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Failure can lead you to great success

5 July 2022

With exam results looming, you may feel like failure is the worst thing in the world – but that’s not always the case. Barry from Student Psychological and Counselling Services sheds some light on how some defeats can lead to the biggest triumphs.

pocket compass

Soon UCL exam and other results will be out and you may be experiencing a whole range of emotions from excitement to stress, as you await your results.

Experiencing a failure can feel like the biggest disappointment in the world. It may seem that your career is over before it really got started. However, it is what you do next that really matters.

Yes, you may feel disappointed when you don’t achieve, but that does not make you a failure.

Everyone at some point in their lives will fail - it is part of being human - and the experience can help you to learn how to manage disappointment, be kind and compassionate to yourself and others, and develop resilience. In that sense, it can become a positive experience, an opportunity to think again, and perhaps even a chance to take a different direction.

Sometimes if we don’t succeed at something it’s because it wasn’t really right for us or in line with our true values. At other times, it’s because there were things going on in our lives at the time that interfered with our capacity to succeed.

Don’t panic – there are many ways you can have another go. There may be re-sits or alternative exams to take. This is NOT your one and only chance and you are not alone.

Learn from it – so with hindsight allowing you a fresher and more realistic perspective, can you see positive paths open to you? If you’re struggling to find your way and wish to talk to someone you can always get in touch with an adviser from Student Support and Wellbeing at our same-day appointments. These sessions enable you to speak to a trained advisers in a safe, confidential and non-judgmental space via phone, videocall or Microsoft Teams chat. 

Bounce back – turn that disappointment into motivation. This can mean being creative with solutions, and thinking broadly and freshly about your future.

You are not a failure – remember you are not defined by an exam, or any one thing in your life. Not passing an exam does NOT mean you are a lesser, or changed, person.

If you do find yourself in crisis, then please reach out for help. Crisis support information can be found on the Student Support and Wellbeing website.

“Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I've met people who don't want to try for fear of failing.” - J.K. Rowling

Support available from Student Support and Wellbeing

Student Support and Wellbeing have lots of support available, including additional appointments with advisers. Call us on 020 7679 0100 between 9 and 10am to make an appointment for the same day, or submit an enquiry via askUCL and we will contact you to make an appointment, which can be via video call, phone call, or Microsoft Teams chat.

For more perspectives on failure, read our recent blog by UCL student Valeria


Barry Keane, Student Psychological and Counselling Services (SPCS)