Guest Blogs

“Bad Grades Misrepresented My Intelligence and Efforts”

“I lost the hope of my dream job, was at my second-choice university, and felt utterly dejected.”

A sad college student sits on the ground with her lapop, and wonders how to stop negative thoughts.
A sad college student sits on the ground with her lapop, and wonders how to stop negative thoughts.

My greatest academic regret is not studying history in college, despite being top of my class. I blame it on Nip/Tuck.

I was 16 years old and had just a month to choose my A-Levels, similar to American Advanced Placement (AP) courses. I became so fascinated and enamored by the grandeur and drama of the popular medical drama television series that I aspired to become a plastic surgeon. So, it made perfect sense to take A-Levels in chemistry and physics, despite my track record of receiving bad grades in those subjects.

Subsequently, I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped. This was tough because, like many people with ADHD, my grades totally misrepresented my intelligence and efforts. (I even figured out how long a coffee took to digest to perfectly time when I needed a swig of espresso to kick in mid-exam.) I got a “D” in physics and an “E” (the U.S. equivalent of a 40-49%) in chemistry — the lowest grades I had ever received. I had never failed an exam before!

When I read the letter with my grades on it, my dreams crumbled before my welling eyes. I was shocked and devastated. I couldn’t fathom how it happened when I had spent my entire life working so hard.

Even worse, my grades kept me from going to my first-choice university. Sure, I was lucky to find a university at all, but I was bitter for years about missing out and “failing” myself.

[Free Handout: How to Focus (When Your Brain Says ‘No!’)]

I lost the hope of my dream job, was at my second-choice university, and felt utterly dejected. With nothing to lose, I decided to pursue a Bachelor of Science in psychology and criminology because the subjects sounded interesting. Being interested in a topic was all I needed to do well. Despite taking nothing very seriously during my university years, I excelled in psychology.

My Criminology professor even called me into his office once just to tell me that I reminded him of a younger version of himself. (I honestly thought he was going to kick me out of the course for being too much in class!) He still remembered me eight years later when we passed in the street.

I learned a little too late that I suck at science. I didn’t recognize why I failed those A-Levels until after being diagnosed with ADHD at age 30. The pages of equations were too boring and too difficult to visualize, so they didn’t stick in my mind. I didn’t understand it back then, but I should’ve focused more on my talents and interests — not on a fictitious end-goal. Following my natural interests would have led me to be a more successful, well-rounded, and content student and adult.

I still idolize surgeons and doctors. However, after spending time with them socially, I understand the hard realities and sacrifices of the job. I admire their tenacious mindset, but I also realize that I couldn’t spend my life doing what they do in a hospital. They are dedicated in the extreme, whereas I — with my ADHD — can barely follow a recipe without getting creative and experimental.

[Read This: How to Save a Bad Semester ]

These days, my YouTube homepage remains packed with history, news, crime, and psychology — not tutorials on nose or boob jobs, though they are very interesting too.

Bad Grades with ADHD in College: Next Steps


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