How to Win at Failing: A Guide to Failure Recovery

Failing a class can be devastating both financially, and emotionally. Some students get so overwhelmed that they’re tempted to quit or change their major entirely after one failure. While failure is rough to recover from, it is possible without dropping out of school or switching your field of focus. Here’s how.

Step #1: Accept It

Most professors will not change your failing grade. Some students want to confront their professors, release some built up anger and resentment, and try to convince them to change their grade. Not only will this make the situation worse between you and that professor, but it could also make it harder for you to pass other classes. Professors talk to each other. If you do decide to discuss why you failed, then wait until you are calm and accept your failing grade before approaching the professor.

You failed. I promise, it’s not the end of the world. It’s horrible, it’s frustrating, it’s overwhelming, and there probably isn’t anything you can do to change it. However, you can move forward. So, cry it out with a friend, pound it out at the gym, or take a Saturday to brood in front of the TV. Then, get up, and accept your failing grade.

Understand that failing a class does not define you, or measure your intelligence. It only defines your performance in one course at a particular time in your life. If you choose to repeat the course, you will do better the second time around.

Step #2: Learn From Your Mistakes

After a day or two, you’ll see things more clearly. Take that opportunity to sit down and think about why you failed. Look over any comments on your final exam, paper, or project. Reflect on your attendance and class participation. You may have done your very best work, but the material wasn’t presented in a way that worked for you. Maybe missed a major concept. Maybe you missed class too many times. Maybe, just maybe, you were simply the victim of a bell curve.

Whatever the reason was, look at things that you could have done better. This can be hard because it requires you to be harshly honest with yourself. It requires you to admit your own mistakes and weaknesses. It is a good thing. Knowing your weaknesses means that you can work on them and turn them into strengths so that next time, you can do better.

Step #3: Sign Up to Take the Class Again

It’s time to be brave. Signing up to take the class again can be scary. However, if you recognize where you went wrong before, you will be prepared to do better this time. You can pass this course. Make a plan to study harder, be better at communicating your needs with your professor, and attend class religiously. ┬áIf you think it was your teacher’s grading style or teaching style that tripped you up last time, try taking the class again from a different professor. If there is not another teacher, then be extra vigilant about studying, get a study buddy, and make sure you ask a lot of questions. You may even consider scheduling time to meet with your professor to talk about your papers before you turn them in, ask them detailed questions, or discuss your qualms about learning the material. This shows your professor that you are ready and willing to change, to learn, and to grow. A good professor will make your education a priority and they will be more than happy to help as much as they can.

Your failing grade is not the end of your future. Everyone fails at something from time to time. Failure is only the end when you let it be the end. If you learn from your mistakes, get back up, and keep trying then you haven’t really failed at all. If you get up, then you have just taken an extra opportunity to learn. That is what is important. College is all about learning and sometimes learning means failing and trying again. Your mistakes do not define you, it’s what you do with them.

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