Author: Carlos Dos Santos, C’17

Welcome to Penn: the land of infinite studying! So much studying, in fact, that no matter how much one studies, there’s never enough time in the day (or night), and never a high enough cerebral capacity to get through those exams. Long nights pouring into my books, caffeinated highs followed by crashes and waking up the next day having slept through my morning class–is it just me, or does any of this ring a bell?

I’m mentioning all of this because I recently experienced a most trying challenge: the dreaded second Organic Chemistry I midterm. Notoriously difficult and impossibly challenging, I quite frankly never stood a chance against this behemoth as a freshman. In fact, I did so badly that I had to withdraw from Orgo. What better way to end my first semester at Penn than with a nice, big “W” on my transcript? The sore spot comes when you consider how much studying was invested into the class. But don’t get me wrong: I’m not trying to be cynical about the whole ordeal. Sure, I didn’t do so hot on a difficult exam. I’m starting to learn that that’s a common occurrence at Penn. This certainly isn’t high school anymore, it’s a tough Ivy League. And we’re being trained to live up to the Ivy League name, even if it means Penn will break each of us down before it can build us up.

In the end, I know I’ll have come out of this experience a bit more knowledgeable than before–if not in Orgo, then at least in a good lesson on defeat. For one, you gotta know when you’ve been beaten, and, secondly, that there’s always tomorrow to pick yourself up and try again. So, after catching up on the sleep hours of which I was in serious debt to myself, I went out and realized that things weren’t so bad after all. For one, I’m now free of Orgo (even though I’m now auditing the class for the rest of the semester)! And now that I’ve been exposed to it once I can get an even better grade next time around, instead of the mediocre one I was expecting throughout this semester.

Most important of all, it’s a life lesson in the end. A “W” on the paper can hardly be called a dilemma. Talk about first-world problems! Grades are important, but I’m not alone when I say that life at Penn has taught me to be more light-hearted about grades, because there are bigger and better things out there in the real world– where there is no such thing as grades– to consider.



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