It is now almost the end of my second term at Lancaster University and, oh boy, let me tell you that learning to deal with failure (and setbacks in general) has been by far the biggest learning curve for me. It’s not that I never failed before coming to university (of course I have!) but at university the pace of everything is just so much more rapid that I found it very challenging to get over things so quickly. So, for example, I didn’t get the grade I expected in my second politics essay and, especially considering the fact that I did put a lot of effort into it, I was understandably upset. While I would usually let myself feel sorry for myself for a few days in normal circumstances – at university, I had to start writing my next essay pretty much straight away. That is definitely a very difficult mindset to develop: learning to get over mistakes and not allowing them to affect your future progress.
Similarly, I have tasked myself with finding some sort of internship/job for the summer (which, if you have ever tried applying to internships in your first year, you will know is a challenge in itself as most employers look for penultimate year students). I cannot explain the heartbreak you experience when you get rejected from a job, especially after several stages of the recruitment process because it just makes the rejection feel all the more personal. (If they reject you based on your CV that feels like a very different rejection than the one that comes after a face-to-face interview.)
The best piece of advice I got on how to deal with these kind of setbacks is to stop seeing the process as a race against other people – you are only racing yourself. If you look around, there will always be somebody smarter than you, with better grades, with (what appears to be) a more accomplished life. Instead, focus on how far YOU have come. I can guarantee that if you read one of your essays from 2-3 years ago, you would not believe the progress. Perspective is everything.
Once the dust has settled, make sure you treat failure as a learning process. Why did you not get the grade you expected? Could you benefit from some additional help? For example, LUMS offers really great MASH (Maths and Stats Help) sessions every week; I find that a lot of people struggle with the much more mathematical approach to economics at degree level (as compared to A-Level economics) and knowing where and when to get extra support is crucial. However, that’s the tough reality – at university, no one is going to be able to help you unless you ask. The step up to degree-level education is a significant one and we all need to be kinder to ourselves when we inevitably encounter setbacks. Onwards and upwards!