How to (gracefully) fail your final

From personal experience

You’ve got to fall before you can pick yourself up.

At least, that’s what they tell us. And whether these words are comforting or not, there may come a time in your college life when you fail a final. This might leave you with feelings of inadequacy or disappointment, but it doesn’t have to.

Step 1: Fail

You don’t have to take the final to fail it, but you should probably at least show up. The important part is to answer as much as you possibly can and then blow that popsicle stand. Fight the impulse to flee, and walk calmly out of your lecture hall or classroom. Once you’re out of sight from your classmates, TA’s, and professors, you’re in the clear to flee.

Step 2: Hydrate and take a nap

You probably aren’t drinking enough water, and you probably didn’t get a full eight hours of sleep. Take the next hour to (try to) remedy that. Drinking water is proven to improve mood, and taking a nap will clear your mind, improve your mood, and improve your energy. Check out from reality for a 20 minute power nap, or if your final really hit you hard, try an entire 90-minute REM cycle.

Step 3: Let it all out

If you feel like you’re gonna sob, just do it. Crying is scientifically proven to relieve stress and increase happiness. It can be a single tear falling down your face, or gut-wrenching sobbing into your pillow so none of your roommates hear. There there, it’ll be OK, just let it all out.

Call your best friend/mom/partner and rant/yell/cry about how your professor can’t tell the difference between a powerpoint presentation and a hole in the ground, or about how nothing you studied was on the final, or about how you hate that your professor curves down instead of up.

If your failure has launched you into a quiet, nihilistic rage, don’t be afraid to write it down. Reddit probably has a couple threads about failing finals that you can add to, if not read through for a sense of community. Create a fake twitter to yell your frustrations out into the void if you have to. The void is a judgement free zone.

Step 4: Face the music

Evaluate where you went wrong. Did you start studying too late? Not use enough of your resources? Or have trouble grasping the material? Make a mental note of what you could do better next time.

Step 5: Tell no one, or tell everyone

It’s illegal for your professors or the school to disclose your grades with anyone but you. So you’ve got two paths here: take your failed final in stride, or pretend it never happened.

If you take it in stride, you will not be alone. We love to talk about how we’ve failed at Georgia Tech, so I’m sure that at least one person you know will have also failed a final and be willing to lament about it for 30 seconds before the conversation shifts.

If you don’t actually bring up your failed final in conversation, no one is going to ask you about it except for maybe a helicopter parent or someone else who took the same final. If a classmate does ask you about it, shrug and say “I guess I’ll see when grades are released.” It’ll be between you and T-Square, and no one else has to know.


  • Take a shower.
  • Clean your living area. Clean room = clean brain.
  • Catch up with a friend and talk about anything but school.
  • Netflix has a wide array of television shows to distract yourself from the consequences of your actions.
  • Start preparing for your next final so you (hopefully) don’t have to repeat this process.

What’s done is done, and now the semester is over and in a week you’ll be moving on to another chapter in your life and the pain of this final will be a distant memory. Don’t dwell too much, and give yourself space to love yourself.

Georgia Tech