Coping With Exam Disappointment

Exams are over! It’s time to celebrate and par-tay. But what do you do if you’re just not in the mood to drown yourself in tequila and jelly shots? How do you cope when the worst case scenario has happened, and an exam’s gone tits up?

I’m the world expert on coping badly with poor results. I once cut off contact with the outside world for most of a week because I got a 2 in standard grade English instead of a 1. That’s what happens when you tie your entire self-worth to your academic results, and it’s a pretty shitty way to go through your academic career. But, I like to think I’ve learned a bit since those emotional roller-coaster days, and these are my tips amassed from years of failures.

First off, the go-to response for most students in times of stress is to drink, and drink lots. This reaction is not entirely without merit. It can give you something new to think about, to take your mind off the exam from hell – i.e. “did I really fall out of the taxi screaming that it was snowing?”. And nothing will put your exam failure into perspective quite like having drunken deep conversations in the early hours about the meaning of life whilst watching “Airplane!”. Just try not to fall too deep into the rabbit hole if you do have other responsibilities (like writing qmunicate articles!)

Process your anger/worry/upset. Eat a full tub of ice cream and listen to mournful ballads if that’s your thing. Personally, I build a nest out of quilts and pillows and watch Roman Holiday so I can pretend to be Princess Ann, but that’s just me. If doing badly in an exam doesn’t make you feel down then you probably don’t care that much about your course – in which case, why are you doing it?

Now imagine the worst case scenario and think about how you’ll get through it. If you fail and you have to do a resit, then you’ll study more and ask help from your tutor, and get through it. Maybe you don’t get a good as a degree as you need/wanted. It’s not the end of the world, even though it might feel like it at the time. Look at Mike and Scully in Monsters University *SPOILER ALERT* – they get kicked out and still go on to be the best in their field. Getting a degree is not the only route to your goals.

Have a back-up plan. I know that if, worst comes to worst and I have to flee the UK, I’m moving to Austria and becoming a goat herder à la Heidi. I just need to learn how to braid my hair and I’m set for life.

And lastly, I always find comfort in the inevitability of death, and our impermanent existence. Looking at the paintings in Kelvingrove Art Gallery, there are little dead people dotted everywhere. That enigmatic elegant woman will have failed at something in her life, most likely many things. She’ll also have forgotten someone’s name and lost her house keys, but nobody remembers her failings. Or look at old people. Do you think they give a rat’s ass that they had to do a resit in second year? In the grand scheme of things, what we actually achieve or fail to achieve makes very little difference, and though that might seem morbid, I actually find it very reassuring.

In the end, if none of this helps you in the slightest, just remember: babies don’t know shit, and spend their days crying and pooping. But, people still love them – because you don’t need smarts to be loved. Just maybe try not to cry and shit everywhere though. That’s not going to help your situation.

[Louise Wylie – @WomanPendulum]

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