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So you flunked your first college exam…

By: Hana Tilksew

Girl In Pink Outfit


If you’re like me and breezed through advanced courses in high school, you probably expected college to go just as smoothly. So what happens when you’re slapped in the face by reality and get your first failing grade? Plan A is usually to panic. After all, this must mean that you’re doomed! You’re a failure who’ll end up living with your mom and dad forever!


But … wait. There’s a better Plan B that’s less anxiety-inducing (and also more productive towards your future goals). Here’s my 3-step guide to getting over your first academic hurdle.


1. Take A Chill Pill


As crazy as this may sound to an overachiever, a few bad grades don’t spell out the end of your academic career. You’re so much more than a letter on a transcript, and your worth isn’t defined by your GPA. Give yourself grace! No one is perfect. Even the smartest person you can think of has struggled with something. You’re not any less intelligent or capable just because you’re still learning.


Every great success has stories of failure, too. For example, look at J.K. Rowling — there isn’t a single person alive who hasn’t heard of Harry Potter, but she was rejected by 12 publishers before finding someone willing to release the first book. If she had given up after those 12 failures, none of us would have read or watched Harry Potter growing up and experienced such a magical world. 


Who knows what magical world of your own you’ll create for yourself by persevering through your own roadblocks? If you give up now, you’ll never find out.



2. Take Your Mind Off Of School For A Minute


Getting back on track with school is important, but it can definitely wait. The first thing you need to do after getting a bad grade isn’t jumping straight to textbooks — it’s de-stressing. Consider taking a short break from academics to do something for you, whether it’s a core-busting Pilates session or a relaxing bubble bath. If you’re having a hard time thinking of an activity, check out this list of 80 screen-free pastimes to help you recharge and reset.


Overwhelming yourself by trying to be productive when you’re still in panic mode will only make things worse. Sometimes, you can be your own worst enemy by pushing yourself too hard. So log out of your grading portal, turn off your devices, and reconnect with the girl within. You’ll come back with the clarity of mind you need to move forward.



3. Get Proactive With Your Future


Failure is inevitable, but how you respond to failure is a testament to your character. If you’re having a hard time with a certain class or concept, don’t just sit around expecting it to magically click in your brain. Take action! Find out when your professors hold office hours and come with questions prepared. Take advantage of any learning tools your school offers, like on-campus tutors or resource databases. 


It’s normal to feel discouraged when you get a bad grade, but the only way to succeed in the future is to get past momentary feelings and commit to improving. Lock in for the rest of the semester, and you might be surprised by what you can achieve.











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