For me, F stands for fearless, fighter, forward….
There was unfortunately one instance back at UCLA where it did mean Failure. On my permanent undergraduate transcript is one of the ugliest things you can see- an F in my junior year Chemistry lab. Not a withdrawal, not a C-, but a full-fledged F.
Here’s what honestly happened (and this is practically verbatim from my secondary application answer) – the quarter I was taking that lab, the professor was teaching two identical sections: one at 8:00 am, and one at 10:00 am. He gave us permission to attend either lecture time, as long as we took our midterms and finals on the days for the section we were actually enrolled in (…some of you can already see where this is going). I had an on campus job that started at 7:00 am, so I would work from 7:00 am until 9:45 am and head over to the 10:00 am lecture. After ten weeks of this routine, my brain got used to that schedule… and low and behold, I wrote down the wrong final exam time in my calendar. The insult to injury was when I figured it all out, I was actually studying for that final in the library right next to the building during the time MY final was being proctored. Can you say OUCH.
Fast forward… begging and pleading with both the professor and the department head did nothing to change my fate. Not only did I have to take the F, I had to repeat the entire course the next quarter. I will never forget that walk back to my apartment- I held my head in my hands and really thought it was ALL over. I didn’t think there would ever be a way to come back from that.
What the admissions committees will want to hear is a much shorter version of that story: that you realize you failed, but much more importantly that you LEARNED and ADAPTED from that failure. This is where I started to change my mind about what that F really stood for. It made me fight so hard for everything I accomplished after that. It made me walk towards the sun and move forward. It made me fearless, knowing the one of the worst academic tragedies was already behind me.
If any part of this sounds like something that’s happened to you (and the lovely Andrea @lifeasapa has a great YouTube video where she admits one of her biggest academic mistakes: you can view it here) know that it has happened to LOTS of other people. And you DO make it through to the other side.
This whole process is about ownership: owning your mistakes, owning your future, owning your passion for this profession… the admissions committees know you’re human. Otherwise PAs would all be robots. 😉