Failing a Class in College and How to Deal with It
“Hello, my name is Macy, and I failed a college class.” Sounds like a line out of an AA meeting, right? That’s what I thought a little hysterically when I got my first D for college Algebra. I couldn’t believe the course that gave me no trouble in high school could be so confusing and challenging.
This is a story of my journey from shock and anxiety after failing a class to admitting my mistakes, accepting failure, and rocking the same course next semester.
I Realized I Wasn’t a Lazy Outcast
In my desperate attempt to save my GPA and stay in college, I researched everything relating to failing a college class. I found out lots of facts that made me feel a little better about myself. For example, Algebra turned out to be the class with the largest failing rate! Did you know:
- 50% of students fail the remedial courses.
- 28% of the freshmen never reach their sophomore year.
- Only 43% of the students complete their degree in 6 years.
- The rest either drop out entirely (33%) or stay in school (24%).
- Only 36% of the selective college student graduate on time.
- For public schools, the rate is lower, at 19%.
- In contrast, 98% of Ivy League students graduate on time.
After learning all this, I had my answer to the question that must be plaguing you right now. Is it normal to fail a class in college? It is! In fact, not failing or dropping out is much less normal.
On a side note, you might be wondering why I’m telling you a story about failing class with a D. What grade do you need to pass a class? What is a failing grade in college? I had to ask my professor to learn that D is a failing score in my college, but in many schools, it would be a grudgingly passing grade.
Many things can cause you to get a failing grade. For me, it was overconfidence and lack of motivation. I don’t know what possessed me to enroll as I despise memorizing formulas and agonizing over calculations. High school class did not prepare me for the college course, and the instructions were somewhat lacking. I know students who had to work part-time or full-time to get through college. They failed classes because of being overworked and never having enough time to complete homework.
It Was Time to Face the Music
Knowing how many college students fail a class and their reasons gave me hope, so I demolished a pint of Ben & Jerry’s finest, and made a list of consequences of that D. I needed to know what happens if I fail a class. For me the list included:
- My GPA could drop a decimal point or two from its neat 3.3. I had to work extra hard to keep it from slipping further down. No one wants to add a GPA below 3.0 to the resume.
- I could no longer take any of the courses that had Algebra as a prerequisite class. It was a relief as Math classes weren’t required for my Psychology major.
- I could have lost financial aid if failing a class in college had gotten me on probation or if the number of credits hadn’t been enough to qualify. I dodged the bullet there and still got the financial aid for the next year.
- I had to tell my parents and see the disappointment on their faces. I felt about two inches tall or like the time I had broken Mom’s favorite tea mug when I was four. I had to grovel some and promise to do better. Still, it took a couple of months before my parents lost that disappointed tone.
I took a weekend to think about college long and hard. I’ve never failed a class before and needed to understand what happened and how I could prevent it from ever repeating. I was more worried about feeling stupid and letting down my Mom and Dad than losing points off the GPA. Still, I realized I’d become a serial procrastinator and had been spending too much time at work and out with friends instead of studying.
With a Little Elbow Grease, I Turned the Situation Around
If you are wondering what to do when you fail a class in college, let me share my experience.
Can I Still Graduate if I Fail a Class in College?
That was the most pressing question on my mind. It turns out, I was lucky for failing a class in college freshman year. I still had plenty of time to turn things around and stabilize my GPA. My counselor explained that even failing a class senior year college is not the end of the world if you have the spring semester to retake the course.
Failing a class right before graduation is the worst-case scenario. You might still get the chance to walk with your graduation class as the ceremony usually takes place before the finals’ results are out. However, you will not get your degree and will have to enroll in summer classes or return next fall to retake the course.
If You Fail a Class in College and Retake it What Happens?
I decided the first step should be talking to my professor. If there was a slim chance to get an incomplete course or withdraw without the failing grade affecting my GPA, I wanted to try it. I thought about this too late and couldn’t convince the professor to give me a break. He was set on me retaking a college course I failed. There was nothing to do, but enroll in Algebra summer classes and retake the class next year.
I learned there is no shame in retaking a class in college. In fact, I had an advantage over other students taking the course for the first time, as I was familiar with the professor and the syllabus. The best part of retaking a college course of Algebra was that my school uses the highest of the two grades to calculate GPA. However, my academic record would show both grades. Other universities add the failing grade to your file and average the points into GPA.
How to Avoid Future Failures?
In my experience, what happens if you fail a class in college is that you become jumpy and paranoid. I was sure the Algebra professor was out to get me dismissed from school, so I needed to be the model student. I had perfect attendance and started on homework the moment it was assigned.
Despite my best efforts, I did not miraculously become a Math genius. My brain is just not wired that way. When I got the first C on my second go, I knew I would fail the class again. This time, I was smarter and researched writing companies that help complete student homework. It took me a week to find the website with mostly good reviews and prices that would not leave me broke. Paying for the paper was the best decision, as my next assignment got an A, and I could finally see myself passing Algebra.
I still feel a little embarrassed about failing the class and needing help to get a passing grade. However, I believe all is fair in love and war, and college is nothing if not a battlefield. Paying to get my homework done was not cheap, but it saved me hours, and I could focus on passing the classes vital for my major, instead of wasting energy on the one I failed.
Failing a class in community college and Ivy League school and equally embarrassing and disheartening. Staying positive and proactive is the way to get over the Fs and Ds. I hope my story gave you hope and gave some useful insight into how to deal with failing a class in college.