A group of students walking down steps in Guildhall square

Getting exam results can be stressful for anyone, especially those who don’t do as well as they wanted.

Although you may have the grades you need to get onto your chosen university course, some of your friends might not be in such a lucky position. They may be feeling disappointed and upset with the results they received.

While you should be proud of yourself and celebrate your achievement, it's important to be there for your friends and support them through their next steps.

Everyone responds to bad news in different ways. Here are some ways you can help your friends feel better if they don't get the grades they need on results day.

Be supportive

We're all familiar with the feeling of receiving bad news, or not doing as well as we expected. Even though you may have had a successful results day, you can still empathise with the emotions your friends are feeling.

Receiving a disappointing exam result can be a shock to the system, especially if you worked hard and expected to do better. The most important thing is to let your friend know you're there for them and you'll support them in choosing their next steps.

Accept that they will be upset, but don't let them wallow in this feeling. Remind them they're not defined by one exam result. There are still ways they can achieve their goals, but through a different route than they originally planned.

A group of female students talking outside

Be sensitive

Although you received good results, and you should be happy and tell your friends about it, they may not want this rubbed in their faces.

Be sensitive to their feelings when talking about your results. Good friends will be proud of you but they might not want to hear too much about it while they're upset.

Give them time

Not everyone wants to talk about their failures straight away, and they may find it embarrassing to share results with friends and family.

Give your friend some space and time to process what's happened, and let them know that you'll be there whenever they're ready to talk.

Listen to them

Sometimes people just need someone who will listen to them. Before they start thinking about what they should do next, allow them the time to vent about their feelings and get everything off their chest.

4 things to say:

  • "I'm here for you if you need anything."
  • "Everyone fails at some point. Plenty of other people in our class are in the same position as you, and I know that you will all get through it."
  • "Let me know how you're feeling, I'm here to listen for as long as you need me."
  • "Let's take your mind off of things for a little bit and go for a walk."

4 things not to say:

  • "I didn't even study but I still got all As."
  • "I thought the exam was really easy."
  • "Don't worry about it, these results aren't even that important anyway."
  • "Does that mean you can't go to University anymore?"

Reassure them

Receiving a set of bad exam results can feel like the end of the world, but it's not. It's important that your friend knows this.

Failing one exam doesn't mean that they're a failure, it's just a small bump in the road. Getting good exam results doesn't guarantee that you will be successful throughout your life.

Encourage them to think positively and remain confident that things will turn out okay. The only real failure would be giving up.

They're not alone

It may not feel like it at the time but they're not the only one who has experienced a blip. Some of the most wildly successful people did badly at school or college, but this didn't stop them. For example:

  • Richard Branson dropped out of school when he was 16 and started his first company. He's now one of the most recognisable businessmen in the world with a net-worth of over $4 billion.
  • Simon Cowell left school with only 1 GCSE but after working his way up from the very bottom of a music company, he became one of the most successful in his industry.
  • Jon Snow only passed one of his A levels, but is now one of the most successful TV journalists in the UK.
  • Stephen Spielberg was rejected from film school, but persevered and is now one of the most successful directors in film history.
Three students walking together in the park

Take their mind off of things

Your friend may have some big decisions to make on what they want to do next, but this doesn't mean they have to make them immediately. Doing something small can help them to relax and get their mind off of things.

It will help to get out of the results hall as seeing other people getting positive results may make them feel even worse. Take them out for a short walk, or get a coffee together. It doesn't have to be big, just something to help them forget about the situation for a short while.

You could also give them something they can look forward to. The next few days will be stressful for them as they navigate their next steps, so organise to meet up for dinner or to go to the cinema the following week.

Help them choose their next steps

The results that your friend got may mean that they aren't able to get onto their chosen University course, but that doesn't mean that they can't get into University. There are plenty of other options that they can choose from. Offer to go with them to speak to a teacher who can discuss what they can do next.

You can also help your friend with their research on the next steps. The more you know, the better you will be able to advise your friends when making decisions. See our guide on what comes after receiving your grades to help start your research.

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