A couple years ago, I mentioned that I failed high school psychology because I didn’t show up to class often enough. In high school, they actually track your attendance. In college, not so much – and that came with disastrous consequences for me.
I had kind of an odd curse: I was a sharp kid, so public high school didn’t present much of a problem for me. With hardly any studying, I did well enough to score a National Merit Scholarship, which at the time got you a full ride to a lot of different schools. I picked the University of Houston for their awesome business school, computer lab, weather, and location in a really big city.
My first semester went well enough:
I loved all but one of my classes, and that one – math – I abhorred. I’d done so well at high school math without studying that I figured I could just coast through college math. Wrong-o. I showed up for the first exam (after self-paced studying) and bombed it. I started attending again, and pretty quickly realized it was too late to learn to study.
In my second semester, things got worse:
I was up to two classes that I simply didn’t care about, and couldn’t be bothered to study. I hated math, and I wasn’t all that fond of science, either. I took geology because it sounded like the easiest one to pass. Rocks for jocks, right? Wrong again.
The great part about semester three is that even without math skills, I could calculate my GPA with ease:
I met a girl, and she didn’t wanna go to class, so I didn’t go to class either.
And that was that.
I can laugh about my poor life choices now, but at the time – well, actually, I laughed about them then, too. I knew they were bad choices, but they didn’t really have consequences. Life just kept on going, and it was lots of fun.
A year later, after the girl and I split up and I moved back in with Dad, I figured it’d be the responsible thing to do to go back to community college and knock out a degree. Thing is, I still hadn’t learned how to study:
And not only did I try to tackle boring geology again, but I tossed in Cobol and dBase for good measure, two subjects I just couldn’t care less about back then. (Or now.)
I can be all philosophical now and say entitled things like:
- High school should have taught me how to study
- College should have picked up that I was in trouble, and intervened
- I didn’t have any discipline or concepts of long-term gratification
- I should have taken a year off school to find a career that really excited me
But that’s greedy talk, and I don’t have any good answers. All I have is respect for parents and teachers as they try to steer kids toward doing the right thing while instilling them with discipline and a love for learning.
Me, I can’t even be bothered to train Ernie to sit.
I probably could have written the same article. My first attempt at college end up just like this. Failed Writing 101 and an Algebra class, Received an “A” in bowling even. Met a girl, got a job, and moved on in life. I did go back two years ago… Only took 25 years to finish my Bachelor’s degree.
Daaaang! There’s hope for me yet, heh.
COBOL is a rather lucrative skill now.
Mike – yeah, but…then you have to work with COBOL.
Ha! This hits home to me, because for the past…I don’t know, a lot of years, I’ve lived in blessed ignorance of my college GPA…all I know is I ended up getting my 4 year degree eventually (8 years) while working full time. But my first two years I didn’t take it seriously because I had a full ride, and was, well, 18-19 years old. I got low grades and a couple withdraws (Abstract Data Structures had my number in an R Lee Ermey sort of way…I GOT YOUR NAME, I GOT YOUR ASS, YOU WILL LEARN BY THE NUMBERS I WILL TEACH YOU). Second year, there was a girl involved with a particular D+ in a particularly neglected/unattended Statistics class (she stuck around).
Fast forward to me at age 35, looking into opportunities with the govt/military who want to see my educational transcripts. I happen to take a peek myself a month ago and OHMYGODNO 2.9 NOTHATCANTBE
You learn a lot of things as you get older but you can’t go back and fix a youthful lack of motivation! I will say, once I lost my full ride due to the aforementioned negligence, got (very luckily) married to the also aforementioned distraction, and started working full time to pay for my own school, my focus sharpened distinctly.
Nic – HAHAHA, yeah, looking back at the transcript is hilarious. Until you see it for real, it’s easy to remember college as a lot better than it was, heh.
I’ve trained my dog to sit, or she’s trained me to give her treats, it’s all your perspective.
Kevin – HA! That’s true….
A brave and, I suspect, helpful to many post.
Richard – awww, it’s easy to admit failure now. But yeah, it’s fun to be able to point that stuff out and go, “Look, no matter where you’re at in your school or career, the past doesn’t always dictate your future.”
I had a similar bit of a wakeup call in my first college calc class. I actually had AP credits so could have skipped it, but decided to take it anyway as I thought I could just cruise through and get an easy A. So like any overconfident moron I skipped every class, showed up to the first exam, and failed spectacularly. Turns out college-level “Calculus 2 for Engineers” is a hell of a lot tougher than high school AP calc. Oops. Luckily I was able to recover, but to this day, looking back on my very poor decision making is still a bit painful…
[…] been some great discussion in the #SQLFamily after Brent Ozar published a recent blog post: I Failed 13 College Courses. Lots of comments on Facebook about it, and other people soon came forward with their own brief […]
I sometimes look back and think I should have picked a better major in college (Recreation Administration and thankfully an MBA) like CS or Engineering. If I had done that though, my life might not have worked out as it has and I’m pretty happy how it has. If any of your should of/could of happened would you where you are now?
[…] The original post which inspired myself and others to respond: http://ozarme.wpengine.com/2017/06/i-failed-13-college-courses/ […]
As a geologist-turned-DBA, I gotta take exception to your characterization of geology as “boring”, sir. If the stunning sweep of 4.5 billion years of history isn’t compelling enough to get you excited, I’ll appeal to your selfish interests: without gold, tantalum, silicon, copper and a host of other elements mined from the earth, where exactly do you think your IT career would stand, hmm?
I’ll reply to your comment in 4.5 billion years.
Here in the UK, I combined Geology and Computing (!) for a BSc … and the Geology was because it is all about problem solving. You look at chunk of rock and it’s like being a detective: work out how and when, under what conditions, was it laid down, and piece it together from what you can see (thus, it is the ‘science of the obvious’). I can only think that it must’ve been badly presented to you; you can’t be doing this job without enjoying problem solving!
Kerry – yeah, but…it’s not like there’s urgency to the problem. It’s a rock. It’s there. I don’t really need to solve that problem, heh.
I do think I’d have been much more interested in it if I had immediate practical application, like figuring out where to drill for oil.
You said you didn’t know how to study at that time . What have you learned on that matter ?
John – that’s a great question! I should blog about that in the coming weeks.
I should post a pic of my transcripts. I’ll show you what real fun in college looks like LOL. Off the top of my head, sadly, I cannot even estimate the amount of “F’s” and “W’s” on my record.
College is not for everyone hahaha. Although I have never taken full-time courses, and very often I have taken semesters off, its been a loooooong ride. The first semester I enrolled, I was 18. I’m 34 now and just finished a legitimate associate’s degree.