Confessions of a Bad Student

A Writing Blog Series by Patrick, a former writing mentor

Part One: Introduction

My friends at Wesleyan all embodied that rare, inexplicable type I’ve never understood—the Good Student. They were able to keep up with their reading consistently, write multiple essay drafts, speak in every class, study over the course of a week for their tests, and they even audited classes. They liked doing it, and I’m sure they actually learned and retained a lot of the information that professors ostensibly teach. I didn’t, usually. I was almost always not a Good Student, and always felt ashamed around them. I hid my night-before cramming, didn’t mention my mornings spent writing eight pages for a 2 p.m. deadline, and just never discussed my class work. I assumed that everyone at Wes was smarter, a better student, and more attractive than I, and so I always felt like I was out of place.

Well, that’s probably all true, but I’m still reaching out. I am a collection of bad study habits learned over many years, driven by an immense and insatiable laziness, and I’d like to speak to other students who maybe can relate a little about how one can be a decent student despite one’s inclinations. I’m not going to write about how you can blast away your inertia and power-charge your love of learning, because I never figured that out myself. Rather, I’d like to write about a few lessons I’ve learned, as a bad student, about how I got out of the ruts I trapped myself in and did well despite myself.

A little clarifying information starting out: though I’m calling myself a bad student, I didn’t do all that poorly at Wesleyan. An F is pulling down my GPA, but on the whole I got more As and A-s than anything else. Rather, what I mean is that during my college career I coasted on a lot of luck, some talent for writing, a quiet demeanor (makes people think you’re smart), and strategic use of the pass/fail option. It all worked for me, for the most part, and of course it did—most bad students have systems that allow and perpetuate their terrible study habits. Otherwise, they’d either fail out or become good students. Eventually, however, a professor saw right through me and the simplest set of circumstances led to my system falling apart completely.

To you relevant readers I posit this: your system too will fall through eventually, if it hasn’t already. The signs of a bad student are obvious to that rare professor who ties professional ethics with honest grading (I’ll publish that, I don’t care, I’ve graduated! It, of course, does not apply to any creative writing professor or any professor who is writing me a recommendation—you are both clear exceptions). Even if you carefully avoid those professors, the links in your system are just too weak, and eventually things will align in such a way as to bring everything crashing down. These posts will deal with some of the links in my system and how I dealt with them.

So come along, boys and girls. I’m going to tell you the tale of big bad bully Lazy Patrick and little nerdy Student Patrick, and how I sometimes forced them to get along.

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