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Recovering from Setbacks: How You Can Get Back on Track

Recovering from Setbacks: How You Can Get Back on Track


By Loren Germann-McClain
Senior Advisor, School of STEM, APUS

As a student, you face a multitude of challenges that can easily derail your academic success. Setbacks come in many forms – failed courses, academic risk, academic probation, funding issues, difficult schedules and pressures from outside your academic life. We all have experiences with setbacks, and it can be tough to regroup and refocus after having one.

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If setbacks are not handled properly, they can prevent you from recovering from your failures and halt future progress. And while every obstacle will have its own unique resolution, here are a few things to consider anytime you hit a roadblock.

Look at the Big Picture

Allowing yourself to step back from a setback can give you much-needed time to reassess the event and figure out what went wrong and where. Keep in mind that while details are important, it is also imperative to keep the larger end goal in mind.

For example, if you did not do well on one exam but you still have a strong grade in your course, your ultimate end goal is to pass the course. While it may sting to have a less-than-ideal grade in the gradebook, you are pushing towards course and degree completion. What you may see as a “large failure” is sometimes only a minor and inconvenient roadblock when you look at the big picture.

Learn and Adapt from Your Setbacks

Identifying the cause of the setback will allow you to learn what not to do again. By evaluating your process, you can analyze your performance and plan how to be more successful.

Your new strategy should push you forward. There is always something to learn from a setback and by making key changes in your process, you are being both proactive and reactive to prevent a repeat of the same event. Learning to adapt to an ever-changing situation will help you excel in your academic program and work your way towards that bigger goal at the end of the road.

Do Not Be Afraid After Setbacks

Unfortunately, as much as you try to avoid unnecessary disruptions, they do pop up unexpectedly and can take a toll on your emotions. While being fearful is a natural emotional response to setbacks, that fear can also prevent you from succeeding the next time.

The key to positive progress is to process everything you have learned from your setback. Then, use your new knowledge to build a new path towards academic success.

Remember You Are Not Alone

You are never alone on your academic journey. If you encounter setbacks, reach out to your Academic Advising team as soon as possible, so that we can assist in guiding you in the steps you’ll need to recover.

Academic Advising can assist you in various ways, including calculating your GPA, explaining registration restrictions and providing supplemental resources such as tutoring. Remember, setbacks are like speed bumps. They force you to slow down and take things carefully, but they are not the end of the road.

About the Author

Loren Germann-McClain is currently in her second year as an Academic Advisor with the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) at American Public University System. She holds an M.A. in English – Rhetoric and Composition from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, as well as an M.A. in English Literature from Southern New Hampshire University.

Loren previously worked in human resources and public relations at a public library in Indiana, where she helped develop a project to bring mental health first aid and awareness to public and academic libraries across the state. She has earned grants to help develop coding programs for school-age children and develop free, extracurricular activities to help align with the Indiana State standards for computer science, technology, and coding. Her work has helped empower Hoosier students to be equipped with the critical and computational problem-solving skills they will need in order to succeed in a digitally powered and ever-evolving world. 



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