Down, But Not Out

We repeat cliches because they contain truth. Such is the case with the phrase “down, but not out.”

After a difficult academic term of online learning, this cliché might describe how many of us feel in academic circles.

Remember that every person in authority in your life has had setbacks, disappointments, and failures in their past.  Your parents, teachers, coaches, and yes, your university instructors. It might not seem like that, and perhaps they don’t want to talk about those chapters in their lives, but they have certainly had them.

I had real setbacks when I was a young student.

First, I enrolled in a college that did not match my interests or skill set. I did well with my electives and failed two classes that first year. 

When I switched colleges, I did better, but I wasn’t mature enough to embrace the learning, and I dropped out of university for five years to work. When I returned, I found the subject area that I am passionate about – English literature. Only then – when I was mature and studying what I loved – did I develop the energy, commitment, and drive to excel and take full advantage of learning at university.

My life was not determined by that first year of studies or my failing two classes or even my second year. My life was not determined by taking a break from studies – except to facilitate maturity that helped me return to studies with the determination to fully embrace the experience.

My checkered past in the early days of my academic studies was a chapter, not the book. I never let those early failures and mediocre learning experiences constitute a book. I had control over how I thought about those experiences. I did not let them define me.

I am not ashamed of those experiences, and that is one reason I am able to easily talk about them in the hopes that you will benefit from my story. 

 The point is that young people’s lives are not determined by their first term – however good or disappointing that term was.

If your grades are disappointing, remember that one term – particularly a term when you are studying online due to COVID-19 – will not be life determining unless you let it be life determining. You have control over how you understand and move forward from this term.


You have the choice to see your last term as a chapter, not the book. And that’s true even if you did really well. Any term can be a chapter, not the book.

Resilience is “the ability to persevere and adapt when things go awry” (Reivich & Shatte, 2002, p. 1). It’s helpful to reflect upon and fully understand the factors that resulted in your disappointing term. It’s helpful to understand what went wrong and what you have control of going forward. It’s also beneficial to have a more experienced guide help you reflect and determine what the learning is in this situation.

Because there is always learning. Every chapter – no matter how disappointing – has the potential to help you in the future. Don’t waste this opportunity to learn from your situation and/or your mistakes.


If you want to reflect on how your term went – what went right and what went wrong – and how this learning can help you in the future, feel free to contact me.

 If you want to develop better study habits and/or be more engaged with your classes this term, feel free to contact me. 

 If you need help and support with your academic studies, reach out. Academic coaching can give you that extra boost to help you realize your goals.

Email me at or call 306-292-9929.  Let’s make this the best term it can be.


Reivich, K. and Shatte, A. (2002). The Resilience Factor: 7 Essential Skills for Overcoming Life’s Inevitable Obstacles. Random House.

If I can help in any way, please get in touch.

Reach out and seek the help you or a loved one needs to learn and grow this term.