That Time I Almost Failed English

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My interest in writing started during my sophomore year of high school when I took a journalistic composition class. The class ignited my passion for writing, making me feel I felt like I was doing something important and good at. Since then, I’ve wanted to become a journalist. I could barely contain my joy when it came time to sign up for my first college English class and jump start my journalism career.

Before I enrolled in the course, I decided to look up my professor on Rate My Professor. To my dismay, I saw that my professor earned a horrible rating, but I decided to ignore it. What did they know anyway? Those ratings were probably given by students who took the class to fulfill a requirement.

Turns out, I should’ve listened.

I confidently turned in my first college paper, assuredly congratulating myself on acing the first stepping stone in my writing career. But when I got my first grade back, I felt stunned. Sixty-two percent. I saw my grade posted online the night before class, but figured the professor entered incorrectly. But looking at my hard copy, I saw she made no mistake at all. My heart sank to my stomach. How could I be a writer if I’m almost failing an entry-level English class?

Our entire grade consisted of three major papers and I just completely screwed up the first. I needed to get at least a B in this class to get accepted to journalism school, and clearly I didn’t get off to a good start. Panic mode set in as I started to write the second paper. I rewrote my first paragraph at least five times, desperate to bounce back from that first grade.

I’d never worked that hard on an English paper my entire life. I knew needed to really focus on what my professor wanted and work even harder to get the grade I wanted. The writing style she wanted was like none that I had ever encountered. Comments on Rate My Professor said she was extremely vague and didn’t explain things well. This was the point in the semester where I saw that to be very true.

On top of being vague and undescriptive, she was also a very difficult grader, picking apart every sentence I wrote. Every time I went to class I made sure to hang on every word she said and write down everything to get every detail perfect on my homework. I let out a sigh of relief after I got my second paper back with an 87 percent. The few weeks of stress and late nights furiously writing in the library for this massive second assignment came to an end.

The last paper assigned presented the greatest challenge. My professor gave us two articles to read and we could write about either one. One discussed severed feet found in the Pacific Northwest. The other? Satan. Yes, you read that correctly. I wrote a rhetorical analysis about an article based around Satan.

I rewrote pages over and over again, frantically emailed my professor numerous times with questions about format and structure, scrambled to the writing center and even asked my friends to read the paper for errors I couldn’t find. I desperately needed my B so I didn’t have to suffer through this class again.

To pass this class with journalism school standards, I needed an 80 percent. When the day came for grades to be posted, I sat all day in my dorm, refreshing the page constantly, nervously biting off my nails. The few times I left my dorm room I stayed glued to my phone, waiting for the notification. When I finally saw my grade, I was sitting at my desk and quite literally screamed with excitement. I pulled off an 80.04 percent. That’s right, I passed this class by less than one percent. I texted all my friends who spent all semester watching me suffer about the news. It was as if I just just gotten engaged because I just kept getting messages of congratulations.

When I look back at the moment I got my 62 percent, I remember feeling defeated and even rethinking my major. But by the end of the semester I realized that I overreact when things get hard, and that general education classes can’t be blown off like I anticipated. Don’t get me wrong, I knew college courses would be significantly more challenging than high school, but this reached a new level.

My biggest takeaway from the class? Always listen to Rate My Professor.

I'm a sophomore majoring in Journalism at the University of Missouri. I survive on good coffee and broadway showtunes.

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