Dealing with exam result disappointment 

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Health Assured team

27 June 2023

The lead-up to results day at college or university can kindle mixed emotions. You’ll likely have been anticipating this day for a long time, and this in itself can be a lot to manage. It’s important to remember that the results you receive on this day don’t define your future. 

Not receiving the results you’d hoped for can be upsetting and disheartening. You might be confused, disappointed and uncertain about the next steps. It can be a rollercoaster of emotions; there’s no right or wrong way to respond. So to help you through this time, we’ve gathered some tips for dealing with exam result disappointment below. 

Try not to compare 

Naturally, anticipation builds up around the day you and your friends will experience together. Yet on the day, reactions can vary depending on everyone’s unique circumstances. Although it might be difficult, try not to compare your grades with others. 

Remember that you are the only person that matters. No one was in your shoes or your situation when you sat these exams, everyone is different, and that’s okay. Comparisons can sometimes make you feel worse, so try to avoid them and stay focused on yourself. 

Remember the bigger picture 

Your results don’t define you, your capabilities or your worth. Life is full of ups, downs, and challenges. In the grand scheme of your future, these results are a mere stepping stone to what you can achieve. 

Take this as a learning curve and think about what you can do differently next time. It might help to write down some learnings to help you see this as an opportunity to grow and do better next time, rather than a failure. 

Employers and universities look at so much more than your exam scores. Think about how you can develop your skills and experience in other ways like a course, volunteer role, or part-time job.

Take time for you

Results day can be overwhelming and bring up a lot of emotions. It’s important to take some time to relax and unwind from it all. Do something you enjoy like taking a walk, reading a book or listening to music. If your emotions feel too much, it might help to write them down. Putting pen to paper can help you take a step back, gain perspective and process things.

Don’t beat yourself up 

In these moments, you might find your inner critic chirping up. Sometimes the mind can fall into unhelpful thinking patterns that trigger panic and worry. These thoughts could be about the worst-case scenario, dismissing the positives, and taking the blame for what’s happened. 

If you find yourself in a cycle of thoughts and worries, try to recognise that you’ve slipped into a negative thinking pattern. Challenge these thoughts by remembering that just because things didn’t turn out as expected, this doesn’t make you a bad person. Remind yourself of the things you do well and be kind to yourself.

Research your options 

Don’t jump to conclusions too soon. The university or graduate job you wanted may always reconsider if you didn’t meet the grades you needed to progress. It’s worth contacting the organisation to see if there are any options before you dismiss the opportunity entirely. 

There are many different options available. If you’re at college or sixth form—you can always go through the clearing process. We’ve got an article on how to cope with the clearing process that might help. You could always consider alternative courses or pathways in the subject you were hoping to progress into. There is always the option to appeal your results if you feel like this is an option you’d like to proceed with. 

If you’ve just finished university, remember that these grades don’t have to rule out any future hope or career. Your exam results aren’t the only thing employers consider. So think about other ways you can improve your CV in the meantime.

It’s also a good idea to visit the careers team at your college or university to talk through your situation and the potential steps going forward. They may also be able to provide mental health and wellbeing support to help you work through any difficult emotions you might be facing.

Health Assured can help

If you have a Student Assistance Programme in place with Health Assured, then please get in touch with us via the helpline or My Healthy Advantage App. Our experienced wellbeing team can offer a confidential listening ear whenever you need it.

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