Learning from Failure

It’s been said that Millennials and those belonging to whatever generation comes next are little more than avocado toast-loving narcissists who are best at taking selfies. The stereotype is that these generations are unable to fail, having earned nothing but participation trophies for their entire lives. This stereotype is unfair, obviously. But the reality is that failure can also hurt. Sometimes you stay up all night and cram – and sometimes you spend months studying for a test, only to bomb it.  What do you do when you get really bad academic news? First, take a few deep breaths. Go for a walk, preferably not on your college campus. It’s important to realize that there is a big world out there and your academic disappointment, while a valid and serious issue in your own life, has little to do with that big world out there. Then, come back to the situation. Think about it honestly. Was there anything you could have done differently? Sometimes it is hard to be honest with ourselves. Maybe you did not study as much as you thought you did. Maybe you focused on material that was not emphasized in the exam.

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The next step is to really go over the work and see the feedback from the professor. If you do not understand the reason for feedback, for example, if you cannot decipher professorial handwriting, it is time to talk directly to your professor. Do not send an accusatory email, do not show up at their office crying, and do not act like they have personally offended you. And for the love of all that is holy, do not beg them to change the grade. Instead, look up their office hours or how to make an appointment. If requesting a meeting has to happen via email, explain that you want to discuss the assignment because you were disappointed by your grade and want to do better next time.

Your professor will likely be eager to talk to you and help you succeed. They definitely do not get a commission or anything if you fail. He or she is probably more than happy to explain the reason for the grade and what you can study to do better next time, as well as how to strategize. Sometimes there are even extra credit opportunities. Whatever you do, be a grown-up when you talk to the professor. Failing sucks. It hurts. It’s embarrassing. But your professor knows that, too. They are upset for you, since they want to do a good job teaching! You might want to conclude this meeting with a question like, “How can I learn from this?” Ask yourself, if not the professor too. Everything is a learning experience. Sometimes you learn more from an interesting failure than from a boring success. Your transcript will not show that, true, but if you learn about how to work more efficiently next time it is not a total failure – and in ten years, failing the test or quiz will not affect your life at all except in the ways that you have chosen to turn it into something positive.

Of course, to prevent failure from happening again, or from happening in the first place, try our professional writers at Unemployed Professors. Post a project today and learn how to work smarter, not harder.

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