn’t tell me to take notes. He didn’t say I didn’t study enough. He asked me a question- one I’ll never forget.

“Are you studying for these tests for the glory of God? Or for the Glory of yourself?”

I didn’t have a response. Well, I did have a response, but didn’t want to say it. All the walls I had built up in excuses and justifications were collapsed at that question. As Mr. Beeman took the root issue, and asked clear as day. I grudgingly replied: “Not for God”. Inside I was confused. College isn’t about God- it is about taking and passing test to you can get a piece of paper to get a job. (Teaser, I’ll post a flashback about how I learned this the same year in highschool from mom)

So Mr. Beeman took the rest of our coaching call sharing with me verses in scripture where it talked about working for God. I did this in the job I had, but didn’t think studies applied for some odd reason. At the end of the call, he told me to choose a passage, and make it my motivator verse. The verse I used when wanting to skimp out or do less than excellent work for myself. I wound up choosing Colosians 3:23. I learned in those months that if you are doing everything for God’s glory, and really putting all you have into what you do… Failure is an option. Because it is a tool God uses to teach and build. I failed other tests throughout my degree… Microeconomics… College Comp… Principles of Finance… But I can say I worked for God’s glory on those and I failed just because I didn’t study enough, or understood a concept wrong that I didn’t know… That kind of thing.

So if you fail a test, I’d say what my coach told me. The study methods are not really that important. If you are in highschool… you know how to study for a test. The heart is where the problem can often lie, and until that is fixed, all the studying in the world is for naught. Because it is the heart that is important.

And Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord- not to men.~Colossians 3:23~

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