Five Stages of Academic Grief

By Ryan Pike

By this time of year, all students fit neatly into two categories. Either you’ve allocated your time well, completed your assignments and are planning to get drunk on Bermuda Shorts Day to celebrate your accomplishments or you’ve not done any of those things and merely wish to drink the pain away.

Here at the Gauntlet, we feel your pain. Of the dozen-or-so regular staff at the paper, the average GPA is somewhere in the vicinity of 2.4. Not only do we know how to fail, we also know how to succeed at failing. At this critical time of year, we’ve cracked open the vault to share our secret to dealing with failure with our readers.

Stage 1: Denial

If you’ve gotten to the point where you’re in danger of flunking out, you’ve done a great deal of denial already. You’ve denied that you had work to do and denied that you had to do it. By now you’re great at denying things.

So deny that any of this is your fault. Blame your friends. Blame your family. Most of all, blame the university system for placing you in a situation where you’ve been set up for failure. We recommend going to your professor or TA and telling them that you didn’t know that you had a midterm or a paper due when you did because the course outline was unclear. If you’re really, really lucky, they might be willing to put extra weight on whatever assignments are left. If this occurs, remember to do the assignment(s).

Stage 2: Anger

By now, your first step has failed. You’re probably pretty angry. Feel free to punch a wall or, failing that, a friend or relative, out of frustration. Don’t punch strangers because they’re far more likely to sue than people you know.

Anyhow, now that you’re angry, it’s probably too late to start work on your project or assignment. Your work will be shoddy and full of holes.

Instead, head to the Den to drink your anger away and get something to eat.

Stage 3: Bargaining

Okay. You’re done being angry. You’re ready to maybe think about doing your work. But you’re out of time. What do you do?

Go to your professor or TA and beg. Plead with them. Bargain with them! Maybe they’ll let you do a rewrite. Maybe they’ll add weight onto your final projects or papers. Maybe they’ll tell you to go fuck yourself. It all depends on how you do it. Beg, but don’t threaten. Offer favours, but not of a sexual nature. Many of them are married, or at least have better prospects than you. Besides, you’ve got too much to do to waste time on non-academic activities.

Gauntlet editors have, in the past, completely forgotten about midterms or papers and avoided failing by getting an STI or pregnancy test for the doctor’s note. That sounds fine on paper, but for men it requires having a Q-tip jammed in your urethera to swab for infections. If you would rather get an ‘F,’ we understand.

Anyhow, if your begging and pleading works, you may actually get a shot at passing. Don’t go to the Den. Don’t have a nap. Don’t visit your significant other. Just do the fucking work. A five per cent mark is much better than a zero and can raise an ‘F’ to a ‘D+,’ much like it can change an ‘A’ into an ‘A+’ for smart people.

Speaking of smart people, go to the smartest person you know and bargain with them. They can’t do the work for you because that’s horribly unethical, but they can give you handy advice on how to be good at school like they are. It helps if they’re in the same class or major as you, but your friend who gets ‘A’s in philosophy can probably help you out decently in calculus or physics.

The key is to do whatever you can to get a second chance and then get the work done as quickly as possible. Quality is encouraged, but not essential. You’re not going to do great work at this stage anyway, so just hand something in and deal with the aftermath later.

Stage 4: Depression

Congratuations! You’ve begged, pleaded and scrambled your way into finishing whatever work you had to do. Sure, it may be days or weeks after the original due date, but at least it’s done, right?

At this point, sit back and reflect on all the horrible stuff you had to put up with to get your work done. You’re probably bummed out, but go with it. Unless you have other work to do in another class, we recommend holing up in your room and watching an entire TV series on DVD to help collect your thoughts. Office favourites include Star Trek: The Next Generation (any season where Riker has a beard), Lost or any British sitcom.

Also, grab something to drink. There is no more wonderful feeling in life than drinking while contemplating the sorry state you’ve fallen to entirely through your own poor decisions.

Stage 5: Acceptance

By now, you’ve worked through the other steps. You’ve denied that anything was your fault. You’ve bargained your way into an extension of some kind. You got work done, somehow. You’ve reflected on your experience and all your various failures. Now what you need to do is accept the fact that you are a failure. Granted, you’re at least functional enough as a human being to get into university, but not enough to pay any attention to dates and times. Embrace that. Celebrate that. More important, take notes for the next time you inevitably fuck off and go bowling instead of writing a 15-page paper on Plate Propensity and have to beg Dr. So-and-So to give you a second chance. Remember what kind of chocolate he likes or his favourite brand of scotch. These are the details that will bail your ass out the next time you fail at life.

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