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Triumph & Disaster

By , Bethesda, MD
When I was 10 years old, my mother taught me a poem by Rudyard Kipling entitled ‘If’. The poem states a series of hypotheticals, which together Kipling claims are the attributes of a man. By being a man, Kipling does not mean a burly, masculine figure, rather a wise, learned person capable of handling the circumstances given to him.

Of these circumstances, Kipling indicates several that I believe best describe my high school transcript:

“If you can dream–and not make dreams your master,
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same.”
My grades reflect my experiences with treating my academic triumphs and disasters just the same. I’ve dreamt of going to college one day. I’ve thought of ways of going about getting into college. But I’ve had my academic triumphs and disasters along the way, and I’ve learned over the years to treat them just the same, for the sake of dealing with my circumstances and doing my best I can to succeed in them.
I would argue my high school was not a good fit for me. While the students are outgoing and friendly, the teachers knowledgeable and helpful, and the guidance office supportive and dedicated, the school’s daily schedule, the county’s academic tracking system and the lower-level class curricula were not ideal for me to learn with. I’m a slow learner and a deep thinker; I am a person who takes information in gradually and likes to delve into subjects at depth. At my high school, the schedule is very fast-paced, as I have to attend seven forty-five minute academic classes each day for five days a week. On this schedule, students must learn quickly, and there is not much time to delve into weightier subjects or explore these subjects at depth. As such, it is difficult for me to understand the material without some depth to further grasp the subject area. Furthermore, the county’s tracking system places higher-performing students in the higher level classes, and given I struggle learning the lower level material with the scheduling in the first place, and as such my performance was not strong enough to put me in higher level classes and therefore made it difficult for me to learn the material in a way which best suits me. Because of this, I have been stuck with learning under the lower-level curriculum in my weaker subjects for years, making it very difficult for me to learn or understand as these courses do not go into as much depth as the higher level classes do and make it difficult for me to understand the material. As you can see, the schedule, tracking system and curriculum made it difficult for me to succeed in high school.

Not all of high school has been unsuccessful academically for me. I have achieved in classes I am most gifted in, most notably my Arabic and Chinese language classes. For instance, Arabic is a very difficult language, with many highly irregular verbs and numerous tenses, and is difficult to read, write and speak. Despite this, I have maintained straight A’s in Arabic since my sophomore year (when I started taking it), and continue to succeed today. In language, I have truly triumphed academically.

I have also had my academic disasters. In Algebra 2, I have suffered academically and earned a D’s for each semester. I barely passed the course. In fact, I only passed the course because 60% of my grade was earned by a combination of a 50% effort category and a 10% homework for completion category, and the 40% accuracy-based category I failed in. I did put in the effort, as I only passed because 100% effort constitutes 60% of my grade. I did not earn the grade that I would have liked despite my efforts, though I tried my best and did what I could to maintain the best grade that I could. My academic disasters have kept me persevering.
I believe college will be a very different experience from my high school experience. In college, the schedule incorporates longer classes, and every course is a higher-level course, which would allow for me to explore in depth at the level and the way I learn best in. Because classes can be an hour to an hour and a half, and are interspersed throughout the week, this would allow for me more time to digest information and register what I am learning in the way I learn best. The longer classes and stretched out scheduling better accommodates the way I learn.
Yes, the circumstances in high school were not ideal for me, but that doesn’t exempt me from dealing with them. I still had to work around the less ideal circumstances (and every circumstance has less than ideal aspects to it), though strived to succeed (and did at times) despite this. All the while, despite my academic transcript, I am a wiser person because of the circumstances I have been through, since I’ve learned not to not make dreams my master (and not allowing failure to hold me back from them), not make thoughts my aim (and work with what I’ve been given) and treat my triumphs and disasters just the same (since ultimately, my successes and failures are both imposters, since I can never truly triumph or fail anything completely), and managed because of them to come this close to enrolling at a university.





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