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A primer for working through disappointment and moving on.

Everyone is familiar with that sinking feeling they get in their gut, the moment they find out things are not going as planned. It might be the plans with friends that fell through, or an argument with parents, but the worst feelings seem to sprout when it comes to dealing with stress in academics.

Failure in college can happen to the best of the best, yet is treated as something taboo and shameful. People are taught to hide their failures in the face of society and amongst loved ones, to project a put-together image of the perfect, model student. The fear of judgement for not being smart enough or for not securing a job outside of school can cause immense pressure and anxiety.

Furthermore, no one ever wants to disappoint those closest to them. But here is the most important thing: failing in college is not the end of the world. If you find that you are not doing so hot in school, here are some steps that will lead you in the right direction.

1. Come to Terms with Your Failure

Owning up to failure is never enjoyable; who wants to admit their wrongdoings? One of the hardest things to do in this type of situation is arguably one of the simplest: accepting it. Yes, you failed a class; it is irreversible and what’s done is done. Continuing to beat yourself up over something that cannot be changed is a recipe for disaster and will hinder any progress you try to make moving forward.

As a form of comfort, many students on college threads and even on some subreddit forums share their stories of failure in college, from failing a single class to failing an entire semester. Though it doesn’t sound like the best solution, many who are experiencing failure for the first time find reassurance from the similar experiences of others who have gone through it and have made it out just fine. Finding the support system and motivation to move forwards in yourself is crucial.

2. Assessing the Damage

Looking over the damage that has been sustained is a rough process, yet it is necessary in order to fix the mess. Pay attention to what has been done. Have you failed a class? A few classes? Are they necessary for your major or minor? Furthermore, it is important to identify why things went wrong. It can be a stress coming from outside of school or even a lack of motivation and drive. Discovering the root cause can help kick bad habits and create a new plan to follow.

If you find that you’re getting distracted from school with extracurricular activities or various social circles, take a step back and decide if you’re taking on too much. It’s good to be involved, but not so much that your well-being and work ethic is suffering as a result.

Perhaps, the problem is in a teaching method. Some professors talk fast, while others take their time; some are more flexible with the deadlines, and others have rigid rules with no exceptions. Find out what kind of professor you need to have to succeed. But remember, college is different form a high school: you have to take the initiative, not your professor.

3. Getting Help

Admitting your failures to yourself is one thing, but admitting them to others is different. It can feel shameful and embarrassing to admit that you performance in the class is far from being great. Others managed to do okay, so why not you? This type of mindset can halt any desire to move forward. Telling others though, can be therapeutic in a way and get the weight off of your shoulders.

Talking to a school counselor is highly suggested, since they are the professionals in the field and have had their fair share of students with academic struggles. Telling your parents can be another challenge as many feel pressure from their parents to do well academically. Parents like to boast about their kids, and when you deviate from the plan they have for you it can be tough for everybody.

Revealing failures can ruin the image and cause immense disappointment, which is why it is so tempting to hide the truth. However, it is better to be open and honest about the situation. Regardless of their flaws, parents want what is best for their children, and while they may be disappointed to begin with, their love and support overrules everything else.

Failing in college doesn’t have to completely ruin your entire college experience. With the right approach and mindset, it’s possible to get help getting out of that rut. Failure is just a bump in the road for many who are still on the pathway to success, and keeping that in mind will hopefully be a driving force for achieving greatness.

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Grace John

Rutgers University

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