What happens if I fail my degree?

Our agony aunt Mary Fenwick offers a new perspective on whatever is troubling you

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I failed my degree. How do I move on with my life?

I’ve recently turned 23 and have just failed university. I am back living with my parents and working as a sales assistant. When I look at all my friends who have recently graduated and are now working in pretty great jobs, I can’t help but feel like a failure. I’ve spent three years of my life working towards a degree, but I have nothing to show for it. What happens if I fail my degree? What can I do to make me feel like my life is back on track and is actually going somewhere? Name supplied

Welcome to my world!

By many standards I am a failure – in Jane Austen’s time, I’d have failed due to my lack of accomplishment in painting, music and needlework.

In a 21st-century life where I am warm and well-fed, I have not cracked the challenge of keeping pairs of socks together in the wash, and had a car engine blow up on me due to lack of oil – more than once!

We live in a culture where ‘what do you do?’ is an acceptable question, but it is incredibly, ridiculously limited. All of us are much, much more than a job title or a set of academic achievements. You have great foundations with your health, parents and friends who love and support you, and proof of employability.

A useful question to ask people who love their jobs, is ‘how did you get to where you are?’ This should open up lots of infectiously enthusiastic conversations and ways of seeing new pathways. University did not ignite your spark, but that could be interpreted as a failure of the university, not you. I recommend watching Steve Jobs’ address to students at Stanford University about not being in too much of a hurry to join the dots (see below).

Meanwhile congratulations on being off-track. It’s where all the interesting people hang out.

Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. GOT A QUESTION FOR MARY? Email mary@psychologies.co.uk, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line

More inspiration:

Watch Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Speech 2005: