“I’ve definitely failed, the exam was apocalyptically bad / the worst ever / completely impossible”. I have heard just about every version of the above laments and confess to being guilty in the (distant) past of wailing in similar vein myself. I fear I may even have added in a few rich expletives. So, if you thought the exams went badly, is that the end of the world?
No, it’s not and here are my four top reasons why not.
1. You probably haven’t done as badly as you fear.
Once you’ve finished an exam try to put it completely out of your mind, particularly if you have other exams still to do. Move on! Of course this is easier said than done, but it is a life skill that you’ll need to cultivate. There will always be “bad days” and it’s important to be able to “park” how you felt and look forward.
2. Think. What’s the worst that can happen?
This will be different for different people. If you don’t get the First, it might mean that you don’t get on the Masters course you wanted, but, if you’ve set your heart on further study, there are likely to be other options for a Masters. You’re unlikely to find a job offer withdrawn because you missed that First.
What if your 2.1 has turned into a 2.2? It might be a bit more of a problem from the point of view of employment but it really isn’t a disaster, have a look at the helpful tips in our blog on the subject last year. A Third? Not an honours degree? Your options will have narrowed but you will still have learnt great skills and provided you are able to articulate them, you will find that doors open up for you, not necessarily in the direction you intended, but perhaps in exciting new ways.
3. If things haven’t gone your way, this might be an opportunity to rethink and plan a future better than the one you previously imagined.
Did you have a job offer which has now been withdrawn? Was that offer for your dream job, or was it just a “good enough” alternative which you accepted with gratitude at the time? How do you feel about the employer which withdrew the offer? If your degree didn’t work out as planned, you aren’t a different person from the one they put through the application process. Is the employer putting exam performance above personality? Perhaps you could find a better employer?
4. What about all those skills you’ve learnt while studying?
Most students come to university straight from school. You probably lived at home before you arrived, most likely food appeared on a table at reasonably regular intervals, at apparently no cost. Similarly your clothes may have disappeared from your bedroom floor and reappeared, washed, in your wardrobe. Generally the housekeeping fairy doesn’t come to university with you and it’s only in Harry Potter that you find house elves! Over your time at University you’ll have morphed from the dependent child to the fully independent adult, able to budget, look after yourself and make your own decisions. That’s quite some journey and you’re almost certain to have got a degree too. Something to celebrate?
So, where do you go from here if things don’t work out as you planned?
A trip to careers might be a good starting point and how about thinking through the skills you need for a graduate job before you come? So what are they? How’s this for a starting list? Teamwork, analytical ability, communication (written and verbal), commercial awareness, resilience, resourcefulness, determination and a good dose of common sense. (You’d probably be surprised by how many employers tell us they need the last of these). Try taking a piece of paper and listing these competencies on one side and making notes of how you meet each on the other side. This should show you just how much you have developed while at university and demonstrate some of the things you have to offer. With any luck it’ll make you feel better about yourself and more optimistic about the future.