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Fail a Class in College? Here’s What to Do Next

So you failed a class. Maybe it’s because your course load was too heavy. Maybe it’s because you procrastinated. Or maybe you just got unlucky.

Whatever the reason, you now find yourself with a gaping hole in your GPA. Plus, you’re probably getting emails from the academic dean, your advisor, and the instructor of the class you failed.

If you’ve failed a class, the only thing you can do is move forward. This article will show you how. Below, we look at six things you should do after you fail a class in college. While it’s scary and stressful, you can recover!

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

It’s easy to feel like you’re a failure because you failed a class. But you must separate your self-esteem from your actions if you want to move forward. Beating yourself up will change nothing; it will only make you feel bad.

Remember that failing a class does not make you a failure. Rather, it’s an unfortunate event that’s now in the past. You can only resolve to do better in the future. To do this, you must work with your college’s faculty and administration to assess why you failed.

Don’t Get Paralyzed

After you fail a class, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. And when you’re overwhelmed, you can get paralyzed. But you need to take action as soon as you can. Don’t wait to talk to your professor, the academic dean, or your advisor.

While discussing the class you failed isn’t pleasant, it’s the first step to recovering. Talking to your professor can help you assess why you failed. And talking to the academic dean and your advisor can help you figure out how you’ll make up the failed class (more on that below).

If you remain paralyzed by inaction, nothing will change.

Check Your Degree Audit

While you’re working with your advisor and instructor to plan your next steps, it’s helpful to look at your degree audit.

Most colleges should have a degree audit tool that lets you check your progress on your major. It can even show you what your progress would be if you switched majors (more on that later).

How does this help after you fail a class? The degree audit can show you if the class you failed is essential to completing your major.

If the class isn’t required for your degree, you could choose to take a different class instead. For instance, if you failed Biology 101 but are majoring in history, you could opt to take another science gen ed in which you’ll be more successful.

Make Plans to Retake the Class

So you looked at your degree audit, and you discovered that the class you failed is required for your major.

In this case, you should make plans to retake the class ASAP. Your advisor is your key resource here. Not only can they help you figure out when the class is offered; but they can also help you plan a class schedule that will set you up for success when you retake the class.

If you can, try to retake the class in the summer. This can boost your chances of success since you only have to focus on one class at a time. Summer also lacks the many extracurricular distractions of the regular semester.

If you have to retake the class during the fall or spring semester, try to take a lighter course load. Cut back on extracurriculars and other commitments as well. While it’s great to be well-rounded, you should never sacrifice progress through your degree in the process.

Use the Resources Available to You

When you’re retaking a class you’ve failed, be sure to take advantage of all the resources available to you.

First, we recommend making an appointment with your college’s learning center (or the equivalent). The professionals here can help you develop good study habits. They can also help you change your study approach if your grade in the class starts to slip.

Next, go to the instructor’s office hours to get help. Come with specific questions, and go as regularly as you can. Of course, this will help you better understand the material. But it will also show the professor that you care about the class (which can only help your grade).

Finally, look into getting a tutor. Most departments offer some kind of tutoring resource to help students succeed.

If you’re taking a math class, visit the math center. If it’s an English class, the folks at the writing center can help you out. And if there isn’t a specific tutoring center for the subject you’re studying, ask your professor if they can recommend a tutor.

Consider Switching Majors

Ideally, you would retake the class you failed and keep progressing with your degree. Sometimes, however, failing a class may be a sign that you should switch majors. And that’s okay!

It can be frustrating to learn you aren’t cut out for a particular subject. But be grateful you figured this out now, while you’re still in school. That’s a lot better than getting ten years into a career and discovering you hate it.

For instance, a good friend of mine in college originally planned to major in chemistry. But after he flunked organic chemistry (a notorious “weed out” class), he realized that a major in English would be a better fit. Because he was still early on in his college career when this happened, he was able to make the switch without much trouble.

Overall, it’s better to have a bachelor’s degree in something than to destroy your GPA in pursuit of a major that isn’t a good fit. Consult your degree audit (and your advisor) to figure out another major where you’ll be more successful.

Failing a Class Isn’t the End of the World

I hope you now see that you can recover from failing a class. The process won’t always be easy or pleasant, but it is doable with the right approach.

For more resources to help you succeed in your classes, check out these articles:

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