January 20, 2014

Failing > Dropping

It was 5 years ago that I decided to drop out of my third year studio class. It was a year-long project that was to continue into the winter term and it was expected of us to work on our project during the holiday break to get it to the level needed for design development.

Looking back, the experience has taken me along an architectural education sojourn that can be described as unorthodox at best. Eventually, it ironed out itself in the end, but it was not easy completing my degree. I have met other peers that chose to give up in my shoes.  It took me 6 years to finish. I was shifted between old and new curriculum and given course equivalencies as my school was going through a restructuring (not fun at all always figuring out forms, and being enable to register for classes online). Lastly, it was more of a struggle of perseverance and catching up than what I was naively hoping for - a victory lap to convocation. It was more like a crawl to a finish line - constantly always trying to catch up yet still behind. 

When I was getting involved in student groups and meeting freshman and sophomore students...I have met many students who had a dilemma of whether they should drop their course/studio. Surprise! Surprise! I was the poster boy for dropping architecture classes, the “go-to guy” for those who needed advice in dropping a class – especially studio.  

Ironically, my advice for them and for you reading this is simple: Dropping studio does NOT solve the real problems. It may prevent a stain on your GPA and transcript for the time being (OK, I admit for grad school applicants and grad students the repercussions can impact your educational career) but it does not solve the real reason of why many consider dropping out. Dropping out does not teach you the proper way of coping with a stressful situation. It does not teach you how to cope and deal with one of the harshest lessons in life – Failure.  Avoidance of pain and of consequence does not teach you to realize how your actions and decisions have repercussions. It does not teach you to take responsibility for your mistakes. Sometimes just bearing the pain through to the finish line, Failure can push you to do better. Failing and struggling also confronts you with what level of work is expected of you to inform you what you need to work on – which is valuable to help you when you repeat a course. It's a brutal punishment, but its long-term fruits reap success and resilience. 

The only time I might suggest dropping a course is only under emergencies, and personal circumstances that is hindering or debilitating your ability to perform properly and at your best. It is only you that can determine when to draw that line - not your classmates and friends. Ultimately it is you that will have to live with your decision to drop a course and live with it with no regret - I cannot decide that for you as this circumstances vary from person to person. I dropped out of a few of my Architecture Courses in my third year, but I was cognizant to seek counselling services to figure out why I am struggling and stressing out more than my fellow peers. I needed to get myself checked out and I took that initiative after dropping.

Some students might have personal reasons and I respect that especially since Architecture School runs a vicious cycle that is not accommodating to everyone who might have a personal emergency or crisis. However, based from my experience,  a reason to drop should NEVER be to avoid failure or to escape from hard work. It cost me 2 years more and it just made catching up more difficult. So when those students came to me for advice - after I went through failure and saw what it did to me I’d say it’s better to fail as opposed to dropping out. 

Mental Health Awareness for the Architecture Student.

Traits Architecture Students must have
1 year later: Reflecting on Stress & Architecture School

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