Coping with low marks

Moving to uni I’ve already had a lot of good and bad experiences. But I’ve never experienced a really low grade before. At least, not until today! As a first year, I had my first progress test to check in on how I was doing a week ago. Hours of library work, vigorous note taking, answering tutorials etc went into studying for this test. Despite all of my best efforts, when I went into the room and looked at the paper, I really froze up. I haven’t done an exam in 1.5 years and had forgotten the exam room atmosphere and dreaded clock counting down every second. I never felt so awful handing in my paper as the time ran out.

Today I collected my progress test back, and received my mark. I’m gonna let you guys in on how I did: I got 42%. Honestly, I was so relieved just to have passed after how the exam had felt for me. However, that’s not to say I’m not disappointed. I would have loved to do better. Exams here are tough, and the workload most definitely is too! I was expecting it, but it’s definitely something I imagine will take months to get used to.

But in these dark November days where there’s too much gloom already, I’ve got a bit of positivity to impart! I think it’s very humbling to do not too great. Failing or doing less well than you hoped to do is always so sucky, but it also can be motivating. A bit of failure can be great in the long run, actually. There’s also a nice solidarity amongst the students who didn’t do as well as they wanted to. I’ve bonded a lot with other people in my class who also have struggled, and feel less alone. Doing badly also leaves room to do better next time.

I’ve found my first two months here incredibly hard, and often feel so disheartened by the challenges. But at the same time, I’m always motivated by my failures to try harder and do better. In the moment, doing rubbish warrants a bit of recovery time. When I hit rock bottom, a bit of self-indulgence goes a long way to improve my mood before I can get back up and try again.  If any of you haven’t tried it, I strongly recommend it! I’ll let you guys in on my list of the best ways to cope with the dreadfulness associated with failure, how I pick myself back up, and how you guys can too. For all of you who have also done less well on assignments or are struggling, this is for you:


  • Don’t compare.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        This is the WORST thing to do! If you have friends who you know have done poorly as well, it can be therapeutic to talk about it and vent. However, asking loads of coursemates how they’ve done is going to be horrible for your self-esteem. I am so guilty of it and need to snap out of it myself – it’s a work in progress! Comparing has not done a lot for me and usually only makes me feel worse


  • Take time out.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Taking time out after doing poorly in a test is the best way to cope. Put on some Netflix, play Overwatch, arrange to meet up with friends, skype your family, read a fun non-academic book – do anything you want for a day or two. I strongly recall during A Levels feeling terrible after one of my Physics papers and going to Wasabi to grab some bubble tea and relax for a couple of hours, before going home and playing some videogames. It’s what I needed, and it made me feel a million times better. During tougher days at uni, being kind to yourself is what you deserve and you should never feel bad for it.


  • Treat yourself!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This may be irresponsible of me, but I fully recommend a touch of retail therapy. This is very budget dependent, but even something small like a Lush bath bomb or hot chocolate can do the trick and uplift your mood. A little treat can make such a huge difference, and I’ve always found just getting something small like a sale bargain from Topshop or a fun game from steam has turned my sad face into a happier one. I may or may not have bought a cute pair of shoes and a dress this time…


  •  Friends!!!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Friends are marvellous and great, I absolutely love mine. Talking to friends about how you feel can be super therapeutic and when I do it, I always feel the weight of my worries really reduce  after I get it all out. At uni, friends are such an important support network, and nobody quite understands what you’re going through to the level that friends do. I recommend doing  something fun with your friends if you’re feeling deflated. Watch some TV, grab bubble tea from Bubbleology (I’m a tad obsessed) together, hit up the Natural History Museum, or have a night out, anything to feel better and move on.


  •  Family                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           If your family are lovely and supportive, calling them and talking things out if a great thing to do. I’m going back this weekend to see my family as a little booster before the end of term, and   it’s something which I think will really help. For those who live close to home, I couldn’t recommend going back when you feel particularly bad enough. Sometimes it’s just nice to go home, have a nutritionally balanced meal for the first time in weeks, cuddle with the dogs, and hang out with the family. I’ve also called a lot. I was scared my family would be angry that I find the course content difficult at times, but they’ve been nothing but empathetic and have made me feel miles better after hanging up, and it’s made me feel so much more motivated and empowered with my degree.


Ultimately, I’ve learned since coming to Imperial that there’s a lot I can do to feel better after shortfalls, and the little things have helped me a lot. I hope for all of you readers in the same boat as me, you give yourself time to unwind as well before hitting the Central Library again and doing better.


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