What You Should Do If You Fail A College Class

A shop window with the text, "If you know failure you will never know success". It's okay to fail a class.

College comes with plenty of challenges, both good and bad. One of the bad might be if you fail a class. No one ever has the intention of failing a course. However, it can happen and when it does it can be devastating to not only your self-esteem, but also your college career, and even financial aid. As painful as it is, failing a course doesn’t have to be a disaster, especially if you learn from it and deal with it quickly

Here at Your College Sensei, I like efficiency. This means we never waste our time or our money. Failing a class does both. The average college semester is 16 weeks, that’s four months squandered. According to Educationdata.org, one 3-credit college class, at a 4-year university, costs $935. Including room and board expenses, the cost is closer to $701 per credit hour. Failing a 3-credit class is like throwing away $2,103. If failing a class happens, let it only happen once.

What Happens When You Fail A Class In College

After the shock is over, the first thing you do is accept that you will retake the class. This is non-negotiable. You will be taking the course over—period. If I haven’t driven home the point yet, let me reemphasize, that you can’t leave the failed class on your transcripts. My martial arts training runs deep. I have been trained, no matter how difficult, to see failure as nothing more than an opportunity to learn and grow. You never shy away from it. You rise up and face failure proactively. Giving up is unacceptable.

Miyamoto Musashi, a famous Japanese swordsman, once stated, “All battles are first won in the mind.” This fundamental thought can be applied to every aspect of your life, even when you fail a class. Don’t allow negative thinking to destroy you. Your mind is the ultimate battleground. Mentally accept that you’ll be repeating the class, this will help you move forward and continue on.

Take A Realistic Look At Why You Failed

You need to be honest. Why did you fail? Now is not the time to make excuses. Get real with yourself and dig deep. Analyze everything that might have contributed. It may not be one single thing but a combination of a few. The goal is to recognize what went wrong so it is not repeated. Did you struggle in all your classes? Did you not understand the course subject? Was the professor not approachable? Did you not attend class? Did you put in enough study time? Did you do all the assignments? Did you have any significant personal life changes during the semester? Did you party too much? Do you have too many extracurricular activities? Did you overcommit at work?

A man sitting in a white karate gi, forehead is dripping with sweat, his eyes are closed as he focuses. It will take determination when you fail a class

College students fail classes for a variety of reasons, fortunately, most of these reasons are within the student’s control. This puts you in a position of power. Once you identify the problem area, you will then have the ability to make necessary changes and adjustments. If you are honest with yourself about why you failed, it will help you determine what you must do to pass the class when you retake it. It will also help in future classes.

How Failing A Class Can Affect Financial Aid

It’s not just federal aid (FAFSA) that is at risk when you fail a class. Other types of aid like grants and scholarships might be at risk too. Financial assistance is provided to students assuming that they will maintain a certain academic standard. The typical eligibility requirements state a student must stay above a minimum GPA. As a result, failing a class puts you at risk of not meeting that requirement. For FAFSA this is a minimum 2.0 on a 4.0 scale. All scholarships have different requirements. However, a merit-based scholarship may require a higher GPA to keep it. Most I’ve seen are an average of 2.75. One “F” can significantly affect your overall grade point average. Some forms of aid required you to pay them back if you fail, especially businesses that pay for college through tuition reimbursement programs.

The Ultimate Guide To Companies That Will Pay For College Tuition Through Tuition Reimbursement will help you find an employer who will pay for your college tuition.

Retaking The Failed Class ASAP

You must retake the class as soon as possible, preferably the next semester. If you fail a class in the Spring semester, take it in Summer school. It will also be beneficial mentally to get it done and over with. It’s important to stick to your academic plan and not get too far off course. Chances are, even though you didn’t pass, you learned something in the class. Therefore, retake the class while the information is still fresh in your mind.

Course Repeat Petition

Nearly all colleges will allow you to retake a class once and replace your failed grade with your new passing grade. Most colleges will require you to fill out a Course Repeat Petition (or something similar to this) to request you want the grade replaced. Be sure to check with your school’s specific policies on repeat classes. In some cases, if you don’t fill out the replacement form both grades will be averaged into your GPA. If you select the grade replacement option, the first grade is not used when calculating your GPA, this is what you want. Unfortunately, the failed grade will remain on your transcripts, but it won’t affect your GPA.

Your New Mindset

Acknowledge the reasons you failed, additionally be mindful of dedicating the proper time and effort to the class the second time around. Ensure you complete all assignments, attend the classes, ask questions throughout the semester, and team up with a classmate for additional support. If you must take the class from the same professor, I highly encourage you to have a meeting. Above all, let the professor know about your new mindset and commitment to passing the course. The majority of professors are very supportive and want to see you succeed.

Failing a class isn’t the end of the world, it doesn’t even have to be a disaster. Don’t let it derail you from your academic or career goals. They say, “the road to success is paved with failure”. This is true, especially when you learn from your failure and don’t make the same mistakes over and over. Therefore, when you learn from experiences that you don’t want to repeat, that failure becomes crucial to your journey and your successful mindset. Failure should help you identify problem areas and allow you to prioritize and create better habits. Some of the most powerful and meaningful moments happen amid failure.


Sensei Side Note:

I have learned so much from karate. Self-confidence, respect, discipline, perseverance, composure, friendship, and comradery. However, the most important lesson I have learned is, that failure is not only beneficial, but it is also necessary. To fail is to learn. To fail is to grow. To fail is to overcome. To fail is to succeed.

The Dalai Lama once said, “The only way to fail is to quit.” I agree with his notion. Don’t ever quit and you will never fail.