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Failed a Class in College? How to Contain the Damage

Jun 30, 2011 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Education.org Columnist | 0 Comments

Even good students fail classes from time to time. And it’s not the ideal situation—but it doesn’t have to mean the end of your college career. Knowing how to keep it from happening again is important, but you also need to know what steps to take next—so that the damage it causes to your existing college record is minimal. If you’ve failed a class, here’s what to do next.

If you think you might fail—consider withdrawing

If you haven’t completed the course yet but you’re sure you’ll get a failing grade, consider withdrawing before the failing grade appears on your transcript. A “Withdrawn” status on your transcript might not look great, but it looks better than a failure—and in most cases it doesn’t affect your overall GPA.

Talk to your professor

If you haven’t passed the course yet but know it’s unlikely you will, talk to the professor. It could be that he or she might be willing to help you—by matching you with a tutor from the class for extra help, for example. It’s also possible that the rest of the class is getting low grades, too—so your situation may not be
as bad as you think. Talk to the professor about your grade and whether it’s a
good idea to withdraw.

Sad Student

Failing a class can be a big disappointment—but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world.

Find out the impact on your class schedule

Some more advanced-level courses require that you pass a pre-requisite to qualify for entry. Is the class you failed a pre-requisite for something else you need to take? Will you have to take it again? If so, look at your upcoming class schedule and find out when you can fit it in. It may be that you’ll need to sign up for a summer class to stay on track for graduation—or take an extra class during the regular semester, if your college allows it.

Find out the effect on your financial aid

If your academic record is sound overall, failing one class may not be the end of the world. But if you’re already on academic probation or haven’t taken enough credits to qualify as a full-time student, failing this class could have a serious effect on the financial aid you’re receiving. Find out right away—get in touch with your financial aid office to get a full picture of your academic situation.

Figure out what went wrong

You can’t fix the problem if you don’t know what caused it. Whether you failed the class because you didn’t get enough help, over-committed to your extracurriculars or campus job, or skipped too many classes, or any other reason—assess yourself honestly. Find out the solution and make a list of the things you can do to make sure you don’t fail again if you take the class a second time.

Tell your parents

Your parents may need to know about the failing grade, especially if it affects your financial aid. They’ll find out anyway, eventually—better they hear it from you first. And the discussion will go much better if you have all the facts. Tell them the effect this will have on your academic standing and financial aid, discuss the possible causes, and give them your plan for making sure it doesn’t happen again.

Failing a class can be a big disappointment—but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. If you haven’t received a final grade yet but are pretty sure you’re going to fail, talk to the professor before you take any action—and consider withdrawing rather than receiving a grade that will hurt your GPA. If you’ve already received the grade, find out how it affects your academic standing and financial aid. Then identify why you failed the class—and take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again. If you handle it right, one failure could be a valuable learning experience.

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