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What happens when you fail a class in college?

    College can come with tons of ups and downs. One of those downs might be failing a class. While it’s unlikely you set out to fail, when it happens, it can be devastating to your self-esteem, college career, and possibly even your financial aid package.

    Students who fail too many classes may be put on academic probation or put themselves at risk of dismissal, too. If you’re on the verge of failing a college class or have already failed one, you might wonder what happens next.

    In this article, we’ll outline how failing a class could impact your grade point average (GPA), your financial aid, and the steps you might want to take if this does happen.

    How failing a college class can impact your GPA

    If you fail a class in college that you’re taking for a letter grade, how it gets handled is going to depend on your school’s policy. Some will allow you to retake the class and replace the grade entirely. Others will allow you to retake the class and average the two grades. Your school might have a different policy than this altogether. Again, it’s important to understand your school’s policy because how it gets handled will decide how it impacts your GPA.

    If your GPA does get impacted, there might be consequences. Some colleges, for instance, require you to have a certain GPA to graduate. If you’re interested in graduate school, your undergraduate GPA will likely be considered when you apply to graduate programs. Additionally, failing a class could affect your financial aid if you fail to meet hourly enrollment requirements or your school’s Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirements (continue reading for more information on this specifically).

    Classes you take for pass/fail might be handled differently. Sometimes, if you fail a class that you’re taking for pass/fail, it's not going to be counted in your GPA, you just won’t get the credit for that class. Failing a pass/fail class at some universities can hurt your GPA and have subsequent negative effects, though. For instance, even if your GPA doesn’t get affected, failing a class could impact your financial aid.

    How failing a class in college can affect your financial aid

    It should come as no surprise that financial aid almost always comes with requirements. Grants, loans, and scholarships often have certain policies regarding what happens if you fail a class, and some have specific GPA requirements that they require for you to maintain the aid.

    If you fail a class, you may be responsible for paying back any aid you’ve received, or you might have further federal aid suspended until you meet Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP).

    SAP is a policy established by your college or university that outlines the base level of academic progress students need to maintain in order to keep their federal student aid. SAP policies will differ from school to school. Failure to meet SAP and remain in good standing may result in future federal financial aid being cut off until the student reestablishes that they’re meeting SAP or their school determines that the student met specified requirements to have their aid eligibility reinstated.

    If you feel like you’re going to fail a class, check in with your school’s financial aid office to see how it might impact the financial aid you’ve received so you’re as prepared as possible.

    Steps you can take if you’re going to fail a class (or if you already have)

    If you’re on the verge of failing a class or have already failed a class and want to get back on track, there are steps you can take.

    Work with your professor

    If your grades are slipping, an excellent first line of defense is to talk to your professor. Your professors want to see you succeed and may provide opportunities for extra credit, tutoring, and one-on-one sessions to help you bring your grade up.

    Take advantage of your professor’s office hours if you can. Consider this additional time with your professor designed to help you engage with the material. You can use this time to ask questions or talk about your assignments.

    The difference between a D and an F can mean a lot when it comes to your GPA. In other words, anything you can do to inch your grade up should help.

    Get yourself organized

    College students, especially those in their first year of college, can get overwhelmed with the new freedom allotted to them. If you’ve found yourself in this position, getting more organized may be helpful.

    Utilize a paper or digital planner to write down all your assignments and test dates. Utilize a calendar to schedule out your classes and study time. In essence, do what it takes to bring discipline to your academic life to get back on track.

    Join study groups

    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 the library or on digital boards and join the groups when possible.

    Talking about assignments and projects can help you stay on top of what you need to do and help get your questions answered in an informal setting.

    Talk to a counselor

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

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

    Retake the class

    Many colleges provide the option to retake a class you’ve failed so you can improve your letter grade. Check with your school to see if this is possible if you’ve failed a class.

    Final thoughts

    College isn’t meant to be easy. That’s why there are resources on campus to help you when you need it. It’s important to seek them out and utilize them if you’re struggling academically.

    Remember, you won’t be the first person to fail a class. If it happens, try to learn from the experience so it doesn’t happen again.