Spring Break is long gone. The midterm exams (first or second ones) might be coming back to you. The grades may be lower than you had anticipated. What should you do?
Here is what 3 of my own students did in the past 10 days: They each, independently, visited my office. They hung their heads a bit — disheartened by their performance on the exam. They were anxious — worried about their ability going forward to pass the class. But, they were brave and reaching out — which made me proud of them individually and I let them know.
If you perform poorly on an exam, it is OK to feel disheartened and let down.
If you perform poorly on an exam, it is OK (in fact normal) to feel anxious.
If you perform poorly on an exam, it is NOT OK to retreat into your room and not reach out to your instructor and/or classmates/support network. In fact, while it may be difficult, you need to go to your professor’s office hours and talk about the exam. The instructor is about the only person who can provide context and clues to understanding exactly what your poor grade on the exam means for your overall grade in the class. Only the instructor can explain to you which parts of the exam were done poorly and which parts were done well. Your friends can’t give you these kinds of answers or feedback; but, it is precisely this feedback you need. Therefore, you must go and ask. You can say: “I am worried about my grade in the class given my poor performance on my exam. Can you help me understand my current standing in the class ?” It is only this information that will help alleviate (some of) your anxiety and direct you toward a more successful path.
I want students to come and talk to me about their exam performances. I want to help encourage, nudge, and guide students toward success. Professors DO want students to succeed . . . we often feel, then, like we, too, have succeeded. Everybody wins! Just remember: success may NOT be a specific grade. Success may be mastery of particular content or a meaningful connection with a mentor (the professor).