What Happens If You Fail a Class in College?

I hate to say it, but one of the most common things that brings students to my site is searching for what happens if you fail a class in college. As a former college advisor – and a person, in general – I hate when students struggle. But, that’s the reality, so here are the answers to your questions.

Some of the links below may be affiliate links.

What happens if you fail a class in college?

It happens. It sucks, but it happens. You are riding on the edge of passing a course, but then you bomb the final or your last project. You failed the class. 

GPA consequences

Generally speaking, if you fail a class in college, you’ll receive an “F” on your transcript. That “F” will negatively affect your GPA (grade point average) for the semester as well as your CPGA, or cumulative grade point average. 

You may put your financial aid at risk

Depending on what your cGPA is, failing a class could have a negative effect on your Satisfactory Academic Progress and financial aid eligibility. (See more about the basics of financial aid here.)  If you’re failing multiple classes, I would check out the Satisfactory Academic Progress link above, or go to Student Aid’s website for further info.

You may be wondering…

Is it normal to fail a class in college?

Yes, unfortunately, it’s pretty common. But, enough bad grades or withdrawals can create consequences you’re not going to want to deal with. As long as you put forth your best effort, that’s all you can do. Sometimes you do everything you can, and you still don’t pass.

If you know you didn’t do as well as you could have, it usually comes down to time management. You most likely let other things get in the way and didn’t make enough time to study. Throughout my blog, you will see me repeating something: GET. A. PLANNER! A weekly or daily planner will both do the trick. Some people like digital planners, but I prefer paper planners. This weekly planner and daily planner are both at the top of my list due to their simplicity.

Is it better to drop or fail a class in college?

Always, always, ALWAYS – it is always best to withdraw from a course if you know you’re going to fail it. If you’re on financial aid, you may want to wait until a certain date before you drop the class so you don’t have to return your aid, but as far as GPA consequences – you never want to have a failing grade on your transcript if you can avoid it.

Can I get rid of my “F” grade?

Yes and no. If you retake (and pass) the course you failed, the new grade will negate the F, but the F will remain on your transcript.  So, your transcript will show you took the class multiple times, and it will show what your final grade is for each time you attempted the course. However, only the successful grade will count toward your cGPA. If you fail the class when you retake it, the “F” grade will not be counted twice, but you will have two F’s on your transcript.

How many classes can you fail in college before you get kicked out?

I talk about this in Kicked Out of College for Failing? Say What?. Honestly, if you’re concerned about getting kicked out of college, I would talk with your advisor. He or she can walk you through your specific situation. What happens when you fail a class in college is unique to every students and his or her situation.

Any website that gives you a definitive answer is, quite frankly, full of it. Each college will have its own policy, and each student’s situation is unique. So, I’m really glad you’re here.

What happens if you fail a class in college freshman year?

Freshman year is usually the year when most failing grades occur. The answer to this question is simple… simply complicated! What will happen depends on how many classes you have taken, what the grades are in your other classes, if you’re receiving scholarships or financial aid, if you’re an athlete, if you’re living in student housing, etc. There are SO. MANY. FACTORS. to consider. I couldn’t possibly explain all of the potential consequences. As I advised above, please talk with your advisor!

What happens if you fail a class in community college?

Unless there’s some rule I am completely unaware of, there are no unique consequences of failing a class at a community college. The only exception might be if you are a high school student taking a dual credit course through your community college. If you fail a class in that context, your high school may make you pay for the course. That’s definitely something to speak with your high school guidance counselor about, though.

What will employers think about an applicant who failed a college class?

When students fail a college class, one thing they don’t think about is how it will affect them beyond their academic career. Hopefully, your goal is to get a job after you graduate, and your potential employer may request your official transcripts as part of the application process.

This is all going to depend on what job you’re applying for, what the course(s) you failed, and how the rest of your transcript looks. I can’t imagine any scenario where an overall good candidate with an above-average transcript would be passed over simply due to a single failing grade.

Just be sure the next time you take the class, you show your future employers that you are persistent and resilient by successfully completing the course with a stellar grade.

There are many reasons students fail courses. Other courses take priority, the student struggles with the course content, absences due to illness, lack of time management, etc. An employer may ask you to explain the failing grade. Be honest. There is no shame in being human. Life happens. Plus, being honest lets you maintain your integrity. 

What should I do after I fail a college class?

Below you will see my recommendations. First of all, I suggest retaking the course even if you don’t need it to complete your degree. Additionally, in order to be successful the next time you take the course, there are a few things you can do to help prevent another failing grade.

  1. Seriously consider retaking the course. 
    • Retaking the class will help you achieve two things: A better overall GPA, and proof that you don’t give up easily, can persevere, and overcome obstacles.
    • It also helps prove to yourself that with enough effort, you can succeed. This will give you a boost of confidence, and that’s always a plus! 
  2. Seek out tutoring. 
    • If you failed the class because the material was too challenging for you, get tutored by someone who knows the material. Most colleges will have peer tutors ready to help, or you can find a tutor outside the college. Peer tutoring is usually free, whereas the third-party tutor can cost $20+ per hour. 
  3. Participate in class.
    • Participating in class will keep you more engaged and help you absorb the material in a different way. 
  4. Sit in the front of the class.
    • Sitting in the front of the class will make you more present and focused. 
    • You will have a visual advantage, be able to hear the instructor more, and achieve more eye contact with the instructor.
    • Students who sit in the back of the class – especially in large lecture halls – tend to get distracted more easily. The instructor will not be able to see what you are doing. If you’re needing accountability, sit in front.  It just makes sense.
  5. Find a study buddy.
    • Most students who sit in front of the class will have higher GPAs. This means you’ll be surrounding yourself with students who are more likely to be successful in the course.  Befriend one or two of those students and try to form a study group with them, even if it’s only for the week or two before a big exam. 
    • There was one college course, in particular, I was really struggling with. I had become friends with the girl next to me, so we decided to study together before each exam. I thoroughly believe studying with her is what helped me pass the course. 100%.
When you fail a class in college (or, ideally, before you fail), consider either 1-on-1 or group tutoring.

What should I do the next time I think I’m going to fail a college course?

I’ve had students who were getting all As in their other courses, but knew they were going to fail another course, so they wanted to drop all of their classes. (The deadline to drop single courses had already passed.)

Wait… what?! NO! Never in the History of Ever has that been/will that be a good idea. Don’t forsake an otherwise successful semester just because you don’t want a blemish on your transcript.  

  1. Talk with your instructor and get his/her opinion. Is it even mathematically possible to pass the course? Be realistic with yourself after you know what you will have to do to achieve your desired grade.
  2. Talk with your advisor to see what support options are available to you.
  3. Seek out tutoring if it’s not too late to turn things around.
  4. Speak with the financial aid office to understand the potential financial ramifications of failing or withdrawing from a course. 
  5. If all else fails and you don’t believe you’ll be able to pass the course, talk with your advisor to officially withdraw from the class. A “W” is always better than an “F”. 

Final Thoughts

Like I said, Life happens. You may find yourself having to make some difficult decisions regarding classes you are currently failing.  If this gets to be an ongoing trend for you, feel free to reach out to me. Maybe all you need a different perspective.

Just remember that a “W” is always, ALWAYS better than an “F”.  For financial aid reasons and your grade point average.  Plus, in my opinion, a “W” will be easier to explain to future employers if asked about it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *