Failing a college course is a disappointing setback, but it doesn’t have to derail your college career. If you’re doing well in other subjects, a failing grade in one class will have less of an impact on your GPA and self-confidence. The key is to identify what went wrong so you can make corrections. With hard work and academic support, you can be successful in all your classes.
Assess the Failure
In order to fix a problem, you must accurately diagnose the cause. For example, if you flunked due to skipping class, forgetting to submit assignments or not bothering to take notes or study, you’ll need to develop better work habits if getting an education matters to you. Another possibility is that you didn’t have the academic preparation to handle that type of course. If you tried your best, but still failed, you may do better taking the course with a different instructor or working with a tutor.
Visit Your Instructor
Meet with your instructor to explore a possible error in the calculation of your grade. Bring along papers, lab assignments or tests that you think earned higher points, and discuss your scores in a respectful, non-confrontational tone. Share any unusual circumstances that affected your attendance, such as a death in the family or hospitalization, and inquire about any options for extra credit or making up missed assignments. Ask for advice on how you could do better if you retake the course.
Identify Possible Consequences
Failing a course may affect financial aid eligibility, depending on your school’s satisfactory academic progress policy. Contact the financial aid office at your school to find out if a failing grade will affect loans, grants and scholarships you’re receiving or seeking for the upcoming term. A failing grade also might affect your admissibility to a competitive program of study. For example, Auburn University students must earn a C or better in pre-nursing classes for admission into the nursing program.
Sharpen Your Study Skills
Take inventory of your study skills and identify areas that need improvement. Even high school honors students can struggle in college if they aren’t adept at time management and reading comprehension, explains the Virginia Tech Counseling Center. Many schools offer online help and educational seminars on topics related to test anxiety, test-taking strategies, overcoming procrastination and study techniques. Some also have offices that provide advising, tutoring, counseling and disability services.
Retake the Course
You’ll need to retake the course if it’s required for your major or by school policy, and passing the course the second time around may be easier because you’ll know what to expect. Review your school’s policy on repeating courses to determine how your GPA will be calculated if you successfully pass the class on your second attempt. For example, Drake University counts the highest grade earned in a repeated course when calculating overall GPA, but Pepperdine University's Seaver College computes both grades earned for a repeated class.
- Auburn University: School of Nursing -- Admission Requirements (BSN)
- Virginia Tech: Cook Counseling Center -- Time Management Strategies
- Virginia Tech Student Success Center: Academic Success Programs
- Pepperdine University Seaver College: Repeating Courses
- Drake University: Student Records: Repeat Courses
- University of Massachusetts Dartmouth: How to Get Good Grades in College
Dr. Mary Dowd is a dean of students whose job includes student conduct, leading the behavioral consultation team, crisis response, retention and the working with the veterans resource center. She enjoys helping parents and students solve problems through advising, teaching and writing online articles that appear on many sites. Dr. Dowd also contributes to scholarly books and journal articles.