UC Student Blogger | Managing Fear of Failure

While waiting for your exam results, it can be challenging to manage the fear of failure. It’s important to connect with others and talk about how you’re feeling, you’ll likely find that most people do experience this fear when something’s important to them. You can have a chat with your mates about it, or find a Student Care Advisor to get some advice, read more>

UC student blogger gives their personal experience of academic failure and how to manage this as part of your journey to success. 

“There is a certain anticipation that comes with seeing your results. A hopefulness, even if you know the result is not going to be good. That was my experience in my first year; my first taste of academic failure. When my transcript flashed up on screen, the sinking feeling of knowing I had failed a required course was unmitigated by my expectation that this would be the outcome. Back in the exam room, I knew I was in trouble when I flicked through the assessment questions. It was heavy on the topics in the course that I did not do well in. Throughout the course, which took place in semester two, I had been burned out. My first year had been overwhelming; I was quite meek in those days, and the pressures and busyness of campus life proved a hard adjustment. I also feared the possibility of failing an exam, and rather than seeking support, it was easier to just push through and see where I ended up, but in this case, it landed me in a less-than-ideal place.

Catastrophe. That is what goes through our minds when we fail a course. It makes us question our abilities, worry about the progression of our degrees, and feel like imposters among our peers. But it should not be this way. In most courses, there will be those that struggle, and those who fail. In that course it would be my turn. It felt like my academic potential had disintegrated over a failed grade. In that moment, very little could bring me comfort, but I soon realised it was not the catastrophe it is made out to be. The sun rises tomorrow. Study plans are adjusted. The degree goes on. There are ways forward.

I shuffled my priorities around and retook the course the following year. Whereas some people might be empowered by having a second chance, I
found it difficult. I had associated negative feelings with the coursework, and as it turned out, there were concepts I needed extra help with too. Call it determination or arrogance, but I did not seek that help.

Fortunately, I still managed to pass the course on attempt two, with a C+ grade. My parents congratulated me on passing the course, knowing the stress the first attempt had caused, and we used it as an excuse to reflect on the highs and lows of the university experience. I thought of how different the experience can be for other people. To me, a C+ was a chance to celebrate moving forward, and to know what areas I needed to keep working on as I transitioned into more advance courses. On that same evening, somewhere there was a student receiving a similar mark who may have been deeply disappointed by it, perhaps disproportionately. It hinges on attitude, both our own and of those around us. I suspect most of us suffer from a narrow view of success, and the false notion that there is one straight path to our goals.

There are ways to deal with failing a course: opportunities to retake courses, including summer programmes if time is a factor, and services to get extra help and practice academic skills. The UC website also has a dedicated page with advice on how to manage failure, which includes a number of helpful resources, my favourite being the “Famous Failings” page which lists the hurdles of some of the world’s most successful people. Read more here>

Failing a course is a chance to evaluate and consider the next step; it is not the end of the path, even though sometimes it can feel like it is. Eventually, failure reaches us all in some way. After all, failure of some kind is part of the process in acquiring new skills and achieving goals, and in that way, it is part of life.

I continued my degree despite my setback, and I am now enrolled in postgraduate study. It is interesting to think back to the panic I once felt, knowing now that there are ways forward. The sun rose. Study plans were adjusted. The degree went on—and it can for you, too.”

Find more information on ways of managing fear of failure is available here>

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