On Making Mistakes

People say that challenges inspire us. They make us grow. We learn about others and ourselves by overcoming obstacles—they are beautiful, in a way.

But in the moment, it’s hard to overlook the fact that challenges suck. They really do. Headache-y, awkward, squirmy, anxiety-provoking, and sleep-reducing, obstacles rarely make us feel good when we encounter them.

And I would hazard a guess that no one has left college—ever, in the history of colleges—without some physical, mental, emotional, academic, personal, or interpersonal experiences (or some combination therein) that have tried their patience and depleted their energy reserves.

Challenges will always be there. Nothing that I can say to you now, or that anyone has ever told you, will prevent you from experiencing challenge. Or abject rejection. Or even the most soul-crushing sense of personal failure you have yet to imagine.

But that’s a good thing.

College is meant to be a challenge. Learning is meant to be a challenge. In the quest for those high GPAs U of R students crave, we sometimes lose focus of that fact. I remember coming to college and feeling like, all of a sudden, I could only raise my hand if I 100% knew the right answer to the professor’s question. And that certainty came less and less frequently—not so much because I knew less and less (although it’s possible, as I broadened my academic courseload), but because I was less willing to risk being wrong in front of my classmates.

I don’t think that’s a good way to go about learning. We’re all in this messy thing called college together. If we can’t make mistakes with our peers, do you think we will be more or less willing to do so by ourselves? Or with those we will one day teach, or lead, or love?

If there is something I can leave you with, it is the idea that you are meant to make mistakes. You are meant to learn by your mistakes, and you should not be afraid to make them. In fact, my hypothesis is that the more playful you can be with making mistakes, the fewer “mistakes” you will make.


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URAdmissions features guest bloggers (both students and staff) who write about specialized programs, events, and opportunities at Rochester.

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