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Conquering first-year fears

by: MUN

I began university with two preconceived notions:  that what worked to get the grade in high school would hold true in university; and, that professors really didn’t care how well you did (or didn’t) do in their class.  These two “truths” quickly disintegrated as I entered Dr. Charles Malsbury’s first-year psychology class.

The unit was “sleep cycles and the human brain.”  I remember it well – the class, not the subject matter, as Dr. Malsbury singled me out as one dipping into and out of stage one sleep (likely on account of the prior day’s all-nighter).  To the delight of my classmates but much to my chagrin, this gentle jab did little to focus my attention on the exam material that was mere days away.  I’ll be fine, I told myself. All I had to do was read the chapter twice, my notes three times…

Forty-three percent.  Forty-THREE!  Are you serious?!

I knew it was a tough exam, but really?  I never failed a university exam, ever.

I remember the heat rising up my neck as the shock begat the embarrassment which, in turn, begat the despair.  This exam meant I wouldn’t crack an 80 in the course, which meant my GPA would plummet, which meant that… – options.  I needed options.  Swallowing the forty-three percent was a pill I couldn’t digest.

I approached Dr. Malsbury after class let out.  Sheepishly, I asked if I could talk to him in his office.

“How do you study?” he began, as we sat at his office.

“I just do,” I said. “I read, I skim, I remember, I regurgitate.”

“That’s the problem,” he mused.  And then he began to unpack that statement.

The simplest of suggestions – from rewriting my class notes in a timely fashion, to parsing my study material into digestible packets of time and content – yielded the most positive of results.   Thirty minutes later I left his office with some new study strategies and, more importantly, hope.  I don’t know if he even remembers this encounter.  But just being willing to speak to me when I was too proud (scared) to understand that I needed guidance was all that was needed to change the behaviors that were impeding my progress.

With confidence, I can credit Dr. Malsbury’s open ear and helpful advice with laying the foundation for the successful completion of my degree at Memorial.

By the next exam I had doubled (read: DOUBLED!) my previous mark.  While I didn’t quite salvage an 80 in the course, I left with something much more valuable.

Chris Hibbs (BA, BSc ’02) now works with the Office of Student Recruitment at Memorial.

 

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