If you’re a fresher reading this, congratulations! Against all odds, you’re here! If you were successful with your results, you were probably happy to accept Aunt Margaret’s congratulations on your ‘hard work’. Maybe some of you, however, didn’t get exactly what you wanted. Maybe you narrowly missed a grade or got in through clearing. At this point, what would you consider? You’d probably put it down to how the exam was extremely unfair, or how your teacher didn’t come in that one time in November. In some cases, that’s probably true. But in other cases, is it just easier to shift the responsibility?
Many students experience extenuating circumstances. I have different cognitive functioning due to a diagnosis of Asperger’s, which means I am not physically able to do things as quickly as others. Like many other students, this means that I get things like extra time in exams to level the playing field. From that point, it’s up to me. The education system ensures (for the most part) that everyone is treated fairly. Provided this has been achieved, I would argue that one shouldn’t blame the system for their own misgivings.
Julian Rotter theorised that the way we determine the cause and effect relationship in our lives is along a scale called the ‘locus of control’. If you have an external locus of control, you live your life as a victim. When you don’t get what you want, it’s always because the world is out to get you. On the other side, you have those with an internal locus. They believe that how they interact with the world determines their fate. I’ve learnt that the route to success in university and life is is to have that latter perspective. As humans, we all make mistakes, but who we hold accountable for them makes a huge difference. If we are willing to admit we were wrong, we can fix it and do better next time. We can grow and develop and have a better quality of life.
Is it wise to hinge an entire article on a theory that’s over 60 years old? Maybe not, but let’s try and learn something anyway. I’ll give a bland little anecdote to illustrate. In Year 12, I had this teacher for English who, despite having a Masters in literature, was only capable of communicating in a series of ums and ahs. The paper files we used for our coursework were more animated than her. She was complained about half a dozen times, but to no avail. We were stuck with her.
There were two types of results that year: really good or really bad. Those who spent the year purely complaining about the poor quality of teaching failed; and of course when they received said grade it was blamed on Miss Gruntington. What about the other group, then? Surely their grades can’t be credited to that cardboard cutout of a woman? Both groups got the grades they deserved. Whilst life in this case was working against them, they did have time on their side. The latter group utilised that time to find ways around the problem, rather than passively accepting their fate. From this, can you guess which categories these two groups fell into?
We aren’t always as limited as we think. Life can be a unfair at times, but that alone shouldn’t stop us. In a place like uni, where the emphasis is placed on independence, it’s important for us to take that seriously and be resilient. We can’t wait for success to happen, or else it will pass us by.