DH Education: Responding to success and failure

How students can deal with their results in a realistic and methodical manner

Amita has learnt life skills at an early age. She says that whenever she gives an exam, she puts in her best efforts without comparing herself with others. Then, she just waits anxiously for the results and wants to get over the suspense at the earliest. Her philosophy is “hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” This serves her very well because we do not always get marks up to our expectations. Amita, having prepared for the worst, always celebrates her results and moves on.

On the other hand, we have Dilip who gives up all other activities to put his mind and heart to prepare for the exams. He is very conscious of those who score better than him and has geniuses and toppers as his role models. Immediately after finishing an exam, he starts estimating how many marks he may have lost from the ideal 100%. Whatever may be the final result, Dilip is a disappointed soul.  

Year after year, I come across students who have barely scraped through and are celebrating, and those who come somewhere near the top, but are lamenting about the one or two marks they have lost. When they get admission in the second-best college of their choice, they mourn not having made it to the best. They are disappointed, frustrated with themselves, and some also lose their motivation to continue with renewed enthusiasm. Similarly, there are some who just cannot accept anything but the best and they give up a year only 
to prepare for the exams again, hoping to improve their score and fulfil their dreams.

In a highly exam-oriented system where students are pressurised to do well — with ‘competition’ being the buzzword — it is essential for them to learn how to balance success and failure, results and expectations. Here are some ways that can help them.

Compete with yourself

The first step is to stop comparing with others and start competing with your own self. It has been proven several times that every individual has unique talents and abilities. If you are a creative or people-oriented person, there is no point in comparing yourself with the Maths topper of the class or setting unrealistic targets. Just record in your mind the marks you obtained in the previous exam or test, and tell yourself that you will be aiming to improve on that. Thus even if you get 5-10% more in the next exam, you will be able to rejoice.

Secondly, be aware that we live in a largely populated country that has lakhs of students competing for a few thousand seats in prestigious colleges. A slight error on your part during the exam, and your rank may go down significantly. To overcome such an eventuality, always keep a series of options open. For example, if an aspiring engineer cannot get into one of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), there are 40 National Institutes of Technology (NITs), four BITS Pilani colleges, and many private institutions that have built up a good reputation and infrastructure, and eminent faculty. Admission in any of these can ensure that you are on the way to becoming a successful engineer.

Similarly, with NEET, if one cannot get a seat in MBBS, one can keep options open for Dentistry, Indian systems of medicine (Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani, Naturopathy), and paramedical courses like physiotherapy. If you love animals, you can be a veterinary doctor, and if you wish to heal the mind, you can be a clinical psychologist.

Exams do not reflect abilities

Exams are not in any way a measure of your actual abilities as what you have learnt over the year cannot be measured in a short period of time. Since there has to be standardisation, exams are held to certify those who have qualified. From Class 1 to 9, a student keeps moving to the next class regardless of whether he or she is the class topper or one who barely scraped through. The same attitude, if applied to higher studies, can save you heartbreak and disappointment.

Passing a Board exam is a certification that you have completed your education to that level, and you are eligible to move to a higher level. College and course can vary depending on the availability of seats, geographical area, ability to pay fees, selection of subjects and branches. If you have appeared for a significant exam, or a series of them, prepare yourself mentally for the uncertainty of results. At times the correction is lenient, and sometimes it is very strict. The number of candidates competing for entrance exams also varies from year to year. Utilise the time before the results to evaluate the possibilities. Many candidates I counsel miss out on opportunities because they do not know what options they have till the last dates are over.

Working on alternatives also lifts up your spirits as you understand that disappointing results are not a dead-end, but only a caution for you to rethink your academic and career path. Sometimes poor results, when you are expecting better scores, are a warning that you may not have the necessary talent or aptitude to pursue a particular line, and you can move to courses that are more suitable to your abilities.

In the worst case scenario, redressal is available in the form of supplementary exams and re-exam. Hence, if you have failed once, use it as a stepping stone and a lesson learnt. Many successful people went through failures, strengthened themselves, and then went on to do great things in life. Only those who get demotivated and stop trying end up being actual failures.

What can parents do?

As you are aware, many disappointed students are not those who have failed or obtained the least marks but rather those who have obtained lesser marks than their expectations. Many a time, students may feel disheartened about their performance due to the high expectations that their family and teachers may have of them. The shame they will feel can lead students to take drastic measures such as giving up on studies, or on life itself.

So, what can parents do to alleviate any pressure students may face? With some of the board exam results already out, it is important to create a light and lively atmosphere so that you could discuss all the options available based on the results the students have got. For those whose children are waiting for the results, ensure that you let your children know that they will be loved and appreciated whatever the results may be. Doing this can prevent many tragedies. It is during this time that students need support more than ever. So, empower them to overcome any anxieties they may have in a positive manner.

(The author is founder, Banjara Academy, Bengaluru)

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DH Education: Responding to success and failure

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