What Happens If You Fail a Class in College?

What Happens If You Fail a Class in College?

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Going to college can be an exciting time for students who are fresh out of high school. However, it can also make students nervous when they think about the possibility of failing a college course. It’s one thing when it happens in high school, but what can you expect in college?

Failing a college class impacts a student’s GPA and could lead to academic repercussions; however, it should not concern students too much. Students who fail a college course usually have the opportunity to retake it another semester to earn a better grade. 

If the idea of failing a college class worries you, you have come to the right place. While failing a course sounds intimidating, it may not have as much of an impact as you may think it will. Here you will learn everything you need to know about failing a college class as well as some advice from other college students to help you through this experience.

Failing a College Class: What Happens Next?

When you fail a class in high school, you already know what comes next. You either have to retake the course or maybe even retake the entire grade level! Both of these consequences seem rather serious. In college, are the same consequences put in place?

Ultimately, no. Failing a college class, while scary, is a fairly common occurrence. According to The Classroom, nearly 50% of students fail a class their first semester. Although common, failure to pass a college course is still a serious matter, especially if you’re trying to maintain a high GPA.

Because college students learn at their own pace, they will not be “held back” for failing a class. Let’s discuss what will happen if you fail a college class.

Impact on GPA

When you fail a class, it significantly decreases your grade point average (GPA). In turn, this will affect future scholarship applications, graduate school inquiries, and even your continued enrollment at your current institution.

In general, schools will allow you to retake the class and replace the failing grade. Passing the course another semester will somewhat improve your GPA, although it may never fully make up for a failed course. Your college may have a different procedure for expunging grades from your GPA and transcript.

When applying to graduate schools, this black mark on your transcript could impact your chances of acceptance. Some jobs you apply to may also look at your transcripts. Whenever you fail a class, you should retake it. You do not want to have to deal with the negative impacts of a low GPA.

Prerequisite Classes

If the class is a prerequisite (meaning you need to pass it to take other required courses), you will have to retake it another semester. In the meantime, you will not be able to move on to the higher-level classes. However, if the course was an elective, you do not necessarily have to retake it. No matter what though, failing the class will still have an impact on you.

Financial Aid

But what if you do not retake the class? If you receive an academic scholarship, the scholarship provider could revoke the funds for that semester, as well as any funds promised for future semesters. Additionally, not retaking the class means the failing grade remains on your transcript.

A semester credit limit reduces the number of credit hours you can register for each semester. If that credit amount is too low, it could disqualify you from receiving any financial aid. Additionally, the fewer credits the school allows you to take each semester, the longer you will be in school.

Academic Probation

Finally, failing a class can have an impact on your continued attendance at your current institution. If you fail too many courses, the school will place you under academic probation. Each school will have different procedures for enforcing academic probation. These procedures could include a semester credit limit and maybe even dismissal from the school.

After failing a certain number of classes, the school will eventually dismiss you. To continue taking classes, you will have to reapply and be re-accepted.

What Can I Do to Prevent Failing College Classes?

There are many things that you can do to avoid failing your classes in college. Here is a list of proactive actions you can take:

  • Get help from a tutor
  • Ask more questions to professors and teaching assistants
  • Discuss assignments and challenges with your peers
  • Study more regularly and for longer hours

If you are having a hard time understanding what is being taught in class, ask your peers questions about the lesson that you don’t understand. They will likely be able to help you understand and be able to clarify things that you are unsure about. If they don’t know how to answer your questions and are also confused about the lesson, then ask your questions to the teaching assistant.

Also, ask plenty of questions in class! Your questions will help your professor understand where your knowledge is at and how you learn, which will help them plan future lessons so you can understand them.

Failed a Class? Advice from College Students

Part of why failing a class is so scary is because you feel like you are going through it all alone. However, thousands of college students fail college courses every year. We spoke with college students of various academic standings at three different universities to hear their advice for students who fail a college class. Let’s hear what a couple of them had to say:

Amanda B., a junior studying elementary education in Missouri, advises students not to focus on the failed class.

“Sit back and revisit it later. It’s really hard emotionally when you fail, especially if you were a good student in high school. But if you sit back and re-assess how much is on your plate, it makes a world of difference.”

Amanda B.

Dwelling on the fact you did not pass the course will only hold you back. Think of the reasons you may have failed the class. Did you not attend lectures? Were you too busy to complete assignments? Find out what the issue was, and then prepare yourself to succeed next time. Instead of letting it discourage you, allow this stumble to motivate you to work harder in your classes.

Nicole A., a senior studying music education in Montana, explained that you only fail when you stop trying.

“Don’t give up. Yes, failing sucks and it’s hard on your grade, but don’t let that get to you. Redo the class or use the moment to reevaluate your choices, identify what you could do better, or determine if you’re on the right path.”

Nicole A.

As Nicole explained, failing a class may ultimately help you. Studies have found students get better grades in subjects in which they are interested. Failure to pass a course may be evidence that the field of study is not for you.

Many students use failing a class to help them change their degrees and future career paths. However, if you let the failure discourage you, you may miss out on this realization. It does not matter that you failed as long as you learn and grow from it.

Remember, not everyone who fails a class needs to change their major. For these people, identify what led to your failure in the class, recommit to take the course another semester, and prepare yourself to succeed.