Dear Thelma: I failed my final-year project twice and feel like a disgrace

  • Family
  • Sunday, 23 Feb 2020

I AM now in my mid-20s and my life seems to be falling apart.

I began my bachelor degree course in IT back in 2015. It was all rainbows and sunshine until 2018 when I should have graduated. In the final year, we had to work on a final-year project.

It is depressing to fail a final project which determines your graduation. I failed my project twice, and this is my third time doing it, and extending another semester to finish it.

My lecturers said I wasn’t delivering but I can’t seem to find the right person to help me. I have even hired developers in the industry, even though it is not ethical to do so. But I was desperate.

Repeating the semester means paying another round of fees. My education loan had done with its distribution a long time ago, and now they are coming after me as I should have started paying back; I have not appealed for arrears.

My mother does not know about my education loan, and she has been supporting me and paying the ongoing fees.

I cannot take on a part-time job as I need to focus on my project and not let anything distract me.

At the same time, I hate myself for needing my mother to support me financially as she is also taking care of the household expenses and other bills.

The moment I received my results, I was devastated when I saw “FAIL” on it. I feel like a disgrace, useless and negative. I feel like I’ve let everyone in my life down.

I feel like a failure:

As a daughter to my parents, because I can’t start working to support the family just yet. I cannot depend on them forever, especially my mother.

As a sister to my younger brother, because I cannot be a role model and let him know that university is not as “scary” as what I am going through.

As a granddaughter to my grandmother, because she cannot see me in my graduation robe on time.

As a student to my lecturers and everyone in my university, because I am a disappointing, failing student, who is struggling to go through her final year.

I had a boyfriend who was supportive and loving, but in the end he left me for his family’s sake as our interracial relationship wasn’t accepted.

We broke up the night before my final project presentation.

There was also a time I almost got terminated in my studies when I had some low points, and I attempted suicide then.

I spoke to Befrienders about that and also had some downtime to calm myself.

Waking up the next morning made me hate my life more after that suicide attempt. This misery seems to be in a looping cycle.

I keep failing in my studies, I’m constantly broke and now loan payments are piling up.

I was with a man who loved me dearly but chose to give up on us.

I realised that I have had symptoms of depression and anxiety for the past year. I do notice significant changes in me and they are affecting my routine in a very alarming way. I’m concerned that I may be clinically depressed.

I will look for professional help when I have saved enough money.

I am aware of the consequences of severe depression or poor stress management.

I don’t want to tell my family about this because of the stigma of “mental health condition”. And they may think that I am exaggerating.

I just don’t want to worry them anymore, as I am grown up and can take care of myself. I just don’t want to see them sad for me.


Please consider this truth: your family don’t value you for the academic work you do, the role model you are or the money you earn.

You are their daughter, their granddaughter and their sister – a beloved part of their family. They love you, warts and all.

The trouble is that anxiety and depression make you question this truth. So I’ll ask you a question: would you love your baby brother less if he got a D for maths or if he had to repeat a year of school?

Of course you wouldn’t!

And if you thought your little brother was about to kill himself because of a school semester gone wrong, what would you say to him?

You’d be horrified and beg him not to. You’d remind him how much you love him. Same goes for you. Repeat to yourself: you are loved. Suicide would not just kill you; it would devastate the people who love you.

While you hold on to that, let’s see what’s going on. It sounds very much as though life stress has propelled you into depression and anxiety. As you are also suicidal, please follow these steps immediately.

First, this is a very serious situation and one that must be handled by a person who is properly trained. You need to see a psychologist, a mental health professional with at least a Master’s degree that includes 300 hours or more supervised clinical training. In addition, you may also need the help of a psychiatrist, a medical doctor who specialises in mental health.

For your specific situation, I suggest you see a psychologist straight away. They will work with you using talk therapy.

Focus on managing your depression and anxiety. A public hospital is the most affordable option for sourcing such professionals but it may take some months to see someone.

I suggest you look for free services offered by your university, your local council and appropriate NGOs. Ask the psychologist if you seem like a good candidate for medication. If they and you think it’s worth exploring, a psychiatrist is ideal but you might also be able to get help from a GP.

Second, failing a final project once can happen to anyone. But failing it twice and not knowing why means there is a communication issue.

I can’t tell if you are talking to one teacher repeatedly or different people each semester. However, when a university has a student repeating a term for the third time, they should be asking why and putting a team on it.

As this has not happened, I think you should make an appointment to see the head of the department and ask for advice. Take a copy of your work with you and a copy of the assignment instructions.

Ideally, you’ll be assigned a tutor who can help you work through it. You may also be put into contact with a mature student who has already passed for guidance.

Third, the loan debt. You can apply directly to the education people but as you’re depressed, why don’t you visit the free Bank Negara Agensi Kaunseling dan Pengurusan Kredit (AKPK) people at They’ll give you good advice and help you talk to the education people.

Fourth, please do try not to shame yourself. It’s very common to have trouble with university work, and depression and anxiety issues are affecting at least a third and perhaps even more than half of the population.

Don’t suffer this alone. Reach out for help and don’t worry about it. You’re in plenty of company.

Those in need of someone to talk to can call the Befrienders KL at 03-7956 8145, or 04-281 5161/1108 in Penang, or 05-547 7933/7955 in Ipoh.

Is something bothering you? Do you need a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on? Thelma is here to help. Email or write to Dear Thelma, c/o StarLifestyle, Menara Star, 15, Jalan 16/11,46350 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR FULL NAME, ADDRESS AND A PSEUDONYM. No private correspondence will be entertained. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, usefulness, fitness for any particular purpose or other assurances as to the opinions and views expressed in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses suffered directly or indirectly arising from reliance on such opinions and views.

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Failure , depression , suicide


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