How to Cope if You Fail Your First Year at University

Three Methods:Reassessing Your College ExperienceMaking a Plan that Addresses the ProblemsStaying the Course

Did you recently finish your first year of university and not get the grades that you wanted? If you are in this unenviable position, take heart and start the process of determining how you can move towards re-examining the situation, making adjustments, and putting your best foot forward to try again. With careful preparation, you will be closer to becoming ta successful student that achieves stellar grades. Not getting it right the first time does not make you a failure – it’s simply a wake-up call for serious reflection.

Method 1
Reassessing Your College Experience

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    Research the best classes available to you. Go through the course catalogue and make a star next to any classes that get you excited about going back into the classroom. One of the best ways to cope with academic failure is finding classes that you’d really love to take. If you can feel jazzed about resuming your studies, even if the subject material might be different from what you studied last year, it’ll be easier to move on from previous struggles.
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    Speak to your professors about the courses you found most challenging. Think about what aspects of your classes gave you the most trouble in the previous year. Was is the format of the test? Did you have to write difficult papers? Once you identify what challenged you, seek advice from a professor or teaching assistant. Ask if they have recommendations or strategies for how to succeed in areas that you find particularly daunting. f></ref>
    • Take notes during your meeting and decide on a realistic course of action. Ask professors for additional resources that you can engage with over the summer in order to better prepare for success during the next school year.
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    Meet with a counselor or mental health specialist. The transition to university life is hugely disruptive and can cause many students to feel lonely and overwhelmed during their first year. For many students, failure in the first year is not a reflection of academic ability, but a symptom of an underlying emotional or psychological issue. Recognize that it is 100% normal to need time to adjust to the social, emotional, and mental hurdles of college. Even if you feel emotionally sound, talking with a counselor about ways to achieve academic success can help keep you on track.
    • Always be aware that there are groups and organizations to support students through academic and emotional struggles. If you were unable to achieve the success you wanted during your first year, talk to a trusted loved one about seeking some additional support through a mental health professional. [1]

Method 2
Making a Plan that Addresses the Problems

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    Meet with your academic advisor to figure out how to get back on track. Once you’ve identified the root of your problems, talk to your academic advisor about what you need to do to boost your grades. Your advisor will be able to tell you what classes you need to repeat, or recommend classes that might interest you and help to bring up your GPA.
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    Set up a new study plan. Now that you have lined up your courses and are moving back to recovering from the failure, make a serious plan to help you stay on track and succeed the second time around. Make sure you give yourself enough time to study and complete assignments on a daily basis.
    • It helps to figure out when you’re most productive. Many people work best in the mornings. Choose a time during the day to get your most demanding tasks done and stick to a routine schedule.
    • Take clear notes in class and during readings to make it easier to study for exams or organize papers later on.
    • Study with a friend. Finding somebody to keep you motivated and on task can help with your academic performance. Enlist friends to quiz you on material, and don’t be afraid to collaborate with peers whose work you respect.
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    Take advantage of your resources. Universities are full of resources to ensure student success. The first step is being sure to attend all lectures, labs and tutorials available. Don’t squander an opportunity to learn and grow!
    • Join a study group. Studying with others helps keep you accountable, and makes learning a social and fun activity. [2]
    • Inquire into individual tutoring or assistance available on campus. One on one learning is a great way to go over tougher subject matter that might not get addressed during class time. [3]
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    Manage your time and find a work-life balance. While it’s important to dedicate yourself to your studies, everybody needs time to relax and have fun. Picking up a personal calendar to keep track of your upcoming dates and deadlines is a great way to help you be efficient so that you can enjoy your spare time worry free. [4]
    • Find extracurriculars that interest you. Making time to engage in activities that you’re passionate about will make it easier for you to de-stress and focus on work when necessary.
    • Make time for important relationships. Don’t force yourself to live in the library 24/7. Hang out with friends for a much needed break. College is also about growing socially, so it’s important to let yourself meet new people and create meaningful relationships.
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    Learn to engage with the material. This is easiest to do if you love what you’re studying. Choose something you’re passionate about and approach the material with a curious and creative mind. Don’t try to simply memorize or cram for the test. Not only is this a poor method of information retention, but it makes the material seem mundane.
    • Complete readings on time, talk to peers and professors about concepts that interest you, and take the initiative to research ways to become involved in internships or volunteer opportunities in fields you might want to pursue.

Method 3
Staying the Course

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    Share your plans for academic success. Don’t be afraid to involve the people you care about in your goals and plans. Be open and honest about the proposed path forward, or simply let those around you know what factors in your life have diverted you from your studies. Keeping these emotional and mental problems bottled up makes them feel unmanageable, and talking to others about some of your issues will show you that you’re not the only one struggling.[5]
    • If you don’t feel as if you can discuss your issues with loved ones, set up an appointment with a counselor. Almost all universities offer free mental health services to their students.
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    Schedule follow-up sessions with your academic advisor throughout the semester. Making a connection with a mentor that you respect can help you feel less isolated, and also hold you accountable for your studies. Don’t worry about being a nuisance – it’s part of your advisor’s job to guide you through the process of picking a suitable program and navigating through to success. Ask their advice on your plan and have them look over your calendar.
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    Don't let yourself get behind. The more you procrastinate, the more daunting your workload will seem. Stick to your study plan and be sure to complete tasks on time so that you can move on to the next one worry free.
    • Seek help from your college writing center or go your professor’s office hours if you’re worried about completing a specific assignment. Getting help from experts will make the work seem less frightening and more doable.
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    Stay active and eat healthy. Keeping fit and eating healthy foods promotes good brain activity. The Freshman-15lbs is typically caused by a high calorie diet and lack of exercise, making you sluggish and tired. Join a club sport, take a fitness class, get plenty of sleep and fresh foods.
    • Make plans with a friend to go to a fitness class followed by a healthy meal. A workout buddy will help hold you accountable and make healthy choices more fun. [6]
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    Stay away from excessive drinking and illicit substances. Though it’s healthy and normal to explore different social opportunities in college, becoming involved in campus-drinking culture or drug use can lead to negative personal and professional impacts.
    • Do not participate in binge drinking. When you’re of age, having a few casual drinks with friends or going to a party is a great way to socialize and release stress. Binge drinking, on the other hand, is an unhealthy practice that can lead to depression and lack of motivation.
    • Choose your friends carefully. Surround yourself with people who share your lifestyle choices. Don’t let yourself be peer pressured into illicit activities that hinder your academic and emotional potential. [7]
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    Be confident in who you are and your choices. College is a time for self-exploration and preparing to create a meaningful life for yourself. In addition to your academics, take some time to reflect on who you are, your guiding principles, and what you hope to achieve in the world. Be yourself, and don’t let anybody else dictate who you are or who you think you should become. You are enough just as you are.


  • Don't get discouraged by momentary lapses. Improving yourself is a process – it takes time and patience. Don't give up!
  • Make your loved ones an active part of your plan to recover from failure. They may be angry with you initially, but prove to them that you plan to remedy your problems.
  • Surround yourself with positive influences. It’s easier to succeed when you have a good support system!


  • Do not make the same mistakes as last time. Figure out why things went wrong, and give it your best to make sure that doesn't happen again.
  • Do not let yourself get down or anxious. Recognize that success takes time, and keep trying and giving your studies your all.
  • Don't let your significant other monopolize your time. Many will experience first love in college. While this is an amazing and valuable experience, don't let your relationship become all consuming. Keep studying!

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Categories: College University and Postgraduate