Before I graduated from college, my classmates would often ask me how I am able to get such high grades in rather difficult classes. They'd ask me to tutor them before exams and give them tips on how to pass the class. I'd always tell them "Fool your mind into thinking that the lessons are not really that difficult. If you keep on thinking how hard the subject is before you even start studying it, you will never find it easy". To elaborate on that answer, let's back up a little.
Growing up, I was never really an achiever. I used to take my academics too lightly that I'd often fall last in class. When I was in grade school, I'd sleep during class hours and let my sister do my homework while I watch cartoons at home. It wasn't until I reached fourth grade that someone actually discovered my potential. My teacher back then took a chance on me. She saw something in me that no one else did, which is why she pushed me to my limit. No one expected (not even myself), but I became first in class. When I entered to fifth and sixth grade, I was transferred to an exclusive class for the smartest kids in school. I didn't really fit in because I was a newbie. Every one of them was smart and confident... and then there's me. I can't even stand in front of the class to report without trembling. I was very scared and insecure. I never bothered competing with anyone. I was such a carefree student that couldn't wait to get out of that crazy jungle I call grade school.
When I graduated, I took different entrance examinations in the top high schools in the city. I was surprised at how I passed all of them and even got different scholarship offers. There was this one school though that I've always wanted to go to, Naga City Science High School. It was the top performing high school in the city. It was really hard to get in but I took my chances. I never thought I'd pass. I reached the minimum exam score to be qualified to enroll in that school (which was a miracle!). I declined all of the scholarship offers and enrolled there. It was a school for the "smart kids", and as always, I didn't fit in. You'd think I'd start studying well when I went to high school, right? Wrong! I was never the nicest nor the smartest student in school. I was always late, often absent, and sleeping during my classes. I never cheated though. Before our exams, I'd read all of my books and notes (if I had any... most of the time I'd ask my classmate if I can photocopy theirs) and cram weeks of lessons into one night. How did I do it? I have no idea. I just did.
When I reached my junior and senior years, I started to take my academics more seriously. I was still often late but I never slept during lectures anymore. I started listening to and participating in class. Remember when I said I was often trembling when asked to speak in front? I tried and changed it when I went to high school. I promised myself I'd be more confident in speaking in front of other people. I was always participating in class discussions and volunteering to speak in front. It was something I vowed to improve during my high school years.
Then here came college. I promised myself I was going to be a better student. I wanted to have a brighter future and after all those years of being my mom's headache, I wanted to make her proud. I traveled all the way up north to study college. It takes approximately 17 hours to travel by bus from my hometown to Baguio City. It was a new environment for me. No one knew who I was. It was the perfect place to start over.
Before classes started, I wrote down my goals:
1. To not get too much attention for me to avoid any forms of trouble.
2. To become a consistent dean's lister.
3. To get scholarships and help my mom with our finances.
4. To become an exchange student abroad.
5. To be active in a student organization (and hopefully to be elected leader)
6. Lastly, to become cum laude (at least).
I've been preparing myself for college for the four months I've been idle at home. As you may or may not already know, I am fond of self-help books and motivational videos. I started building my goals and my routine to help me reach them.
How was I going to reach those goals? I made a plan.
1. Fix your mindset.
- When I was going over different self-help books and motivational videos, they always made this one simple point: To change your mindset. When I was in high school, I was never motivated to listen to my teachers because I thought the lessons were so hard. I stuck to that mindset all throughout the year which led me to the point of failing my classes. (Well, I didn't technically fail... I just got the minimum grade which was enough for me to stay in that school but was already embarrassing since I was often last in class). In college, I made sure that I fool myself into thinking that something was easy. And surprisingly enough, I did. The math lessons I've always dreaded back in high school suddenly seemed so uncomplicated. When someone tells you that a class is hard, it gets stuck in your mind that it affects how you view the lessons. Keep convincing yourself that the class is not that difficult so you won't be overwhelmed. Just breathe and believe that you can do it. Change the it's-too-difficult-to-learn mindset to it's-challenging-but-I-can-do-it mindset.
2. Build a routine
- As I mentioned earlier, I built a routine before I entered college. Sleeping and waking up early is a must for me. I never cram the night before. I've tried multiple times but it never worked well for me. Usually, I'd wake up early to pray, prepare my breakfast, read my lessons beforehand, do my homework, and prepare all the things I needed for the day. I don't end up stressed and rushing to school every day because I was always prepared.
3. Do everything beforehand
- I suck at cramming. Most often than not, when we're asked to do a project, I make sure to finish it weeks before the deadline. (I know I'm such a nerd but at least I'm not stressed!). But I must admit that this is not for everyone. I know people who perform well and have made their best work when they're cramming and are under a lot of pressure. Do whichever works well for you.
I also read the lessons beforehand (nerd, nerd, NERD ALERT!!!) I've found out that when you read about the next topics beforehand, it's easier to follow through on the discussion in class. Some words/concepts will stick in your mind and you will find them familiar when the professor mentions them, thus, making it easy to understand them later on.
4. Divide difficult tasks into small bits and give yourself in-between breaks
- Isn't it overwhelming when a lot of stuff is being handed to you? I know that dreadful feeling. That's why whenever I am given difficult tasks, I divide them into small bits. When we're asked to read 120-paged books, I read them a few pages/chapters at a time and give myself 5-minute breaks/naps in between. Small progress is still progress.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice!
- I always sucked at math (which is ironic because I took up Financial Management in college lol), but I overcame that weakness by practicing. Whenever I solve a mathematical problem, I always refer to the examples given to us by our professors. I work well when people show me how to do things. I do them step-by-step following the guide given. In my free time, I check my notes and try solving the example problems on my own. If I don't arrive at the same answer, I try doing it again until I get it right. There's nothing a little practice can't teach you!
Did I reach my goals? Yes (2-4 and 6). I reached these goals to make my mom and myself proud. No one, not even my family (and myself), expected this of me. Ten-year-old me might just give me a high-five if she was here right now.
I shared all these not to boast about my accomplishments, but to impart the knowledge I've learned regarding the power of believing in yourself. It took a long time before I realized that I can do things after years and years of believing that I wasn't good enough and will not achieve anything in life. If I can reach these seemingly unreachable goals, I believe that you can too! With a little prayer and self-motivation, you can go the distance. I am rooting for you!