The Best Risk I Ever Took In School

girl nervous about taking a risk

My fear of failing terrified me – until I realized positive risks could pay off. | Source: Shutterstock.com

I don’t consider myself a big risk taker. Going sky diving? Never in a million years. Okay, so that’s a pretty big example of a risk, but even in my day-to-day life, sticking with “safe” options is what I tend to do.

A recent survey showed that 46 percent of teens said they were scared of failing and that having to take a risk to figure out a problem made them feel uncomfortable. On top of that, girls were more likely to feel this sort of discomfort or fear than boys. If you’re thinking, “Yup, that’s so me,” I can totally relate.

I always wanted to be right on the first try, so while I was scared of being wrong in all of my classes, it was particularly true in science with all those experiments – first with chemistry, then with physics. I also didn’t feel as interested in these classes, so I felt less confident and my fear of being wrong was even bigger.

I learned a ton from my science teachers, I worked really hard and I was happy with the grades I got. Looking back, I just should have put less pressure on myself to always be right in those science classes. I knew I was never going to become a scientist because that wasn’t my passion, so actually there was less of a reason to fear being wrong. However, what makes my story a little twisty is that this all led me to take the biggest risk I ever made in school. Spoiler alert: it was an awesome decision.

Here’s what happened. Senior year, I was supposed to take Advanced Placement Biology. I was dreading it, especially because I really wanted to take this contemporary history elective that now wouldn’t work with my schedule because of AP Bio, which I had to take.

I paused for a second - wait, why did I have to take it? Just because that’s what everyone else did after physics? In a moment of bravery, I denounced AP Bio, signed up for a different science class and secured a spot in that additional history class I wanted.

Previously, I’d just followed along with the recommended courses, so straying from that path for the first time was definitely a risk for me. In addition, my parents had pretty high expectations when it came to school so I worried about how they were going to react. Would they judge my decision? Would my teachers? At my school, AP classes also counted for more in your GPA, so now I had one less boost to help me out. It all felt risky to potentially make a bad academic choice right at the start of such an important year. I didn’t want it to all blow up in my face.

So how’d my risk turn out? Well, that extra history class may not have had the Advanced Placement stamp on it, but it was way more valuable to me than sitting in a biology class that terrified and bored me. I knew I wanted to apply to journalism school and that history elective forced me to stay up to date on news and issues throughout the world. Before I knew it, the things I was learning about were the things I was talking about in my college interviews and essays, overall strengthening my applications. Plus, the science class I did take was AWESOME. We learned about topics like forensics and psychology that got me excited about science and trying new things.

If I hadn’t been brave enough to take a risk and go for that class instead of the usual path, I really believe that I wouldn’t have gotten into my college program. I just think the class made me learn so much about the world, but also myself, which made me a more confident college applicant. I do wish I’d been less afraid of being wrong during science classes in high school, because I think that would have made me enjoy them more. However, I will say that I am glad that when I wasn’t happy with them, I took a positive risk that went against the norm in an effort to make things better for myself.

There’s a difference between positive risk taking and just being totally reckless, but even positive risks won’t always end up working out. We fail at some things in life – which believe me, I have not fully accepted yet – and then we move on. Not every risk I take is going to be as stellar as that one I made senior year, but just the chance of knowing that something really awesome can come out a risk-taking experience, still reminds me to try and be a little bit more like 16 year-old me and not let the fear of failure keep me from taking a positive risk.

Do you feel scared to fail at things in school? How often would you say that you take positive risks? Do you think you would have made the same decision I did in school? Tell us in the comments!

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