I Failed My Board Exam Notes to NYLON Manila

I Failed My Exam, Now My Graduation Is Delayed. What To Do? #NotesToNYLONManila


What do we do when our timeline falls apart and our future isn’t what we planned?


#NotesToNYLONManila is a weekly advice column for all things Gen Z. From college applications and our first job, to situationships and financial woes, let’s talk about what it means to be growing up in this generation and how to thrive through the best and the worst of it all.

This week, we have a letter about confidence and failure, and what it means to believe in yourself when you don’t succeed.

#NotesToNYLONManila: On Failure, Delays, and Confidence

Dear NYLON Manila,

I had my last exam last month. It’s a pre-board exam that would determine if I am going to graduate this year or not, and sadly, I did not pass. It was my first failure — first big failure. I had all the confidence in the world back then, two months ago. I was pretty sure that I was going to pass. Not anymore. I seem to not know anymore. People don’t believe na hindi ako nakapasa, all because they know how crazy confident I was. I still wake up in disbelief sometimes. How do I gain my confidence back to continue trying despite the delays and setbacks?

Black Swan

Dear Black Swan,

Delays are scary. Failure is terrifying. And confidence? Confidence only truly manifests itself when tested.

In the school system, we are raised to follow a strict timeline. When we plan out our lives, we more of less do the same. A failed exam or class can sometimes mean pushing back our “life” by a whole year, and I completely understand how daunting this might feel, especially when everyone else around us seem to be moving forward. When we’re taught a singular way to look at our future, detours can look like dead ends.

You must be thinking, “If I can’t do this now, what’s my life going to look like at 30?” Or maybe you’re wondering, “Does this failure mean this isn’t the path for me?”

Let me share with you something that’s comforted me at one point in the past, too.

Stan Lee, the man behind the Marvel Universe, created his first hit comic at 38 years old.

Viola Davis landed her leading role at How To Get Away With Murder in 2014, 18 years after her broadway debut.

Vera Wang became an independent bridal wear designer at 40, after leaving her stable career in journalism.

When I started looking at people who found success later in life, I wondered if timelines might not be as rigid as we were taught. And as I grew older and took even more career detours, I’ve only been met with confirmation.

Just like you, my own failures led to my delayed graduation and bouts of anxiety that clouded my college experience. I watched my barkada march without me. I scrolled past as my classmates added jobs to their Facebook profiles, while I remained in the classrom. I spent late nights and early mornings furiously googling ways out of my situation. However, more than just the external pressure and the threat of a skewed timeline, it was the self-loathing that was hardest to overcome.

Know that you are not defined by your failures, but by the choices you make afterwards. What’s more important than passing an exam or graduating on time is understanding that you are the kind of person who will work hard, try, and push forward no matter what.

Let’s cultivate confidence not from our accolades nor our milestones, but from each time we decide to get back up and learn. The sooner we accept that failure is an inevitable part of life, the sooner we’ll gain confidence as works-in-progress.

You might not be moving forward in the direction and in the timeline of your choosing, but you can choose to be the kind of person who continues anyway.

I’m rooting for you,