Exams results not quite what you expected? Pacific Engagement Coordinator Viane Makalio, Team Leader Riki Welsh and Events Assistant Tanoa Tulia share some advice on how to manage feelings of failure and the next steps you can take.
Receiving your exam results might be a cause for celebration, or a chance to reflect and think about your next steps. There is a range of support on offer for students, including practical steps you can take if your grades were not what you were expecting.
UC student blogger gives their personal experience of addressing their feeling of failure and how to manage this as part of your journey to success.
“Everyone has experienced failure at some point in their lives whether they’re open about it or not. When I failed a paper in my first year of university, I thought I’d never get over it and that it was going to ruin the rest of my time at university. But over time I learnt to accept and let go of the feeling of failure I used to feel every time I saw the big ‘D’ on my grade page. Of course, learning is never linear, and it won’t happen overnight, but here are a few things to remember as well as some resources to check out that might help you on your own personal journey of managing the fear of failure at university.
Failing is part of learning.
First of all, failing is hard. At best it can be uncomfortable and at worst it can be painful. It can lead to questioning yourself and your abilities, a lot of self-doubt and feeling like you’re not good enough. However, something people often forget is that failure is a huge part of the learning process. The important thing about managing the fear of failure at university is remembering that everyone struggles with failure at some point, regardless if it’s at university or sometime later in life. Some of the most successful and inspirational leaders of our time – like Barack Obama for example! – have struggled with failure. It’s how you learn from failure that’s important.
Learning how to respond to it can be an important part of success.
Responding to the fear of failure is hard for everyone and can sometimes feel impossible. The trick is to break up responding to it in small, simple steps! Firstly, sit down and write a list. What have you learnt from this experience? What would you do differently next time? What do you need to work on in the future? Answering these questions will help you give insight into what your next steps should be.
There is also a huge variety of support that can be found at UC for free that you should definitely take advantage of:
- The Academic Skills Centre offers free workshops on everything academic from essay writing, note taking and exam preparation skills. And if you think you need some one-on-one time with an expert that can look over some of your work with fresh eyes, you can book a free 40-minute appointment with a learning advisor at Academic Skills as well!
- Student Care offers free counselling services that are definitely worth checking out if the fear of failure is taking up a lot of mental space and you just want to talk to someone about it.
- Student Advisors are on hand if you’re struggling with your courses or degree, and you need some expert advice on what a better fit for you and your interests could be.
Failure and defeat are not the same thing – keep your learning progress in context.
It’s important to keep in mind that failing isn’t the end of the world. Treat failure as a learning experience, no matter how uncomfortable it feels, and don’t let it defeat you! Also try and remember that getting over the fear of failure doesn’t happen overnight and will take some time. Cut yourself some slack and keep chipping away at the small things you can do to learn from the experience which you’ll benefit from in the future!”
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>