As your exam results day approaches, it can be hard to know how to prepare for the grades you get: it may seem that your whole future is sealed within that envelope.

Whether the outcome is what you hoped for or not, you will learn something from your results regardless of what grades you achieved.

Counsellor Neil Garrity has helped us put together tips to help you manage any stress and anxiety when collecting and digesting your results.

Your initial reaction

As you wait in line to collect your results your heart may start to race. This is quite normal. Try to breathe calmly and deeply. Remember before opening your results that no matter what your grades are, you did your best.

On top of the pressures of the day itself, not receiving the grades you want can leave you feeling devastated. A range of different emotions may start to build up leaving you feeling overwhelmed.

Remember your response to your grades will be different from someone else’s. We hope that your exam results day will be a good one and a cause for celebration. However, you may feel anger, sadness and envy if you don’t get the results you want; it’s important to deal with these as soon as you feel able and not in months to come. Try not to push these emotions to the back of your mind and work your way through them. Writing down your feelings will help you process them.

Whether you want to be alone, get some exercise or talk to friends or family, understanding and acknowledging these emotions will help you start to feel better.

Don’t compare

As much as you try not to, it’s hard not to compare your results with someone else’s whether they’re a sibling or a friend. But comparing results won’t help and may make you feel worse about your achievements – even if your grades were what you were expecting.

We are all different, and the same result will mean a different thing to a different person. It’s also important to remember to be mindful of people around you. If your results are very good or better than expected, you’ll naturally be very excited and want to share your good news with others. However, your friends might not have done so well, so be compassionate and temper your response to take into account how they are feeling. 

Staying off social media on results day is one way to avoid comparing your results to others.

What can you change

Not getting the results you wanted can be hard, but it’s also a learning experience. If you decide to re-take any exams, think about things you could do differently. Maybe change your revision technique or the place you revise. Small changes that you previously didn’t consider could make a big difference to your future grades. You may find that you’re more creative than you thought and this could go on to influence your University course or career.

You will learn something from your results regardless of what grades you achieved.

The bigger picture

If your results don’t go to plan, try to think of your options. There are retakes, other Universities and other jobs. Not getting the result you want in the moment feels like the end of the world, but it’s important to remember you are much more than your result. Your grades do not define you.

Make a positive next step

It can be hard not to dwell on a negative event, but once you’ve processed your emotions it’s good to move on. Making a new plan and moving forward from this will make you stronger and more resilient. Maintaining a journal in which you write down what you’re feeling and note down any ideas you have about how to move forward could help too.

Importantly don’t feel you’re in this alone. Many of us have been through the same process and have seen our initial plans change positively as a result of different grades. There are places you can get help and advice for where to go next, so do take advantage of what’s out there which could benefit you.

Your future isn’t sealed in an envelope – it’s in your power to change.

Neil Garrity