On Failing Forward and Pivoting

November 24, 2020
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failing foward, failing college, pivoting after failure
failing foward, failing college, pivoting after failure

This blog was written by former Summer Bridge Member, and College Forward student, Liliana Flores. Liliana is currently receiving her  B.S in Addictions Counseling at The University of Houston – Clear Lake. 

Have you ever heard one of those horror stories about students who fail out of college because they did not do what they were supposed to do? Hi, yeah, I, unfortunately, have one of those horror stories to share.

The "College Life" Stigma

Most people cannot wait to leave for college because they hear all these fun stories about being in Greek Life, being involved in organizations, and being on their own. The stigma with some is that they focus so much on the “college life” that they forget the main purpose of being there, to begin with. Speaking from experience, I can honestly say that it can be easy to fall into that statistic of college students if your focus is not in the right place.

My First Year in College

My name is Liliana Flores, and I failed out of college my first year out of high school. I did not graduate top of my class. I was an average student that was heavily involved in extracurricular activities. I would have considered myself the slacker of the “smart” kids because I used to enroll in all Pre-AP/ AP classes but was barely making it. Right after high school, I chose to attend Lamar University, which was about an hour away from home. It was convenient because it was not too far, but also not too close to home that I couldn’t live on campus. Lamar was not my first choice, but I was still just as excited to start as if it was my first choice. 

During my freshman year of college, I was having a lot of fun. I was on my own and thought I could do whatever I wanted. I would go to class but not complete my work or apply myself like I knew I could. I had the mentality that since I made it through high school without studying, I would be able to do the same in college. That was my first mistake. While I knew I was not in high school anymore, I still did not take care of my business as I should have.
A significant factor I struggled with was that I did not know what I wanted to study. Part of that added to my lack of motivation to apply myself. My parents have owned plenty of businesses as I grew up, so naturally, I decided to study business. Quickly, I realized it was not for me. I found myself conflicted when people asked, “what are your plans?” or “what do you plan to do with your major?”. I was surprised how many people asked that as incoming college freshmen. (like, chill, I just got here. I still have four more years to go). I failed a class my first semester, I retook it in the spring semester and still failed it. I decided to change my major to something else within the school of business. I finally became excited about what I wanted to study. Still, it was too late. Not too long after, I was notified that I would not be allowed to return the coming fall semester because my GPA had dropped below the criteria to stay at the school. 


I knew I was not giving it my full potential, but I realized that I was not ready for that next phase of my life emotionally and maturity-wise.

Being told I was not able to return to university shook my core. It was something that I was not prepared for and not expecting. As I prepared to go back home and began my transition to junior college back at home, I had some self-reflecting to do. I began to think about what I did the past year. I came to the harsh reality that I was not ready to go away for college. I decided to go away to college forcefully because my father wanted me to. As an honor roll student at a young age, I set the bar for myself really high, and it even became hard for me to reach. Of course, I knew I was not giving it my full potential, but I realized that I was not ready for that next phase of my life emotionally and maturity-wise.

I was devastated, and I was grounded, but I returned home and started school at the local community college, Lee College. I started the fall of 2016 as a general studies major until I could figure out what I wanted to do. This time I knew to start slow. I chose general studies to get most of my basics done in the meantime and then think about what I wanted to do.

Upon returning home, I decided to get a job. I had never had a “real” job before because my dad did not allow us to work during high school. He would say that it was just a distraction, and he did not want me to use it as an excuse if I failed a class. I started working at a junior high as an AVID tutor, and I fell in love with it. I always knew I enjoyed working with kids, but I still never knew what career field I should pursue. Naturally, most would think that I should go into education, but I had a family member who gave me a bad taste on being a teacher, and I would always say that I did not want to be like her. Who knew that being around 100 students that are going through mood swings would be enjoyable? I should have known that I didn’t mind grading when I would get excited that the teacher would ask me to help when I was in grade school. It was probably a sign. By the spring of 2017, I had decided to switch my major from general studies to education. Essentially, a lot happened in one school year!

Changing My Major to Teaching

I would always say that I would never, ever, ever be a teacher in a hundred years. Yet, there I was in my advisor’s office changing my major.

Fast forward to May 2018. After being enrolled full time every semester, including summers, I graduated with my Associate of Arts in Teaching. I’m also proud to have continued my work at the same junior high school.
In the spring of 2019, I was presented with the opportunity to work at my alma mater high school. While it was hard to leave my junior high babies, I was ready to take on a new challenge, high school teenagers. I worked under the ESL (English as Second Language) department as an ESL Aide. Being an aide was way different than being a tutor. I went from grading papers and giving lectures to translating the lectures and supporting my students. Both positions have been rewarding in their ways. Overall, I have learned from some great educators that only excite me for my classroom very soon. 

After receiving my Associate’s, I transferred to the University of Houston – Clear Lake. My major is Behavioral Science, and I am also pursuing my alternative teaching certification in 7-12th grade Social Studies. Fun fact: Social studies was not my favorite subject when I was in grade school. I enjoyed all of my teachers, but I did not pay too much attention to the subject. When I started working at the high school, I was put in the history classes, and I enjoyed it more than expected, and it became my inspiration to teach it. 

One of my favorite quotes is, “Behind every success, there is a failure.” When I failed out of college, I thought my life was over. (A little dramatic). The reality is that it did take a toll on me to come back up, but I did. That is what matters. Yes, It is taking me a little longer to graduate. On average, most take six years to graduate college, and I was proud to still be within that time frame. There is a time for everything; there is a place for everything. Maybe my place was not at Lamar five years ago, but my time is now at UHCL.

Things I Should Have Been More Vocal About Regarding School:

I might have found my calling by accident but I do not regret any of it. I did not let that “failure” define me. Instead, it made me into the person that I am today. I am not the smartest person, I do lack self-motivation, but I have goals that I want to accomplish and I will, one way or another. I only challenge those around me to do the same. Become who you want to be, not who you think people want you to be. “If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life”.