What Happens If You Fail College?

The challenges and hardships of having a college career do not begin and end with applying to different colleges and getting accepted to at least one of them.

It’s also important to get passing grades or grades high enough for one’s chosen major in order to stay in college until such time the undergraduate degree is conferred.

However, it is estimated that more than 1 out of 10 undergrads fail a college class. On the other hand, it is said that almost 33% of all students enrolled in an undergraduate degree program do not finish what they started.

So, just what happens if you fail a college class or college itself?

Failing a class in college could negatively impact one’s GPA and financial obligations. However, some steps may be taken to increase the grade before being finalized and keep a failing class at bay the next time. Failing a program or college might mean reconsideration of academic choices or priorities in life.

You can take different steps when failing a class or college in general. Similarly, there are various things you may give a try before the seemingly inevitable higher education problem comes into being.

It’s not unlikely for college students to freak out when it’s apparent that they are about to fail a class or two.

And it’s not uncommon, too, for undergraduates to presume that it’s the end of their hopes and dreams if they have no other choice but to drop or flunk out of college.

After all, up to 75% of new jobs require a degree.

But one thing’s for sure: failing a college class or college itself is not the end of everything.

student failing college

Is It OK to Fail a Class in College?

Failing a college class is far from ideal. However, it happens. And when a student does fail a class in college, it doesn’t necessarily signal or prompt the end of his or her college career. A failing grade can be avoided before it’s finalized. Likewise, it can be kept from being encountered again.

At most colleges and universities in the US, a grade of “D” is considered the lowest passing grade a student can get.

Such a grade is equivalent to 65% to 66%. A “D” grade is also equivalent to a 1.0 GPA.

On the other hand, seeing an “F” as one’s final grade means that the student has failed his or her college class.

A grade of “F” is equivalent to below 65% or a 0.0 GPA.

Getting an “F” doesn’t necessarily mean failing college per se — it’s the class where an “F” is obtained that the student fails. Many different implications to getting an “F” comes with.

And failing to earn one’s undergraduate degree or get one’s dream career doesn’t have to be one of them.

What Happens If You Fail a College Class?

Various things can result from failing a class in college. Some of them include potentially getting a lower GPA and losing merit- and sometimes even need-based financial aid. It’s possible for the student with a failing grade to be asked to repeat the class. Repeated or multiple fails may be grounds for dismissal.

There is no denying that getting an “F” in one of your undergraduate classes can be devastating.

It can wreak havoc on your mental health, too. Failing a class may leave you feeling anxious and depressed. It may also cause you to feel inferior and incapable and an utter failure.

But don’t let a failed college class discourage you from working on a college degree.

As mentioned earlier, failing a class in college is quite normal, although it’s definitely not optimal. It’s true that some unfavorable things can stem from it, but receiving a grade of “F” does not necessarily mean the end of your college career.

Here are what could happen if you fail a class:

1. Low Final GPA

Because a grade of “F” is equivalent to a 0.0 GPA, failing a class in college can impact your GPA unfavorably.

Since a numerical value is assigned to each letter grade you get and the sum is divided by the number of undergraduate classes you take, an “F” is something that can harm your GPA alright.

Though a low GPA may not necessarily keep you from getting your dream job after college, it can certainly affect your eligibility for graduate school, especially because of an “F” grade or two.

Retaking a failed class is just like being given a second chance at getting a better GPA — in most instances, it’s the passing grade for the same class that will count toward your GPA.

Although it’s important to keep in mind, too, that chances are that your previous grade, which is an “F,” will serve as a blot on your college transcript.

The only time when a failed class is unlikely to wreak havoc on your college GPA is if it’s graded with either a “pass” or “fail.”

You will, however, have to retake the class if you fail it.

2. Retaking classes

It’s true that I said earlier that chances are you will be asked to repeat a college class if you fail it. But, as always and as expected, it’s a case-to-case basis — it all depends on which school you are attending.

Some colleges and universities will require students to repeat failed classes, especially if those classes are important to the majors they are taking.

There are instances, too, where some academic institutions may limit the number of times undergraduate students can retake failed classes.

So, how many classes can you fail in college before you get kicked out?

Again, it all depends on where you work on an undergraduate degree. Some schools might actually dismiss students with multiple failed classes as it can easily be a signal that they are not taking their higher education seriously.

3. Losing aid eligibility

It’s not just the figures on your transcript that a grade of “F” can negatively impact but also how much money you will have to shell out to maintain your college career.

That’s because you may lose your eligibility for financial aid — each offer usually comes with its own policies regarding failing a college class.

And this brings us to this pressing question: What happens if you fail a college class with FAFSA?

There are 3 different ways that getting a failing grade in a college class can impact your financial aid. One of the most obvious of the bunch is that some or all of your aid may be cut for the semester. However, there is a possibility for it to be reinstated if you agree to repeat the class and, more importantly, pass it this time.

You may also be asked to pay back the money you owe for the term simply for not adhering to the policy. You may be obliged to pay either some or all of the award that has already been issued.

Especially because it’s your grade that’s the matter, you could lose eligibility for a merit-based scholarship.

Getting F in class
Getting F in class

Is Withdrawing From a Class or Failing a Class Better?

Generally, withdrawing from a college class is better than failing it. Failing a class will lower the GPA, preventing students from committing to a selective major or being eligible for financial assistance. Students will also have to pay tuition, unlike when withdrawing, which qualifies them for tuition reimbursement.

Both withdrawing from and failing a class have unfavorable repercussions. However, if truth be told, withdrawing before you fail a class is widely seen as the lesser of two evils.

A withdrawn class will still appear on your transcript. And it will also come with a “W” notation.

But the good news is that it will not count toward your GPA.

So, in other words, unlike a failed class, a withdrawn class will have no negative impact on your GPA. But it’s also important to bear in mind that a withdrawn class will not contribute credit toward graduation — you will have to count on the same or another class for that.

However, it’s very much likely for that “W” to haunt you when applying to graduate school. Although it may not totally keep you from being admitted, you may be asked to explain its presence.

Something that makes withdrawing better, though still not entirely favorable, than failing a class is that it may allow you to qualify for full or partial tuition reimbursement. Meanwhile, if you fail a class, you will still have to pay full tuition. Depending on the college, the deadline for withdrawing can be anywhere from 2 weeks to 10 weeks into the term.

Can Colleges Kick You Out If You Fail?

Colleges and universities do not usually kick out students who failed one class. Typically, they put concerned students under academic probation or suspension, which gives them enough time to pass their failed classes and improve their GPAs. Failure for them to show progress may result in them being dismissed.

Refrain from assuming that you can get expelled for violating policies or codes of conduct only.

There is one more thing that can get you kicked out of college other than cheating, plagiarism, inappropriate behavior and the like: having terrible grades.

But it doesn’t mean that getting a grade of “F” in one of your classes will result in your expulsion from the school. If you fail a class, you can be put on academic probation or suspension.

Simply put, the goal is for you to have another chance to set things straight and avoid the repercussions of having a failed class under your belt.

If your GPA does not improve after the given period of time, there is a possibility that you will lose not only your eligibility for financial aid but also to stay in that particular college!

Sometimes, it’s just a warning that you may get if your GPA slips below a certain threshold.

But then again, one college or university is different from the other. If you believe that you will fail a class or two, it’s a good idea to meet with your academic advisor.

And if you have a strong feeling that you will fail an entire semester’s worth of classes, consider getting in touch with the registrar’s office.

Speaking of which, let’s answer this very important question: How many semesters can you fail in college?

Again, it’s on a case-to-case basis. Generally speaking, undergraduate students who fail two consecutive semesters are dismissed.

But there are instances, too, when failing a single semester is enough for students to get kicked out. When it comes to failing an entire semester, always keep in mind that different schools have different dismissal policies.

Wondering how many college students fail their first semester?

It’s more common than you think!

According to a report by Academicinfo.net, as much as a third of all freshmen students don’t make it to their sophomore year of college.

Regarding failing one’s first semester, let’s look at this question: What happens if you fail your finals?

It’s possible for a college student to pass the class even after failing the final exam. This is especially true if the score for his or her preliminary and midterm exams as well as assignments and projects are high. If all the scores are weighed, and a passing grade is obtained, a student who fails his or her final exam may still pass the class.

What to Do If You’re Failing a Class in College?

It’s possible for a student at risk of failing a college class to pull up his or her grade and get a passing remark.

But there are instances, too, when it’s too late for the undergraduate to avoid failing the class. Unless the grade is finalized by the professor, there’s a chance to get a passing grade.

Losing hope is one of the things you should avoid at all costs if you feel that you are headed toward a failed college class. For as long as the term isn’t over, refrain from being discouraged.

Try taking the following steps to avoid failing a class:

1. Get in touch with your professor

There are many reasons for getting a failing grade — forgetting to turn in an assignment or a paper, failing a major exam, poor attendance due to extenuating circumstances, etc.

No matter the case, meet with your professor ASAP and see if he or she is willing to accept a late project, retake an exam or give you a chance to earn any extra credit.

2. Meet with your academic advisor

Avoiding an “F” on your college transcript can be done in a handful of ways. And no one on the campus knows the various options very well more than an academic advisor.

Is it a good idea to drop the class? Is it too late to withdraw from the class? Is taking an “incomplete” recommendable?

Your academic advisor has all the right answers.

3. Inquire about taking a course as a “pass” or “fail”

Earlier, I talked about the fact that a “fail” rather than a letter grade won’t count toward your GPA.

And that’s why you should check if the class you are about to fail is something you can take as a “pass” or “fail,” which is great if it’s too challenging or outside of your major.

And don’t forget to ask how many classes you can take as such.

4. Check college policies

Again, policies about failing grades or classes can vary from one institution to the next. Determine how many times you can retake a class.

Or find out if anyone can retake classes and not just freshman students. Ascertain the impact a failed class has on your eligibility for financial aid or a major and whether or not it can put you on academic probation.

But why do the things above when you can avoid failing a class in the first place?

Before your grades slip below the passing line and risk everything from your GPA to your eligibility for financial aid, abide by the following tips on how to stop failing in college:

  • Have a study habit that works for you
  • Establish a study area that’s quiet and free of any distractions
  • Turn in assignments, papers and projects on time
  • Focus more on your studies than extracurriculars
  • Don’t be too shy to ask your professors if you have questions or clarifications
  • Take advantage of the resources the college offers
  • Consider hiring a tutor

What to Do If You’re Failing College in General?

Failing college per se and not just a college class or two may mean that the student should reconsider his or her academic or career goals. Choosing a different major may be a smart move. Or transferring to a college that serves as a much better fit may be wise. At times, college may not be the best option.

As soon as you realize that you are doomed to fail college as a whole, check if you could still drop your classes to keep them from appearing on your transcript.

This is something that differentiates dropping your classes from withdrawing from your classes.

It’s important to keep in mind that different students drop out of college for different reasons.

Other than failing some or all of their classes, other reasons for leaving higher education include not having the financial means to stay in college, suffering from a serious injury or illness, a family emergency, and an opportunity outside of the campus.

But if you are failing college as a result of academic failure, refrain from seeing yourself as a failure — while college should be accessible to those who want to attend, it’s definitely not for everyone!

Here are some steps you may consider taking after dropping out or failing of college:

  • Find an internship
  • Consider doing volunteer work
  • Get an entry-level job
  • Establish a business
  • Seek the help of a career counselor
  • Look into attending a trade or vocational school
  • Check out online learning
  • Reconsider your chosen major

So, how do you deal with failure in college?

Allow yourself to experience emotions such as sadness, anger, embarrassment, disappointment and frustration instead of escaping or suppressing them.

Reflect on the experience and learn and grow from it. And instead of dwelling on a failed college career, revisit your goals and objectives and create a new plan as necessary.

And this takes us to this burning question: Can you go to college again if you fail?

You can always go back to college after failing the first time. However, you can no longer attend the same college if it has expelled you, whether for reasons of academic or violation of policies or code of conduct.

Another institution may accept you after an expulsion, but in most instances, you will be asked to meet certain conditions.

Read Next: How to Tell Your Parents You Want to Transfer Colleges

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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