Dear all omniscient 100 Hour Board,
I overbooked myself this semester by taking 17.5 credits and working two jobs, but they're all classes that I need to get out of the way so I can get into my major. Also, one of my jobs is an internship which I need for the experience, but it doesn't pay enough so I still have to work a second job to afford college. I was doing good for the first couple of weeks, but now it's all starting to catch up with me... and that's a problem because I suck at asking for help, but I fear that unless I do there are a couple classes I might now pass.
I know the TAs are paid to help and don't mind, but I still feel like I'm bothering them if I ask for help. Another thing holding me back is the fact that I'm a girl in a male dominated major and I already feel like I need to work twice as hard just to be taken seriously, and if I ask for help I feel like that's admitting I'm not good enough...which I know I'm not... So how do I get past my pride so I can get the help I need?
(Also I forgot to schedule in a social life this semester, is it worth trying to bond with my roommates/ go on dates if that's going to cut into the time I need for schoolwork?)
Dear Burned Out,
Speaking as a former TA, I spent plenty of office hours hoping someone would come talk to me. I sat around an office for 3 hours a week for an entire semester, and I had maybe 5 students total come talk to me. While it was wonderful for my homework load, I also spent a lot of time wishing I could be a better resource for the students. So please, go talk to your TAs, because I'm sure they would be happy to help you.
On another note, I felt very overwhelmed in my last semester of college, and I knew I wasn't putting my best effort into my education, which is kind of the whole point of being in college. I hate quitting, and making the choice was really hard for me, but when I finally quit my second job I felt so much better, and so much less stressed. If you honestly can't quit, then look into reducing your hours somehow, or maybe finding a job on campus that allows you to do some homework.
You can do it. I believe in you.
I really relate to you on most of the points you bring up in your question. I'm insanely busy this semester, taking the equivalent of a 25 credit load, along with a part time job and a more intensive church calling, I'm one of very few women in every single one of my classes (and in my overall major), and I don't want to drop any of the things I'm doing. The point of this is that I get where you're coming from.
Some thoughts on being a woman in a male-dominated major: First, I don't want to discredit your experience at all; I'm just writing off of my personal experience in this area, which may or may not be at odds with yours. Now that my disclaimer is out of the way, you don't need to better than all the men and never ask for help to be respected. I've noticed that when I work closely with guys in my major that they tend to respect me more, despite becoming more familiar with my weaknesses. I think is because people tend to like and respect the people they actually know as opposed to people they just see in passing.
Having said that, I know what it's like to be afraid that if you ask for help then people won't take you as seriously. Last winter semester, I was a TA for a class I had never taken before. All of my students had taken more classes in the subject I was TA-ing than I had. It didn't help the situation at all that some of them were almost 30, had kids and stuff, while I was technically still a teenager. Anyways, this was a time where I definitely felt a need to prove myself as qualified and significantly better at picking up the course material (after all, my students just had to learn it for themselves; I had to learn it well enough to immediately teach despite having the least experience out of everyone in the class). I soon discovered that I didn't need to be perfect for my students to trust in my ability as their TA. Even when I had to double check on what things meant, or correct myself (or be corrected), I somehow maintained my students' trust and respect. Likewise, you don't need to be perfect for other people to believe that you're intelligent and belong in your major.
No one is expecting you to be perfect and never need help. I've never met someone who looks down at people for needing some extra help in understanding various concepts. My parting piece of advice to you is to form study groups. It will help you get homework done faster, and learn things better.
Good luck, and if you ever feel the need to reach out to another woman lost in a sea of men, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you sure you can't drop anything? There was one point where I went to school year-round for like two and a half years so I could "get stuff out of the way," but ultimately me being rushed did not correlate with me graduating any sooner. I'd also like to point out that 12 credit hours is technically considered being a full-time student--I don't think you're going to change your class load now, just... I don't know, maybe something to keep in mind for future semesters.
I'm sure you're already doing this, but be sure to apply for financial aid early next semester if you haven't already. Also, keep short-term student loans from BYU open in mind as an option. I found it useful to be able to defer the amount I was paying a few weeks or months to a time when I could actually work full-time and focus on getting better grades in my classes, in my case, not retaking them. Anne, Certainly has better, more specific advice regarding financial help;.
I don't really know how helpful any of this is, but take care of yourself, okay? You're doing your best.
Dear Girl on Fire,
The other writers have answered this question pretty thoroughly, but I want to touch a bit on overcoming pride. I would like to do so because during midterms I came to the harsh realization that my own pride was getting in the way of my academic progress. I was able to learn a few things that I hope can be of some use to you.
In order to overcome our pride we have to recognize it first. Unfortunately the most obvious way to do so is to crash and burn. If you manage to skip this step things will be easier, but if you don't that's okay too. We're more likely to remember things and lessons we learned the hard way, so in the long run crashing and burning isn't so bad after all. With the right mindset failure can lead us to square one on the path to greatness: recognizing our weaknesses.
So now we know that something is wrong. That doesn't help us much unless we can identify what is going on and why. For example, I knew that I had been a bit overconfident in my self and had slacked off in my studies. As I examined my study habits I was able to see the more specific issues that were the roots of my problem. I thought that I was smart enough that I didn't need to put much effort in. When I came to something I didn't understand I would skip it and only do the things I could understand easily. I think the main issue was that when I came to something hard, it made me feel like I wasn't smart, so I ignored it and told myself that it wasn't important. It seems like you already know that you have a hard time asking for help, you're worried about impressing your peers, and you're overwhelmed. Once you've identified specific attitudes that need to change, you can then motivate yourself to make the changes you need.
We need to realize why these attitudes are damaging. It sounds like your grades are important to you, so it would be a good idea to do whatever you can to improve them as soon as possible. As Anne points out, eliminating pride is a great long term goal, but in the mean time you need to do whatever you can to get those grades up. Once I realized that by not studying the hard topics I was sabotaging my test preparation, I was much more motivated to push through and study hard topics. My attitude of "being smart enough" was robbing me of chances to grow and become even smarter. Once I recognized that, it was easier for me to fight it. You might avoid embarrassment by trying to do things by yourself, but as Anne points out, you're only setting yourself for failure and lack of respect. Your grade doesn't care if you got help or not. Your test score is your test score, and what other people think of you has no bearing on that. If you try to do everything by yourself, you are missing out on doing things faster, learning more and reaching your true potential. There's a kid in one of my classes who is always in the TA lab, and he asks more questions than anyone I've ever seen. He also has the highest grade in the class because he gets help when he needs it. You may feel incapable, but if you accept your weaknesses and get help, you will reach your goals and become the type of student that others look up to.
External motivation is a great way to achieve quick results, but in the long run no amount of external motivation will inspire true change. It is not enough to remove harmful attitudes; we must replace them with good ones. Elder Boyd K Packer taught "Doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior." If you fill your your mind with good attitudes, hope and pride will be crowded out. There are so many great ways to fill ourselves with better attitudes. Conference talks, BYU devotional speeches, inspiring music, poetry, conversations with friends, inspiring quotes on Pinterest, and the 100 Hour Board are just a few of your options.
One good attitude can really make a difference. A while back I was talking to Anathema about how hard school was and she said that while she was having her hardest semester ever, she was also learning more than ever. When she said that I thought "I've been thinking so much about assignments, and tests, and how little effort I needed to put in and still good a good grade that I haven't focused at all on actually learning for the sake of learning." I really enjoy my major, and I love to learn, so this week when I've been tempted to quit, I've reminded myself that I'm here in school to learn. Reminding myself about the joy of learning has really helped me overcome the pain of studying.
I'm sorry that this answer became so long. In summary, we need to realize what our problem is, see why it is an issue, make changes, and then replace our old attitudes with better ones. A few weeks ago I was in a similar situation as you are now. It hurt, but I was able to make some changes. As a result of those changes my grades have improved, and I am enjoying myself more in school. I just want to finish this answer by giving you 3 attitudes/truths that I think might be helpful to you.
- You are good enough. You don't have to know everything to be good enough. You don't have be able to do everything by yourself to be good enough. To quote Elder Uchtdorf, "I learned in my life that we don’t need to be 'more' of anything to start to become the person God intended us to become."
- You are at a top notch university in a tough program. The value of your education comes from being pushed to the limit. I had a job interview for an internship last week and they asked me 1 question about something I did well, and 3-5 questions about times that I had failed. Your struggle may be hard, but it will end and it will be worth it.
- There is no shame in not being able to do everything at once. The other writers mention this, but I just want to reiterate that there's nothing wrong with taking out a small loan, not dating until the semester is over, or feeling overwhelmed. Taking care of yourself and realizing your limits isn't a weakness, it's a strength.
Thank you for asking this question. Answering it has helped me be a better student. I also love all the advice the other writers gave. You are great, and you're going to make it! Hope this helps!
Eliminating pride is a great goal. In the meantime, as Tipperary points out, pride can mess with your grades, so maybe you can at least redirect your pride. If you're concerned about being taken seriously in your major (and it's obviously not always easy or even desirable for us to totally stop caring about whether we're perceived as competent) then maybe look at it this way:
People might admire the most the person who can do everything without help, but they aren't going to admire the person who doesn't get help and fails as a result, while they might have an intermediate level of admiration for the person who's able to work through difficulty by acquiring needed help. Heck, people who have been in your situation before and who weren't brave enough to get the help they needed (or who know how hard it was to do so) might even admire people who need help and get it more than people who didn't need help in the first place.
It kind of reminds me of the scripture that says "For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?" Look at it in your situation and we can construct a non-scriptural parallel: "If you succeed in classes where you don't need help, why should I be impressed? Even stupid, lazy people can do that." (I mean, yeah, if the classes are viewed as objectively difficult, people will still be impressed that you didn't need help, but the point remains.)
My other, unsolicited suggestion is to look into options you may have for eliminating your paid job, if circumstances will permit. It's possible that with good time management, appropriate assistance from TA's, etc. you'll be able to pull through this semester and then recalibrate a more natural/relaxed schedule next semester with more time for dating, social life, etc. as well as school, but it's also possible that you're overloaded to an extent that is likely to limit your success this semester, possibly in classes that are important in your major. In fact, if you're worried about passing certain classes, it sounds like you're worried about being overwhelmed.
I'd urge you to review your budget/financial situation and talk to the BYU Financial Aid office, a counselor in your major, and maybe even family (depending on their financial situation) about the possibility of finding a way to fund this semester without needing to work your second, non-academic job (or at least with fewer hours.) Getting help from a TA is good, but you need to have time to do that and then still go home and sleep and do enough self-care/personal maintenance that you can keep functioning effectively for another few months this semester.
It's really really admirable that you're working to put yourself through school, but you may well be better off ending up with a few thousand dollars in student loans (especially if it's just for this semester and then you can re-balance to permit your typical work schedule in future semesters) than ending up with bad grades in major-specific classes that either a) prevent you from getting into your major or b) prevent you from having important foundation knowledge for your major or c) impact your GPA in a way that limits your career options. BYU is not that expensive in terms of tuition or cost of living, and that means that if you're in a major with strong hiring/career options, a minor amount of student debt may be worth it in terms of positive grade returns during a tough semester.
Good luck. There are people who want to help you, and you have time left in the semester to get back on track. Take care of yourself.
Since the writers above have thoroughly answered your question, I just want to put in a quick plug: Read Brene Brown! And if you don't have time for that, listen to her audio books. They go through a lot of feelings of insecurities and imperfections and help make all the things better.
I'll throw in a plug for the seminary answers. I think daily scripture study and prayer have had a powerful effect on my life. I don't think that just doing those things has increased my GPA or given me more time in the day, but I do think they have provided me times in each day to think of the eternal perspective, and that has helped me curb my stress levels. What if I don't get a 4.0? Well, if I did my best, God won't mind. God won't mind if I have HUGE weaknesses that make it hard to even do my assignments, but He will mind if we don't take time to commune with Him.
That's my plug. I hope you can make it through this tough semester!
-Sunday Night Banter