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The Five Stages of Grief After Failing a Midterm

Regardless how much you did or didn’t study, there are few things that make your stomach drop faster than getting on ANGEL to find a score lower than 60% staring back at you. That number glares at you from your laptop screen, mocking you as you spiral into the five stages of post-failed-midterm grief. Here’s what to expect after you’re academically sucker-punched by a devastatingly low grade on a midterm you were supposed to ace.

Stage One: Denial

You stare at the grade, blinking a few times and rubbing your eyes in hopes that the number you’re looking at might magically transform itself into a ninety-something. You refresh the page. You double check that you’re truly on your ANGEL account, like somehow you might have managed to sign into the account of that weird smelly kid who sits behind you in class and this is a big misunderstanding. You wonder if the professor typed in your score incorrectly — the 4 and the 9 aren’t that far apart, right? It could happen to anyone.

Stage Two: Anger

This stage is mostly profanity and acts of excessive physical force. You start screaming things like “No!” and “Are you kidding me?!” with some “This is bullshit!” and “What the hell?!” peppered in. You slam your laptop shut. You call your professor the foulest names you can think of. You kick your desk and throw some textbooks. You angrily tell all of your Twitter followers about this injustice, stabbing the “tweet” button furiously.

Stage Three: Bargaining

You email your professor asking if there’s anything that you can do to alter the grade, or if there are extra credit opportunities available. You offer to write a paper, participate in a research study, help her grade exams — hell, you even start offering to clean her house or babysit her kids. You briefly consider seducing her. You’ll try anything to get your grade boosted, and you tell her as much. She rejects your offers and tells you you should have studied. You revert to stage two for a little bit.

Stage Four: Depression

After your professor thwarts all attempts to raise your grade through bribery and groveling, you break down into a sniveling mess. Your body-wracking sobs leave salty trails of tears and snot dripping down your face as you curse the day you signed up for this class on eLion. You hide in your room, firmly planted in your spot beneath the blanket on your bed, unwilling to leave the room or talk to anyone. Your chin quivers as you think about that awful test score, and you melt into a puddle of tears once more.

Stage Five: Drink

Usually the fifth stage in the Kübler-Ross model is acceptance, but this seems like a more realistic outcome. You drown your sorrows in a drink or two. Or five. Or twelve. You drunkenly lament your undesirable exam score, but through the warm glow of your buzz, it doesn’t seem like the end of the world. You sigh and realize there’s nothing that you can do about it now but work hard the rest of the semester and try to do well on the final. You chase that thought with a Natty and order some Pokey Stix. It’s all going to be okay.

About the Author

Alicia Thomas

Alicia is a senior with majors in Print Journalism and Spanish and a minor in International Studies. Chances are that she's somewhere talking about her semester abroad or ranting about sexual assault prevention right now. She can be reached via Twitter (@aliciarthomas) or email ([email protected]).


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