You're probably feeling a little panicky right now. If you aren't panicking skip to the next paragraph.
Being upset that you screwed up means you're taking this seriously. I'd honestly be more concerned if you weren't upset. That being said, if you let your flight or flight response take over you won't be doing yourself any favors. People don't learn well when they have adrenaline and cortisol flooding their system. You need to be able to calmly assess what you need to do next.
So first things first. Let's problem solve.
Now to break down each step and why it's important.
While research shows that some stress before an exam can be helpful, the equation changes if you go into a new quiz / test / class and are distracted by the thought "I need to pass or else I'm ruined." Remember stress is complex. It has behavioral and emotional aspects to it. If you teach yourself to feel stressed every time you do practice problems, take an exam, review your material... you won't be approaching exams with a clear mind.
Bad, unpredictable, stuff happens all the time. If something truly terrible happened which caused you to fail your class or exam. That's a reasonable excuse. If this is the case, then you need to talk with your teacher, your academic advisor, and make plans to retake and correct that grade. Then you need to be comfortable talking about that experience on the interview trail.
With that being said, most exam or class failures are not rooted in personal tragedy. They are due to feeling overwhelmed, not preparing yourself properly, underestimating the material, and / or not starting your studying soon enough.
It's your responsibility to prepare for your exams and classes. You'll have bad teachers, hard material, dueling priorities... at the end of the day if YOU are what's standing between you and your path to medical school, you gotta fix that.
It's important to act with a clear mind and act in a way that won't cause problems for you later! I once was accused of plagiarizing an essay in a Intro to Law class in undergrad. Of course the teacher failed me and indicated that she would be alerting the school. Of course I didn't planarize the essay - something like that on your academic record could keep you out of medical school. I could have wrote the teacher a nasty email. However, I instead ran my essay through a plagiarism checker and determined that the teacher had misidentified two (cited) quotes as plagiarism. After pointing out that the quotes were what flagged the plagiarism and that the rest of my essay was original, the teacher apologized and everything worked out fine.
Do not send an angry email to your professor. If you truly believe that the problem isn't your fault, look up complaint procedures in your academic handbook or syllabus and act calmly. However, keep in mind that you will have to learn how to deal with rash professors, bad professors, and unfair situations. In medical school you will not be able to "switch classes" or "change attendings" or "find a less difficult patient". You need to learn how to approach problems calmly.
Common reasons for academic difficulties include...
Is it one of these or something else? You need to fully identify the problem if you are going to make changes to
Knowing the problem is only about 1/3 of the way to fixing it. Figure out what went wrong. Let's break down the same list from above.
Now you're 2/3's of the way to fixing your problem. Let's keep building on the 10 examples from before.
All the plans in the world don't mean anything unless you walk the walk. Whatever solution you plan, you need to prove it.
Fixing problems you have depends completely on you being honest with your advisors, tutors, teachers, and especially yourself. If your efforts aren't working you need to honestly figure out why.
Depends on how much of your grade that assignment is worth. If the assignment is worth a major part of your grade... then you're going to need to work extra hard to make it up on the upcoming exams and assignments. Remember, getting a 50 on an assignment worth 10% of your grade means the highest grade you can get in the class now is a 95. That's a bad place to be in - needing to get close to 100's on everything in order to get an A.
Check out our GPA vs sGPA article to learn how to calculate your grades.
Usually, significantly worse then failing an assignment. However, oddly, sometimes it's easier to make up a failed exam. See if the teacher throws out the lowest exam during the semester. If not, see if there are any opportunities for extra credit to be applied to the lowest exam. If not, and you really failed the exam badly... you may even want to consider withdrawing from the course and coming back better prepared. However, doing that is a little red flag and can really delay you.
You want to avoid this at all costs. Especially if it's a pre-med science course. If you think you're going to fail a class, it's better to withdraw. It's a major red flag, but it's not unsurmountable. You're going to have to prove you can come back from a failure AND you're going to have to be able to to articulate why you failed, what you learned, and what you started doing differently.
Academic dishonesty. Cheating, plagiarizing, etc., are the fastest way to get you disqualified from medical school.
If you did copy, you've created a major problem for yourself. First, be honest about it. Second, grow from it. Third, never do it again. Finally, be honest again with admissions committees and be able to talk about why you did it and how you've grown from it.
But never forget that we're here to help. Do you have a question about something you just read in our BreakThru Learner Series?
Use the BreakThru Feed to Ask and Inspire others with your questions. Our Medical Student Mentors are always here to help you, for free, anytime.
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