Failing is a natural part of the path to success, which is why you should always welcome failure as an opportunity to do better in the future. Nonetheless, you’ll still need to prepare for what to expect if you fail a class and what to do next. If you’re wondering what happens if you fail a class in college, whether you can retake a class, or whether failing a class affects GPA, in this article, we’ll answer all those questions and more.

What Are the Consequences of Failing a Class?


Depending on the institution you’re completing your studies in, there are different consequences to failing a class. However, you should expect:

  • Impact on GPA: a failed class will decrease your GPA, so you should retake failed classes to improve your GPA and not let it affect your applying for a job or a graduate school.
  • Retaking prerequisite classes: if you fail a prerequisite class, you’ll have the chance to retake the course for another semester, but you’ll not be able to take higher-level classes. However, this doesn’t apply if you fail an elective.
  • No financial aid: a failing grade can mean your scholarship provider will not provide funds for that semester or future semesters.
  • Academic probation: if you fail too many classes, you may be put on academic probation or even face dismissal from the school. 

What Can You Do When You Think You May Fail a Class?

Struggling to finish assignments and underperforming in a class doesn’t mean all hope is lost. You can still improve your grade and complete the class successfully. However, you’ll need all hands on deck and  hard work to recuperate the situation. If you’re worried you’re failing a class, we suggest following the tips below to get a hold of the case immediately. 


Explore different learning styles

Exploring different learning styles is essential for academic success, enabling individuals to identify the most effective and tailored approach to acquiring knowledge. Learning styles encompass various methods such as visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading/writing, each catering to different preferences and strengths. By understanding one’s predominant learning style, students can optimize their study techniques, making absorbing and retaining information easier. Recognizing and adapting to a specific style fosters a deeper comprehension of course material, enhances memory retention, and reduces the risk of failing a class.

Talk to your professor

If you notice you’re failing a class, you must talk to your professor as soon as possible. Be honest and discuss why you think you’re falling behind and what you can do to repair your grade. Your professor may let you deliver missed assignments and projects or offer extra credit. Whatever their advice is, make sure to follow it and do your best to get better grades.

Talk with your academic advisor

If you’re failing a class and you’re looking for options, you can always talk to your academic advisor. They can help you review all your options to protect your GPA and find effective studying strategies. Suppose you face difficulties due to family emergencies or medical and mental health issues. In that case, your academic advisor can advocate for you to get an incomplete and retake the course in the next term. 

Check college policies

Different policies dictate the consequences of failing a class depending on the university. Some universities don’t take into account the failed courses in the overall GPA, whereas others do. Here at the University of the Potomac, you’ll find college policies designed to help students overcome a failing grade without grave repercussions. 

Hire a tutor


If you find that you’re struggling with the subject matter and need extra help understanding it, a great option is to find a tutor. Because private tutors can be expensive, you can speak with your professor or academic advisor to find out if there are available student tutors that excelled in that course. A student tutor will relate better to your struggles and be able to explain the subject matter simply. 

Retake an exam

You can always ask your professor to retake the exam before the final results are published. They could be even more understanding if you had an emergency that caused you to underperform, which is why you should be honest and open when requesting to retake an exam.

Perform extra credit

Your professor may offer extra credit for making up for a portion of the grade. Extra credit may consist of additional assignments for you to work on as well as supplemental study materials. You can see it as an excellent opportunity to expand your knowledge on the subject and catch up with others.

What If You Failed a Class?


Say worst come to worst, and you’ve failed a class. You’ll still have the opportunity to undo some of the damage to your GPA by retaking a course or consider it as a sign that you’re incompatible with your major. So, there’s always hope to get back on track and improve.

Don’t feel overwhelmed

While it may seem like a catastrophe, failing a class isn’t, which is why you shouldn’t let it get to you and overwhelm you. Being overwhelmed may worsen the situation and paralyze you from working harder and improving your GPA. A failing grade is more common than you think, and as long as you do damage control, it won’t gravely affect graduating. Additionally, if you are a freshman, you can use the internet to search for tips and tricks on preparing for freshman year of college and other information.

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Ask for help

College years can be challenging, so you shouldn’t shy away from asking for help when needed. Talking to your college counselor will help you overcome a failing class emotionally and also offer solutions like joining study groups, clubs, meetings, etc. You can also talk to your peers and parents to get a firsthand account of their experiences with a failing grade. You should keep in mind that you don’t have to go through it alone, and sharing the weight with others will help you immensely.

Retake a class

As mentioned above, if you fail a prerequisite class necessary for your major, you’ll have to retake the course. But you can also retake a class for grade forgiveness (a passing grade replaces a failing grade) if your school has a grade forgiveness policy, which is applicable here at UOTP.

That said, retaking a class is a great option for improving your GPA and challenging yourself to get a good grade. However, every school has a specific limit to how many times you can retake a class, and also, you should keep in mind that you’ll have to pay for tuition each time. 

Consider a different major

While switching majors is a tough decision to make, it can open more doors for you. Difficulties in a prerequisite class can signal that your skillset doesn’t align well with the course. Not being compatible with a major doesn’t mean you lack anything, but there are far better options for you. By considering other paths, you’ll know yourself better and find your true calling.

The Bottom Line

Though it may seem like the end of the world, failing a college class is far from it. Failing a class offers you the chance to find an effective studying method, build a support system, and prioritize what is right for you. You’ll notice you have resilience and can work your way up from any challenge. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

What Are the Consequences of Failing a Class?

Failing a class can have several consequences, including a negative impact on your GPA, potential delays in graduation, and implications for your academic standing. It may also affect your eligibility for scholarships and financial aid.

How Does Failing a Class Affect My GPA?

Failing a class can significantly lower your GPA, as the failing grade is factored into your overall GPA calculation. The extent of the impact depends on the weight of the course in your overall credit load.

Can I Retake a Class I’ve Failed?

Typically, most colleges and universities allow students to retake a failed class. The process for retaking a class may vary by institution, but it often involves registering for the course again and completing it with a passing grade. Some schools may restrict the number of times you can retake a course.

What Should I Do If I Think I’m Going to Fail a Class?

Taking action is essential if you believe you’re at risk of failing a class. Contact your instructor for help, utilize academic support resources such as tutoring or study groups, and consider options like course withdrawal if necessary.

Does Failing a Class Impact My Financial Aid?

Failing a class can impact your financial aid if it leads to a drop in your GPA or if you fail to meet the satisfactory academic progress (SAP) requirements set by your financial aid office. Be sure to check with your school’s financial aid office for details on how failing grades may affect your aid.

How Can I Recover Academically After Failing a Class?

Recovering academically after failing a class may involve:

  • Retaking the course.
  • Improving study habits.
  • Seeking academic advising.
  • Using available resources to ensure success in future classes.

Should I consider withdrawing from a class instead of failing it?

Withdrawing from a class before failing is a strategic option to avoid the negative impact on your GPA. However, it’s essential to understand your school’s withdrawal policies, as there may be deadlines and financial implications associated with course withdrawal.