How Being on Academic Probation Led to My Progression

When I was in high school, I was great at school. Yes, high school is pretty easy for most kids. But school was my thing. I didn't do sports. I didn't join choir. I did school. I worked hard (most of the time) and got good grades. I graduated with a 3.9 GPA (curse you AP calc) and a really good score on the ACT. I ended up with a one year academic scholarship from BYU and a 2 year scholarship from the state of Utah. I was set.

Freshman year of college was by far the best year I've had in college to date. It was so fun to meet new people, date cute guys, and most of all, be independent. I didn't do as well as I thought I would in my first year as far as grades go, but I did fairly well and was happy with my results. 

Then, I went on my mission and came home early. After crashing so hard, it was hard to get back up again emotionally, mentally, and even physically. But, I started up at school again, hoping that would help. 

As the semesters progressed, my grades slowly went downhill. It became continuously harder and harder to get out of bed and go to classes. I didn't do homework. I didn't show up for tests. One day, I got a letter from BYU that said I was on academic warning. They were watching me. If I continued to get poor grades, I would be put on academic probation. 

Still my grades slipped. More classes failed. More withdrawals. I went to the university accessibility center and got some accommodations to try and compensate for my illness. But, those didn't solve the problem. Then finally one day, the letter notifying me of my academic probation came in the mail. 

After getting put on probation, I decided to take a semester off and work. I knew that if I kept going at the rate I was at, I would flunk out of college. I knew I needed some sort of a break. 

I kept asking myself, "What happened? What happened to the Rachel who would freak out if she forgot to do an assignment? What happened to the girl who loved excelling academically and got scholarships?"

She got sick. 

Mental illnesses mess with who you are, to some degree. Learning, which once was so easy for me, became much harder after I got sick. My desires to be a good student changed and my ability to focus lessened. Something that I was once so good at became a nightmare for me. 

The reason why I'm writing this is to let all those who have had to take a break from school, work, or other commitments know that they're not alone. I've spent so much time thinking I'm a failure for not being graduated right now that I have failed to see what I am learning outside of school. I've learned more about myself, more about what I can and can't handle. I've been brave enough to admit what my weaknesses are and to ask for help. That's something that I don't think being a successful full-time student could have taught me. Being put on academic probation was the push I needed to take some time to take care of myself.

If you feel like you're drowning in school, don't quit. Now when I say "don't quit", I don't mean stay in school even if it's not healthy for you. I mean don't quit in your efforts to improve your health. Don't give up on yourself. Don't beat yourself up. You are incredibly strong, and you are even stronger if you can admit when you need help and need a break. It's more important to take care of yourself than to get straight A's and a degree in less than 4 years. 

This goes for other aspects of your life, big and small. Learn when you need to say "no" and when you need to say "yes". Unfortunately, this is a sort of a trial and error situation. You're going to fall down sometimes before you learn how to stay standing up. That's just how it goes. 

Don't forget to ask for help! In a university setting, go to the counseling center and get help offered by the school. Go to the accessibility center and find out if you're eligible for accommodations. And finally, talk to your professors. 

Talking to my professors at BYU has been extremely helpful. I had an English professor who told me that he too struggled with a mental illness. He helped me out with assignments and worked with me on deadlines. I had two French teachers who were absolutely terrific and genuinely cared about me and my situation. I had another professor who gave me extended time on tests because I had a panic attack during one once and couldn't finish. More often than not, teachers care about you and want to help. They want you to succeed and will usually work with you to accomplish your goals. 

Today was my first day of school since my break last semester. I'm terrified for this new semester and new adventure, but excited at the same time. Taking this eight month break has been great for me. I've gotten a new doctor, gotten on new meds, and gotten things more under control. School has been a tough battle for me, and probably will continue to be. But taking a break has made a huge difference. 

School can be an uphill battle. Sometimes it will be smooth sailing with straight A's and no big problems, but other times it will be a rough and stormy sea and failed classes. Because of the up and down nature of school (and life), there are going to be moments when you need to sit down and take a break. And that's okay. Catch your breath, gather your strength, and start up the hill again.