What happens when you fail a class in college?


💡 The Frank Takeaways:

College comes with tons of ups and downs. One of those might be failing a class. While you may never have the intention of failing, when it happens, it can be devastating to your self-esteem, college career, and even financial aid. If you are on the verge of failing a college class or have already failed one, you might be wondering what happens to your financial aid package. 

 The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) provides financial aid to students assuming they meet Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP). If you don’t, there’s a chance you’ll be disqualified from further aid the following year.

So, what do you do if you fail, or might fail, a class?

How failing a college class impacts your Grade Point Average (GPA)

Unlike in high school, your GPA doesn’t necessarily take into account all of your grades. Some classes are taken as pass/fail — you either fail a class or you pass it.

However, all other class grades will be factored into your GPA. Most colleges require a GPA of between 2.0 to 3.0 to qualify for graduation. However, for students interested in grad school, grades could have a lasting impact.

If you fail, it’s usually smart to retake the class. Most colleges will allow you to retake a class one time and replace your new grade with the failed one. This looks better on transcripts and for financial aid purposes.

How failing a class in college affects your financial aid

It should come as no surprise that financial aid comes with requirements. Grants, loans, and scholarships have certain policies regarding what happens if you fail a class, and some have specific GPA requirements.

So, if you fail a class, you may be responsible for paying back any aid you have received or having further federal aid suspended until you meet SAP.

If you feel like you’re going to fail a class, check with your financial aid advisor to see how it might impact any financial aid you’ve received.

What steps can you take after you fail a class?

If you’ve already failed a class and want to get back on track, there are steps you can take. Let’s take a look at what you can do. 

Work with your Professor

If your grades are slipping, your best option is to talk to your professor. Your professors want to see you succeed and can provide opportunities for extra credit, tutoring, and one-on-one sessions to help you bring your grade up. 

Every professor has office hours. It’s private time with your professor designed to help students engage with the material and master the information provided. You can ask questions, talk about your assignments, and even get some insight into what your professor considers important for exams. 

The difference between a D and an F can mean a lot when it comes to your GPA and the overall impact that could have on your financial aid.

Get Yourself Organized

College students, especially those in their first year, tend to get overwhelmed with the new freedom allotted to them. If you’ve found yourself in this position, it’s time to get organized.

Grab a paper or digital planner where you can write down all your assignments and test dates. Schedule your classes into your calendar like you would important meetings or shifts at your job.

Consider your college classes one of your jobs. You wouldn’t slack off and risk getting fired, so start showing up and doing the work. 

Join Study Groups

All new college students struggle with the adjustments they have to make. It can help to have peers to talk to and study with. Ask your classmates if they have any study groups you can join. Look for flyers in your library or on digital boards and join the groups when you can.

Talking about assignments and projects can help you stay on top of what you need to do and get questions answered. It’s especially helpful to see that your peers are also struggling with the same things you are — but are willing to figure out how to move past it. 

Talk to Your Counselor

You might not even realize that you have a college counselor there to help you through the entire college experience. If you feel like you are struggling and don’t know where to turn to help, go to the counseling office and set up a meeting.

Your counselor will know about study groups, meetings, tutoring, and other options that could help you get past failing classes. 

College isn’t meant to be easy. That’s why there are so many options on campus to help you when you need them. It’s important to seek them out and take advantage of them when you can.

Remember, you aren’t the first student to fail a class, and you won’t be the last. If it happens, try to make the most of the situation and find out how you can learn from the experience to avoid letting it happen again. We all make mistakes; it’s how we learn from those mistakes and pick ourselves back up that makes us successful.