Exam results day can feel like the biggest day of your life. So much appears to be riding on the outcome: The university you want to go to and the career path you have in mind

It’s a stressful time and there is a lot to think about, leaving friends and family, getting a student loan, living away from home,  but there are ways to cope with the emotional burden, before results day and afterwards – and whether you got the grades you’d hoped for, or not.

Keep a balanced perspective

It’s important and healthy to allow yourself time to process big news. This is especially the case if your results are not quite what you’d hoped for. Maintain a sense of perspective. Rebalance your ‘positivity ratio’ by taking time to think of all the things you’re grateful for, no matter how small.

Let go of negativity

Those who meditate are less affected by negativity than those who don’t (A Failure In Mind, 2015). Why? Because the meditators are better at distancing themselves from their emotions, better at letting go of them, which means they can return to a neutral emotional state far quicker.

Look forward

Remember the old adage ‘you can’t change the past but you can change your future’. It’s a lesson ex-NFL coach Don Shula appreciates better than most. He had a ‘24-hour rule’, allowing players just 24 hours to dwell on a defeat, during which time they were encouraged to experience their negative emotions to the full. The next day, the team had to move on and focus all their energy on the next challenge. Don is holder of the record for most career wins, including two Super Bowls, and the only perfect season in NFL history.

Be optimistic and realistic

The combination of an optimist’s positive outlook and a pessimist’s ability to think critically results in creative yet practical solutions. Researcher Sophis Chou explains, “Every time realistic optimists face an issue or a challenge or a problem, they won’t say ‘I have no choice and this is the only thing I can do’ … they will have a plan A, plan B and plan C.” Think carefully about your own plan B.

Don’t take it personally

Getting disappointing grades does not undermine your future success. It is merely a setback. Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first TV job because someone thought she was “unfit for TV”. Stephen King’s first book “Carrie” was rejected 30 times by publishers. At the age of 12, Winston Churchill was considered “a dolt” by his teacher.

Take your mind off it

Distractions can be important tools for breaking feelings of gloom and needless negativity. So if things aren’t going to plan, find something fun to do. Read a good book, take a walk or invite your friends round for dinner. Just make sure it’s short term and you’re not burying your head in the sand.


Facing the world may feel like the last thing you want to do when you’re coping with bad news, but it’s actually just what the doctor ordered. Studies have found that social support can boost resilience to stress (Social Support and Resilience to Stress, 2007). So don’t shut yourself away and mope; spending time with people will make you feel uplifted and more alive.

Learn something

Resilient people embrace misfortune as an opportunity to learn and problem solve. According to Dr. Al Siebert, “they are flexible, adapt to new circumstances quickly, and thrive in constant change. Most important, they expect to bounce back and feel confident that they will”.

Remember the Wright brothers, who spent years working on failed flying-machine prototypes. They incorporated their learnings until they finally invented a plane that could stay airborne.

Never give up

What do most successful people have in common? Sheer tenacity. Winston Churchill said it best: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” It doesn’t matter if you take a stumble, you dust yourself down and keep going until you end up where you want to be.

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