I’ll be the first person to admit that I’ve done things in the past I’m not proud of. I think most people can say that. Even if you always try to be a good person, you can end up doing something bad once in a while.
Sometimes it’s hard to look back on those past actions and rationalize them away. They can stick in your mind and make you feel bad.
But you can’t beat yourself up over them. Sometimes you just have to accept the things you’ve done and move on. Just because you did some bad things in the past doesn’t make you a bad person.
Beating Yourself Up Over the Past
We all have something in the past we wish we could change. Decisions were made and at some point you did something you otherwise wouldn’t have done.
Perhaps you treated someone terribly.
Maybe you stole something from someone.
Or you just said something to someone that hurt them.
Whatever it is, you wish you could go back in time to do it all over again. But of course that’s impossible. Things that happened in the past are there forever and you have to live with your choices.
Some people have a hard time letting go. They beat themselves up for those decisions and keep saying how they should have known better.
Yet that’s destructive thinking. You can’t keep reminding yourself how bad you are for something that happened a long time ago. All you’ll do is descend into the darker areas of self-loathing.
It’s time to move on. It’s time to start telling yourself that doing something bad doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person.
If something from the past is eating you up inside, you have to realize three things:
1. Everyone has done something bad at one point
No one is perfect. Making mistakes is part of the human experience. So that means you’ll eventually do something you’ll regret.
But mistakes don’t make you a bad person and you shouldn’t criticize yourself too harshly for it.
Instead of feeling bad and focusing too much on yourself, you should look to what others have done. Everyone is dealing with something from the past just like you.
Once you realize that everyone has something in the past they wish they could change too, it makes you feel normal. You realize it’s a part of life. You can’t be too hard on yourself when it’s something everyone experiences.
2. You’re not the same person as you were back then
Looking back on the something bad from the past with regret means you’ve changed as a person. It means you wouldn’t do the same thing again. You’ve grown.
That’s something you should feel good about.
It’s those people who’ve done bad things in the past and feel no remorse at all that should feel bad. Not you.
Regret is a sign that at some point, you’ve learned a lesson. It’s a sign that you’ve worked on yourself as a person and turned into a better person. If faced with the same decision now, things would be different.
You can’t be mad at yourself for a decision you made in the past. After all, the person who did it isn’t the same person you are today.
3. You’ve learned from your choices
Mistakes are great learning opportunities. That goes for the really bad ones too.
Instead of looking back on something and feel bad about it, you should see it as a great learning opportunity. If you learned something, some good did come out of it.
Many bad choices help shape the person you are today. Learning from them can influence your personality and development. That’s a good thing.
Even if you don’t think you learned something from your decision, you still can. It’s never too late to learn from a mistake. Instead of feeling bad about it, think of it as an opportunity to reflect and learn.
Getting Good From Bad
There’s not much you can do to prevent doing bad things. No one comes out of life without making a terrible mistake or two.
What you can do is control how you see your events from the past. You can feel bad about them or learn and move on. Since you can’t change the past, you’re not doing yourself or anyone else any good by feeling bad now.
Steve is the writer behind Do Something Cool where he blogs about travel, motivation, self-improvement and adventure. He’s always looking for ways to make life more interesting. Get tips on living life to the fullest by following him on Facebook and Twitter.
I thought I’d blog on a topic few ever talk about, much less practice, but is incredibly important to our sense of peace and happiness. Let’s talk about how to seek forgiveness when you have hurt someone. When we hurt someone, we undoubtedly cause a broken relationship. Broken relationships are not healed without someone seeking forgiveness.
Alex wrote me about a horrible situation she got into, one that leaves her craving forgiveness, even if she’s not sure what will happen if she asks for it: “One night I made a mistake that I can never take back and it is killing me. I slept with my boyfriend’s twin brother and I am now two months pregnant with his child. I don’t know how to tell my boyfriend because I don’t know if he will be able to forgive me and I love him so much and he means the world to me.”
Most people never attempt to heal broken relationships because they refuse to take responsibility for their own actions, and it forces them to come face to face with their own pride. It’s hard to admit you have done something wrong and put yourself at the mercy of others. We’ve all seen people try to squirm their way out of a difficult confrontation about something painful they’ve done. The most insecure people use denial or blaming others to escape from having to wake up to their own failure. Being humble is the key to experiencing forgiveness and healing.
Humble yourself; it’s the first step toward being forgiven.
Vicki wrote this story about needing forgiveness: “Early in my relationship with my current boyfriend I cheated on him. I immediately felt awful about it and regretted doing it. Not too long after it happened, I told him what I had done and how I felt about it, and he was very understanding and he forgave me. Looking back on this two years later, I realize that we were (and are still in) a very loving relationship because forgiving someone after betraying them is VERY hard to do, but he was willing to do that for me and work on keeping our relationship strong.”
SO HOW DO YOU SEEK FORGIVENESS FROM SOMEONE YOU HAVE HURT?
Four Steps to Seeking Forgiveness
STEP 1: Admit to yourself you have hurt another person. As painful as it is, you have to come to the place where you admit you’re guilty, no excuses. Asking someone to forgive you requires a broken heart and a willingness to repair the damage you have done. It’s not just saying, Forgive me if you think I happened to have done something wrong. You need to understand the amount of pain you have caused, and accept responsibility for it.
STEP 2: Talk to God. Ask him to forgive you for what you’ve done and to give you the strength to talk to the person you’ve hurt. God is very interested in you seeking forgiveness. Jesus said something very powerful about the urgency and the need to seek forgiveness: If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God. (Matthew 5:24)
STEP 3: Ask for forgiveness from the person you hurt. If you are going to meet in person, you may want to write down your apology, and then practice saying it out loud until you are completely comfortable with it. What to say? Be honest. Don’t apologize just to make an uncomfortable situation go away. You need to clearly explain what you are sorry for, without making any excuses. You might need to find a third party to help you, especially if it’s difficult to talk face to face. You may need a peacemaker who can help bring some objectivity to the conversation. Don’t expect him or her to immediately jump up with joy (or forgiveness) the moment you apologize.
STEP 4: Let the other person respond to you without getting defensive. You may need to give the other person time to sort out their feelings. Don’t expect him or her to immediately jump up with joy (or forgiveness) the moment you apologize. It is important, if possible, to make sure the person you have hurt says Yes, I do forgive you. In so doing, they are saying, I’m not going to keep bringing it up or hold what you’ve done over your head. Sometimes when you seek forgiveness, a lot of people will then turn around and seek forgiveness from you.
Even if the other person refuses to forgive you, you’ve done your part to clear your conscience and show you want to change. In time, they may come around and forgive you. The best way for you to respond is to show yourself as continually trustworthy, avoiding opportunities to slip back into the wrongful behavior. But you did the right thing by seeking forgiveness, and your new attitude and actions will be the best way to prove you are truly sorry for what happened.
The best way for you to respond is to show yourself as continually trustworthy, avoiding opportunities to slip back into the wrongful behavior.
Let’s go back to Vicki, who concludes this topic very well: “When I look back on how thankful and lucky I was to be with someone as thoughtful and caring and understanding as my boyfriend, who had the strength to look beyond my stupid mistake, it makes it easier to give other people a second chance if they hurt me because I want people to feel how I felt, because it feels wonderful to be forgiven.”
Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images
Even if you know the interview question is coming, it’s always tough to discuss a mistake you’ve made. But here’s a little secret: Being open about a specific example of when you messed up can actually score you points, even with the toughest interviewer.
Given the choice between a potential teammate who is willing to take tough feedback, and another who does everything possible to cover his or her you-know-what after a mistake, most people would choose the former. To give you the ammunition that’ll show The Person in Charge that you’ll work hard and are a great teammate, here are three rules to follow when you’re responding to the dreaded question, “Tell me about a time you made a mistake.”
1. Don’t Pass the Buck
Hey, we all make mistakes. And anyone you’ll interview with for any job knows this. But, when you know something was your fault, do yourself a favor and own up to it. Nobody wants to work with someone who’s always pointing fingers, and yet, too many applicants I met with went out of their way to convince me there was nothing they could’ve done differently. This was a huge bummer, especially when I had grown to like the candidate a lot.
When in doubt, choose a blunder you can articulate the details of, and open up as much as possible.
Here’s a fictional, but good, example:
Early in my career, I missed a deadline that ended up costing us a really big account. There were a lot of factors that contributed to this, but ultimately, I was the one who dropped the ball. From that experience, I went back and thought really hard about what I could’ve controlled and what I would’ve changed. It turns out that I was not nearly as organized as I thought I was. I sat down with my boss, asked for suggestions on how to improve my organizational skills, and a few months later I was able to score an even bigger account for the department.
This kind of response covers a lot of bases. But most importantly, it addresses the mistake, the lessons learned, and the actions taken to grow from the experience. It also ends things on a really positive note.
2. Don’t Assume You’re Done Talking About Your Mistake Once You’ve Answered the Question
Any honest answer about a mistake you’ve made in the past will be appreciated. In fact, your honesty will be appreciated so much that most interviewers will have follow-up questions. Whenever I heard a candidate respond openly about a previous blunder, I started rooting for them to really win us over—even as I started digging deeper. And too many times, it was hard for people to stay candid.
It usually went something like this:
Q: Tell me about something you wish you had done something differently.
A: I mishandled a report and ended up making my boss look really bad in front of a potential client. It was nobody’s fault but mine.
Q: So, what do you think you learned from that example?
A: I learned those reports are really hard to write.
Often, I’d go back and forth with a contender until it became clear this was as transparent as things were going to get. And with each response that left me wanting more, I couldn’t help but clench my teeth, knowing that the entire mood of the interview could have been different if the person was just willing to stay candid. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with being open, be as open as possible about all the facets of your mistake.
3. Even if Your Mistake Was Simply Taking a Certain Job, Don’t Blame Your Former Company
Sometimes a particular job is simply not right for you. It happens! But remember, while it’s good to be honest when talking about previous mistakes, you don’t want to go into a tirade about how much you just didn’t like your former (or current!) boss, team, or company.
Instead, see if you can reframe the way you talk about your reasons for leaving. Even better, if you have some unique circumstances, an answer like the one below will score you some extra brownie points.
I’m happy in my job in a lot of ways. My boss is great, the company is awesome, and I work on a really close team. I took a job in sales because I wanted to make sure I had enough money to pay my bills and eventually, I got really good at it. But even though my sales job has been good to me financially, I went to school to be a journalist and ultimately feel like this is the right time to finally pursue my dream of writing for a leading news outlet like yours.
The best part about this answer? It’s honest, but at no point does it utter the words, “taking this job was a huge mistake.” It’s also relatable. Some people land their dream jobs right out of college, but for the majority of us, it takes a little bit of work.
Nobody likes talking about things they didn’t do well. Nobody will ever like talking about things they wish had gone differently, especially when a job is on the line. But, even though it might go against conventional wisdom, be willing to talk about the mistakes you’ve made in the past. You’ll be surprised how this bit of self-awareness will go a long way in making it clear to everyone you interview with that you are the absolute right person for the job.
I want to talk about an in-depth journey through the difficult topic of forgiveness. I say difficult because forgiving someone who has deeply hurt you is no doubt the hardest challenge you will ever face. But deciding to forgive someone who has deeply hurt you is also, unquestionably, one of the most important choices you will ever make.
I want to walk with you step-by-step through how you can actually forgive someone. I truly believe this is the most important blog I’ve ever written because forgiveness will help you find freedom. It will free you from the toxic emotions that trap you in bitterness and hate. So let’s get this started.
But first, it is important to state that forgiving someone does NOT make what they did right. You are not saying, “It’s okay,” because was not okay to hurt you. Rather, you are choosing to let go of the bitterness while remembering your boundaries. You don’t have to be friendly with them again. You also might not FEEL forgiving, but forgiving someone is a choice you make, not a feeling you stir up. It is important to understand what forgiveness IS and what forgiveness IS NOT.
Now let’s look at tips on the process of forgiving someone.
6 Steps on How to Forgive
STEP ONE: You can’t truly forgive unless you have grasped the extent of the violation that has been done against you. With the help of a counselor, minister, or another professional, you need to seek to understand what happened to you when you were hurt and why it hurts so much.
Jane sent me some great advice: Let all the things that have happened roll through your mind, and let them pass through. Don’t try to deny feelings of anguish that you may have had. If you keep trying to smother that fire, you won’t help it. Allow yourself to experience the feelings you need to go through, then don’t cling to them, let them go. Try to focus on the good things the experiences have provided you with, however tiny they may be compared with the wrongs the person has done to you.
STEP TWO: Write down the name of the person you have chosen to forgive. Underneath that name, think of the many things you have done for which you need forgiveness and write them down. When we realize how much we need to be forgiven for all the wrongs we have done, it makes it easier to show mercy to those who have hurt us. Keep what you have written in front of you as you go through this process.
STEP THREE: Realize forgiving others is a spiritual, supernatural exercise. In fact, it is impossible to truly forgive others without God’s help. God can help you forgive because not only has He forgiven tens of billions of people, He also has the power to help you, in particular. Just remember: He only helps those who admit their helplessness. You might say a simple prayer like this: God I admit I can’t forgive (insert name) with my own power. Please help me. Help me to understand how much you have forgiven me, so I can forgive the person who has hurt me.
Nathan commented on how he has lived this out: The hurt from the harm someone has done you is so big you cannot forgive on your own. I tried to put it aside, to rationalize it, even to blame myself for it. It was poisoning my spirit. Then one night I cried out to God realizing that this burden was too big for me alone. I laid the pain and anger and hurt at His feet, and He lifted the burden from me. It was only then that I could begin breathing in God’s love and peace and move on.
STEP FOUR: Now it’s time to make the big decision to surrender. Let go of your deep desire to get even with the person who has violated you. Come up with a prayer or statement announcing your decision. Here’s an example: By an act of my will, and God’s power, I give up my rights to get even with (insert name). I make a commitment that when those sordid feelings come over me again, I will release them. I won’t babysit them. I admit the feelings are real, but I choose not to be controlled by them any longer. Instead I will dwell on the good things I have learned from this experience.
STEP FIVE: Make a choice to have compassion on your violator. Look at them first, as a tragedy. In one sense they should be pitied. Bottom line is, because of their violation against you they have suffered, are suffering, and in the end will suffer far more in this life, or the one to come. We’re not making excuses for them, but we’re only saying they are pathetic, and desperately need our compassion. One way to show compassion is to pray for the person who has hurt you. Jesus said, “Pray for your enemies.” He knows it is impossible to continue to pray for someone, and still hate them. Then, while you’re praying for this person, ask for a blessing in their life. Pray that good things come to them. Wish them well.
STEP SIX: Move on. It’s time to make a concerted effort to stop dwelling on what happened. By forgiving someone you’re promising not to bring it up again to use against him or her. If you are going to talk to someone about how the other person has hurt you, make sure this person is a professional or a wise person you can trust.
Jenn commented: Forgiving takes time. It doesn’t happen just once and it’s over with. But I am letting [God] take it from my hands and letting Him handle it. It is not my place to punish [the guy who hurt me], and I certainly don’t need to punish myself by holding on to that hurt and anger.
Forgiveness is Worth the Effort
In conclusion, forgiving someone who has hurt you could be the greatest challenge of your life. But if you choose to forgive, you will join those who are not being destroyed by bitterness, anger, hurt or other toxic emotions. There is nothing quite like living in peace, knowing you are a forgiving person. May God bless you as you seek to be a truly loving and forgiving person.
I just wanted to say no words can explain the excruciating pain I feel right now hurting you was never my intention, my heart is shredded, knowing I made you hurt and upset.
If only I could undo all the mistakes I made I really do I wish none of this happened I just want to make you happy.
I deeply appreciate you being in my life and supporting me through everything. You do matter a lot to me, I don’t know how I should express my love to you because my love for you is unlimited.
I want to be that person that always makes you smile on your bad days. Making you happy makes me feel happy, making you feel sad also makes me to feel sad.
I appreciate every happy moment that we have spent together. Life without you is pointless and meaningless it really is. Admitting that I was wrong is still hard for me, and I’m still learning.
But it’s a journey, and I’m doing my best to be a better person for you.
I love you so effing much and I don’t think you know how much I really do. it kills me seeing you upset and crying from me doing something wrong.
Sometimes I don’t admit that I’ve done something wrong when I really should just be honest because I know that it causes sh*t and makes me upset.
I know that you didn’t deserve to be hurt like this, it’s too much. I’m sorry for the way I have been acting and treating you. You don’t deserve any of it. You’re such a nice and respectful person.
The tears that run down my cheek are filled with sadness and hurt because of how many times you have said that you felt hurt and upset.
Just trying to make myself feel better. I met my co-worker in Austria when I was drunk as hell (5 o'clock in the afternoon, afterski. ) and ranted about how our boss was an asshole and things like that. The next day I found out he's the boss' nephew.
TL;DR I got fired.
I pretended to be German.
Are you Basil Faulty?
We do this often, theres a local back packer bar where Germans frequent. We go there and pretend we are from Germany
I pretended to be Cuban at a Latin nightclub in Toronto. My pathetic Spanish vocabulary fooled most of the English-speaking guys that chatted me up, but I looked like a complete idiot to the bartenders and regulars. I was mortified when my friends told me about my little scheme the next morning.
I asked a cop for weed
I mean, is this really THAT bad? Unless you had something illegal on you (in which case, this is pretty bad), its not like you were going to jail for asking a question
Admitted to having anal sex in front of my sister.
Why would you have anal sex in front of your sister?
Better in front of than with
Bro you need a comma.
As in you admitted the act in front of your sister, or you committed the act in front of your sister?
thank god you'll never admit it to anyone else.
Were you the giver or receiver?
I'm confused. Did you have anal sex in front of your sister or did you admit it in front of her?
Had sex with one of my female best friends. I remember nothing of the night other than some random flashes of the actual act. Woke up the next day naked not knowing anything more than going to a bar. Bathroom was covered in my vomit. Found out later that we did not use protection and it was the best sex she had ever had. It resulted in a friends with benefits situation for a few weeks. It completely ruined our friendship and now we do not speak.
Ditto, I had a female best friend whom I knew liked me, I didn't like her at all, and we continued to be friends without it being awkward. After about two years of being best friends, I got drunk with her for the first time, we did everything except have sex. The next day she started acting like we were together, I had to explain I didn't really like her, and apologize for leading her on. She "accepted" my apology, but we quickly began fading, I saw her at a restaurant not long ago, she didn't say a word to me. She was the best friend I have ever had, and honestly I feel horrible for what I did. I know what I did seriously hurt her, I knew she liked me, I was a total idiot for not exercising common sense and avoiding that whole situation.
The next morning, while chanting about the situation, I found myself thinking about what had happened and becoming angry all over again. I’d made a mistake, certainly, but one for which I’d apologized (though, I had to admit, with a tone containing less sincerity than anger), and that my apology hadn’t been met with understanding forgiveness incensed me.
As I continued to chant, I found myself wondering why I was so incensed. In the next few minutes, I realized I hadn’t become angry at her irritation. I’d become angry because her irritation felt like a rebuke—an accusation that I was incompetent.
I hate being incompetent. I hate being even viewed as incompetent. I don’t mind being ignorant (that is, not knowing how to do something I haven’t been taught), and I don’t mind making mistakes as I’m learning a new skill. But accuse me of incompetence, even indirectly, and I get mad.
I get mad, of course, to regain a sense of power when I feel powerless (one of the four uses of anger I detailed in a previous post, How To Manage Anger), and nothing makes me feel more powerless than when I demonstrate incompetence. The thing about using anger this way is that it works. It makes me feel powerful. But at a high cost: peaceful relations with the person on the receiving end of my anger. Could my wife have been more understanding when I accidentally burned our hamburgers? Of course. But it was my anger that escalated her disappointment and irritation into a full-blown domestic dispute.
I found myself looking back over many of our past fights and saw just how many of them had occurred as a result of my anger, anger I was unconsciously using as a strategy to feel potent and capable when interactions with her made me feel the opposite. When I stood up after finishing my morning chanting, my anger was gone. In its place lay a desire to apologize sincerely. Which, as soon as she awoke, I did. This time, she responded to my sincerity with a warm acceptance of my apology, and we moved on as if the fight had never happened.
THE BENEFITS OF A SINCERE APOLOGY
An apology is the simplest of acts: the speaking of words of genuine regret to another for having harmed, denigrated, or insulted them in some way. And yet it has almost magical power to repair fraying relationships. Most of us seem to be more judgmental of the intent with which a person acts than of their actions’ outcomes. Even when someone acts maliciously toward us, if he later comes to regret it genuinely, almost to view his earlier self as a different person from his present regretful self, that kind of contrition rarely fails to move us.
Apologies of this kind bring resolution and closure. At most they cost us an admission that we were wrong, that we’re imperfect, or that we need to improve in some way. If such a cost seems beyond what we’re willing to pay, we need to examine the cause of our resistance as such a cause always represents an obstacle to our own happiness (i.e., a bloated ego). Sometimes, of course, we’re not actually in the wrong but apologize in order to help someone else achieve closure. This kind of apology is less an expression of contrition and more one of regret that someone experienced an adverse outcome to which we contributed nothing. For example, I apologize all the time to my patients for errors that aren’t mine: scheduling mistakes, delays in test results, unpleasant experiences they have in other corners of our health care system. I do this because such expressions of sympathy make people feel better. Just knowing someone else feels for us and cares about what happened to us—well, I’ve observed it has the same magical power as accepting blame.
HOW TO APOLOGIZE
Apologizing for things that aren’t my fault, however, has been far easier for me than apologizing for things that are. In the past, I’ve resisted admitting my imperfections, especially to people who were close to me personally. I found it threatening to my view of myself as flawlessly competent, a view from which I’ve had to work hard to wean myself in order to build a more autonomous self-esteem.
In order to do this, I’ve had to learn to admit first to myself when I’ve been at fault and allow myself to be so—to remind myself constantly that being at fault doesn’t represent a character flaw. I’ve let go of my need to be right by becoming more interested in becoming better. (If I refuse to ever acknowledge I’m wrong, not seeing the need for improvement, I’d have no real motivation to make any attempts to improve myself—and then my ego would stand as the greatest barrier to my own happiness.) I’ve tried instead to make a more conscious effort to stop and ask myself if I’m the cause of conflict when it arises in my relationships before automatically assigning blame to the other party (I still fail at this regularly—it takes constant practice). I try to ask myself if I’m coming at a person from a bad place or a good place, acting out of weakness or virtue. Often, physical and temporal distance from the person with whom I’m in conflict helps me attain this perspective. The “adrenergic storm” that often accompanies an inflamed ego needs a chance to peter out before more rational, objective self-evaluation becomes possible.
I’ve found only after the storm has passed can I ask myself why I acted badly. And that’s when I learn things about myself I really want to know. Like why I was angry at my wife for being irritated with me. Once I saw that her irritation pricked at my feelings of incompetence, I recognized that feeling incompetent wasn’t her issue, but mine. That, in turn, brought me back a sense of control (the irony in using anger to feel powerful and in control is that in feeling it you actually lose control). I realized I can’t stop my wife from feeling irritated or disappointed or anything else she’s going to feel (the goal of my anger), but I can chip away at whatever feelings of inadequacy her irritation stirs up in me.
And that’s what I decided to do. As a result, the entire incident was transformed from a source of unhappiness in our marriage into an opportunity for me to improve myself and become happier. My apology to her, though crucial for our relationship’s continued health, occurred almost incidentally.
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to visit Dr. Lickerman’s home page, Happiness in this World.
Even if you have a bad high school GPA, you can still make your college dreams a reality. These tips will help you get there.
Last Updated: Mar 12, 2021
Originally Posted: Apr 14, 2017
By now you’ve heard that good grades are a huge part of getting into college. But what do you do when you’re staring down your college applications and you have a mediocre—or straight-up bad—GPA? All hope is not lost. You can still find a college that fits you—a good college, even. But you will have to rethink where to go and how to get there. Here’s your first step: do something to boost your grades, starting now.
Why it’s not too late to boost your grades
“It’s never too late to improve, because one of the things colleges want to see is an upward trend and an explanation of why it wasn’t going so well,” says John Boshoven, counselor for continuing education at Community High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. What if your school performance tanked for a while for a specific reason? Maybe you came down with the flu, your parents got divorced, or it turned out that you couldn’t handle a super hard class. College admission counselors understand that life happens. (It may also be worth discussing that hardship in your college application essay or asking if one of your recommendation writers can mention how you bounced back.)
No matter what the case is—or how bad your grades are—you need to figure out what you learned from your experience and how you’ll do better from now on. “You can’t make excuses if you haven’t done some self-reflection,” says Kiersten Murphy, an independent college counselor in Washington State. It’s true that a C average or lower will limit your college choices, Murphy says, but you still have options.
10 tips for students with bad high school grades
So What else can you do when your grades aren’t so hot? There are certainly a lot of ways to improve your grades as well as ways to improve your college applications in general. Here are 10 ideas.
1. Take classes you like
Boshoven points out that you’ll probably get a better grade in a class you enjoy. Ask your school counselor to help you pick classes that make you happy and fulfill your requirements for high school graduation and college applications.
2. Stay with teachers you like
Some teachers in your high school are probably a better match for you than others. And if the teacher is a good match for how you learn, you’ll probably earn a better grade in their class. “I ask juniors all the time, ‘Who are you thinking of asking to write your college recommendation letter?’” Boshoven says. “Can you take that teacher again?”
3. Ask for help—and mean it
If you’ve decided now to work on raising your high school grades, you’ll have to build new habits. Stop by after school and tell your teacher, “I want to do better in your class. Can you help me?” Then show you mean it. Follow your teacher’s advice. Volunteer to answer a math problem at the board. Ask your dad to hide your phone so you can study for an hour after dinner every night. Making small changes over time can help you more than you realize.
4. Take a class online or during the summer
If you’re missing graduation requirements, or failed a class and can’t retake it, you might have to take a class outside of the regular school schedule. Your high school counselor can help you find ways to catch up with classes during breaks or summer vacation, either in person or online.
5. Find colleges that look at the whole person.
Many colleges and universities partake in “holistic” admission decisions. They look not just at your academics but your extracurriculars, intended major, and other pieces of the application puzzle to get a fuller picture of who you really are. They might even give you an opportunity to write an essay where you can explain how you’ve committed to doing better in school, or you could explain as much during an interview with an admission counselor. This might sound intimidating, but it’s a way for the admission office to learn more about who you are as a person and why you’d be a good fit for their school.
6. Use the “additional information” section
Most college applications have a part where you can tell admission counselors anything else they need to know about you. If you didn’t write your essay about the reason for your poor grades, explain it here. Don’t use this section to further comment on other things already outlined in your application. Really make use of the section to let admission counselors know why you’d still be a great fit for their school despite the areas of your application in which you may be lacking.
7. Consider starting at a community or other two-year college
As long as you’ve finished high school, community colleges will take you as you are. Murphy says a year of good grades here will make your high school performance matter a lot less. “Work hard, get A’s, and then transfer to an awesome school,” she advises. If community college isn’t for you, another two-year school (like a two-year private college) might be your perfect launching pad. Like at community college, you’ll have a chance to prove yourself. But you could also have other perks, like leaving home and living in a residence hall, which can help you adjust to college life and real world.
8. Consider a postgraduate year
Some private boarding schools offer students a “postgraduate year” (or “13 th grade”) as a way to grow academically and socially before starting college. Murphy says a year in a nurturing environment and extra exposure to a high school curriculum can open many doors for colleges. “You’ll be coming in more prepared,” she says. “There are instances in which it can make a real difference.” Keep in mind these schools often charge pretty hefty tuition fees—similar to four-year colleges—but many also offer scholarships.
9. Take a gap year
Maybe you’re burned out and need a break from school. Spending a gap year working, volunteering, or traveling could give you more clarity on what you hope to get out of college—which isn’t a bad thing for your applications either.
If you’re determined to go to college, nothing can stop, including bad grades. The important thing is to commit to working hard and doing your best so you’ll end up at the best school for you. Find ways to improve your schools or to pivot your applications to boost it in other sections. Good luck!
Find advice for bringing up your grades in our Majors and Academics section.
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These past few weeks, we have seen what feels like an unusually high number of people faced with accusations of wrongdoing, sexual misconduct and unethical behavior. For most of them, the first response is one of denial and disputation. But as evidence and corroboration emerge, that strategy becomes harder to maintain.
That’s when most people turn to a public apology–a statement expressing remorse over their actions and acknowledging that they’ve been hurtful to others.
It’s not likely that you’ll ever need to respond to such serious and public allegations, but all of us do things we regret and–intentionally or not–act to hurt others. We all have occasion to apologize and take responsibility for things we’ve said and done.
But a ham-fisted, insincere apology can actually create more harm. Here are some important distinctions to consider the next time you find yourself needing to make an apology:
The Wrong Way to Apologize:
One of the worst things you can do blame someone else for your own misconduct, misbehavior, wrongdoing or unprofessionalism–especially if the person you blame is someone you victimized to begin with,
When you try to defend your behavior by claiming it was justified, saying that different standards applied in this particular situation, or making any other excuse, you’re only making yourself look worse.
When you downplay your hurtful actions, you send a message that the effects of your behavior on others aren’t important to you. It’s disrespectful not only to the people you’ve harmed but to everyone around you, and it makes you appear manipulative.
When giving an apology, many people are tempted to explain their actions. Even if it’s well intended, this approach is likely to come off sounding like an excuse and will only weaken your apology. There may be a time to provide more background that helps explain what happened, but that time probably isn’t now.
The Right Way to Apologize:
Be the first to admit that you did something wrong; don’t deny or rebut. When you apologize, you’re acknowledging that you engaged in unacceptable behavior. It’s an act that helps you rebuild trust and restore relationships. Depending on the circumstances, it can also be the springboard to a conversation about acceptable standards.
When you accept full responsibility for the situation, you restore dignity to the person you hurt. This can begin the healing process and shut down any victim-blaming (by others or by the victim themselves). For example: “I know I hurt your feelings yesterday when I snapped at you. I’m sure it embarrassed you, especially since everyone else on the team was there. I was wrong to treat you like that and I apologize.”
Acknowledging your wrongdoing is a good beginning, but the heart of an apology is expressing the thoughts I’m sorry and I hope you can forgive me. A sincere apology is itself a demonstration that you’re taking responsibility for your actions. This can strengthen your self-confidence, self-respect and reputation. You’re likely to feel a sense of relief when you come clean about your actions, and it’s one of the best ways to restore your character.
While it’s important to ask for forgiveness, keep in mind that the other person may not be ready. Give them time and don’t try to rush them through the process. In the meantime, Think carefully about this step and what you can do that may be helpful. Token gestures or empty promises will do more harm than good. Similarly, don’t go overboard out of guilt. Work to find an appropriate way to make amends.
Why It Matters
Apologizing the right way, when you have hurt someone unnecessarily, by mistake or on purpose, is the first step in the path toward reconciliation–between the other person and you, or, if nothing else, between you and your conscience.
If you don’t apologize at all or if you can’t be bothered to apologize the right way, you can do lasting damage to your relationships, your reputation, your career opportunities, and your effectiveness. Most important, it lowers the respect in which others hold you and, likely, in which you hold yourself.
We all make mistakes and we all hurt others. When it happens, a sincere and well-thought-out apology is always the best first step in recovering your integrity.