Student Life

My first year of college ended in disaster

I survived a brutal year in college after being put on academic probation because I enrolled in advanced classes by accident!

Oct 14, 2016

Growing up, I was convinced one day I’d make it big as an actress in Hollywood. My parents were less than enthused about that dream so, after graduating high school, and mostly to appease them, I enrolled in general studies at my local community college (now Mount Royal University). I didn’t know what I wanted to study but thought I'd figure it out as I went.

A few weeks after applying I received a letter in the mail saying I'd earned a spot to attend that September, but the acceptance package that was to follow never came. I never called to enquire after it, or maybe I wasn’t even aware that I was missing it.

So, with no help and no clue what I was doing, I signed up for a bunch of classes through the school’s website. Big mistake.

How not to enroll in classes

There were weird university words all over that website. I had no idea what a 4000 level course was. I shrugged this off, and decided to just choose classes that sounded interesting. (I would later discover that 4000 level courses were advanced, and only for students who had taken the 1,2, and 3000 level courses previously).

Without really knowing what I was doing, I enrolled in an advanced children’s literature course because it sounded interesting. I picked two more classes so that I’d be considered a full time student, but it turns out I enrolled in classes way above my knowledge level…

I was stuck in classes way over my head

What was it like attending those classes in that first semester? Honestly, I felt like I was drowning. I shouldn’t have been there, but neither my peers nor my instructor stopped to ask why they hadn’t seen me in the pre-requisite classes before. As assignments and readings came due, I felt lost. I didn’t want to stop and ask the teacher, I just assumed this was how it went in college.

In time however, after receiving bad mark after bad mark, I stopped going to class. I didn’t feel like it was doing me any good and I hated failure. By the time I actually did go to the guidance counselor, the withdraw date (the last day you can withdraw from a course and not receive a bad mark) had passed. This meant I was stuck with the course, pass or fail, and my grade would be on my transcript forever (your transcript is basically your post-secondary report card).

I was put on academic probation

Feeling discouraged and frankly over the whole college thing, I stopped trying, doing homework, and attending class. By the end of that semester, I failed two out of my three classes. I essentially said goodbye to $1,200 dollars of my hard earned money, most of which I would’ve been better off lighting on fire than spending on classes I was destined to fail.

By failing two of my three classes, I had shown I wasn’t taking college seriously, and if I continued to do this, my spot would be given to someone else. I received a harshly worded letter informing me that I was put on academic probation for a year and a half, which basically meant that I was being monitored closely to make sure I passed my classes.

While institutions do want your money, they also want to see you participate and succeed in the classes you've purchased. I was given the condition that I had to achieve and maintain a certain average, or else I’d be banned from all post-secondary institutions for a year.

I felt miserable, very disappointed in myself, ashamed to share this news with my parents, and mad at them for forcing me to go in the first place and spend my own money on something I didn’t feel comfortable pursuing.

So how’d I turn things around?

After receiving the academic probation letter I was in shock. It felt like I’d been scolded and had messed my life up bigtime! While I didn’t know what I wanted to do in post-secondary, I knew I wanted to maintain control over choices about my future.

So I put on a brave face and stood up to my parents. I explained I needed to take time off from post-secondary. I told them I wanted to work for a semester to get a taste of the working world and some exposure to people besides my peers before I could decide what I wanted to pursue academically.

It turns out this was the right thing for me to do. As a result of working full time in restaurants, I discovered something I wanted to pursue in post-secondary. I enrolled in the Hospitality Management diploma program at SAIT.

I learned that while turning to my parents and others for advice was sometimes helpful, ultimately I had to silence those voices in order to hear my own. By doing this, I was eventually able to choose a program, and when I paid the fees I felt much more invested in the outcome. It was a decision I was making for myself, by myself, and I took it seriously. It was nice to be in control of my own future again.


Law and Society
University of Calgary

I studied and worked in the hospitality industry and now, with 9 years of post-secondary under my belt, law school is next!

Check out Nathalie's profile »»