Setbacks in College – How to Handle Them + Bounce Back!

December 15, 2018

Happy finals season everyone! Or, not so happy? I mean, you and I both know that this is an incredibly stressful time for college students. Stress about meeting expectations, reaching goals, and not messing up (me included!). Although I have faith that everything will eventually be okay, past all the stress, what happens when you do mess up? Setbacks during college are kind of inevitable. And they kind of suck.

They bruise your ego, and they knock your motivation. It seems like a vicious cycle that you just can’t pull out of, and I definitely get in that funk for a good period of time each semester. However, I’ve been trying some things to counteract & bounce back from my setbacks, and I thought I’d share them with all of you!

1. Let it all out!

I’m gonna cut to the chase – there’s no point in keeping things bottled up. When it comes to setbacks, the best first step I’ve found is to let all of my feelings about it out. It can be really hard to make decisions when you have all of that weight from your past “failures” on your shoulders.

Whether it’s through journaling or ranting to my friends, airing all my feelings in the open me feel a million times better. Plus, once I’m done complaining about everything, it builds a great foundation for taking action to improve. 

3. See where there is room for improvement.

Speaking of which, there’s no point in complaining unless you actually do something! There are a number of factors that contribute to setbacks, and sometimes (I’ll be honest), they have to do with you. 

Look at what went wrong, and see if there’s anything you can change. Get a bad grade on a test? See if there’s any way you can make it up through extra credit, or talk to your professor about how to improve for next time. Tank a presentation? Figure out exactly what made you do poorly, and make a game plan for how to avoid it next time. Taking action on these things will not only help you in the long run, but it’ll also give you peace of mind.

3. Accept the things you can’t control.

On that note, take my mom’s advice and accept the things you can’t control. There’s no use in moping about a test that took place two weeks ago – there’s nothing you can do to change that grade! Even if you could have handled it then, the past is in the past, and there’s no use focusing on it when you have more things up ahead.

The only thing you can do is accept that you messed up, and move on. Dwelling on your setbacks doesn’t help anyone, especially you. 

4. Practice gratitude

I love this one. It’s so easy to put blinders on when you’re stressed out. It can feel like everything bad is happening all at once! However, practicing gratitude really puts everything into perspective.

If you’re feeling particularly down about something that happened, think about all the good things that have been leading up to it. Keeping the good stuff in mind will help you realize that these setbacks are just moments, and you’ll bounce back from them.

5. Remember that setbacks happen to everyone.

Finally, you are not alone! Everyone is struggling to get past the ups and downs that come with college life. While that might look different for different people, we’re all just trying to figure it out as we go along.

I know that I’ve been in a funk for a crazy long time, and I’m only just now recovering from it. Keep in mind that setbacks happen to literally everyone, even the most successful people, and they often end up shaping who you are. Mistakes are tough to swallow in the moment, but a few years down the line, you’ll probably be thanking yourself for learning that lesson.

Final Thoughts

Setbacks can be tough to deal with in college, especially with so much going on. However, like I said before, they’re often just moments in time. Life is full of ups and downs, and learning to cope with it all is just part of the process.

How do you handle setbacks in college?

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