If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering ‘what happens if I fail a class in college?’. Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world. 

You may have failed or worry that you might fail your class for multiple reasons. Maybe your course load was heavy for you, maybe it’s because you procrastinated, or maybe you just got unlucky. But failing a class in college isn’t as dreadful as it sounds. You may feel anxious if you’ve failed a test, there are fair chances and opportunities for you to pass your class. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at how you can move on and what you can do in case you do not succeed in passing a class in college.

A failing grade is typically denoted as an ‘F’, and indicates that you haven’t met the necessary standards to pass a class. In numeric terms, while some colleges consider anything below a score of 60 to be failing, others may consider 75 and under a failing grade, depending on your program guidelines. 

An ‘F’ grade means that your performance has not been up to acceptable levels, and needs significant improvement. You could have scored a failing grade for multiple reasons like incomplete assignments, low test scores, or overall inadequate understanding. But this also means that there’s room for improvement. You could start by:

  • Designing a study schedule that helps you set dedicated study hours aside, without any distractions. 
  • Seeking extra help from teachers or tutoring resources at your school. 
  • Speaking to your instructor to find out your options for this class, including possibly extra credit assignments, retaking a test, or taking an incomplete while you work to catch up.

Remember, the key is to learn from the setback, adjust your approach, and strive for better results in subsequent assessments.

What Happens if You Fail a Class in College?

Failing a class may seem scary right now, but you can recover and move on. You might not have performed well in class for multiple reasons and it can have several consequences. Let’s look at some of them and try to shed light on how you can turn things around academically.

  1. Academic Consequences:

Failing a class in college can negatively impact your GPA (Grade Point Average). An ‘F’ contributes zero quality points, thereby pulling down your overall GPA. Some classes may be prerequisites for others. So failing could disrupt your academic progress. However, there are ways to improve, one of them being repeating the course. Many colleges offer a solution called ‘grade forgiveness’, where a student can retake courses in which they’ve received low grades. While some colleges allow you to replace your failing grade with the new one, others may consider both grades, old and new, to calculate your overall grade point average (GPA). Grade forgiveness is a great method for students to work on their academic performance and improve their final results.

Want to learn how ‘grade forgiveness’ can promote student success? Check this article to know more.

  1.  Financial Consequences:

There are financial implications of failing a class too. Even if you get an F, you would still have to pay for the class. Also, repeating a failed course might mean paying for additional credits, which is an added cost to your budget in college. Sometimes, you may lose the financial aid offered due to poor academic performance because aid like scholarships  require you to be in good academic standing. Also, certain grants may have the set GPA requirement for you to keep receiving the grant. If your performance isn’t up to the mark, you might have to pay the grant back. This can adversely affect your ability to continue attending college. But, all is not lost. If you do retake the course and perform well, these grants have the possibility of being reinstated. 

  1. Impact on Transcript Records and Graduation:

The failing grade, unfortunately, remains on your academic transcript and is visible to potential employers or graduate schools. As some colleges are stringent with their admission process, this grade could negatively impact your chances of studying further. As far as graduation is concerned, if you fail key courses, there is a possibility of delay in your graduation date, affecting future plans and career goals. 

  1. Emotional Impact:

If you’re failing a class in college, it’s natural to feel disappointed and feel like you’ve hit a dead end. But remember, you need to acknowledge these feelings and start seeking help. Reach out to your friends and family, or seek support from your teacher, college mentors or counseling services. Being emotionally stable will help you thrive in college and make the most out of your academic journey. 

Now that we’ve helped you understand what is a failing grade in college, let’s take a quick look at how it differs for undergraduate and graduate students.

AspectFailing Grade in Undergraduate ProgramFailing Grade in Graduate Program
Academic RigorFailing an undergraduate class may result from challenges in grasping fundamental concepts. There might be more flexibility in retaking courses or adjusting majors.Failing a graduate course may indicate struggles with advanced theories or research methodologies. It can impact progress in a specialized area and may require more extensive remediation.
Impact on GPAFailing a class affects the GPA, potentially impacting overall academic standing. However, there may be opportunities to improve the GPA over the course of the program.Failing a class can have a significant impact on the GPA. Anything lower than a B- can place you in academic probation, which is an opportunity for you to discover college resources that can help you bounce back. 
Program StructurePrograms are typically structured with a range of general education requirements and major-specific courses. Failing one class may not derail your entire program, and there might be flexibility to retake courses.Graduate programs are more focused, with a concentration on specialized coursework and research. Failing a class may have a direct impact on the progression of the graduate program, as courses are often sequential and build on one another. 
Professional ImpactFailing one class may not significantly hinder job prospects, especially if other aspects of the academic record are strong.If you fail a class in a graduate program, it may result in you not being able to complete your degree in the desired amount of time. This could have a negative impact on potential career opportunities, especially in fields that place a high value on academic achievements and research skills.
Options for RemediationPrograms at this academic stage offer more flexibility in retaking courses or adjusting majors. There may be options to recover from a failing grade without substantial setbacks in the overall academic journey.Remediation options may be limited, and failing a crucial course may require more extensive measures. Depending on the program, there may be stringent requirements for retaking courses or demonstrating competency in alternative ways.
Impact on research and thesis impactIf you fail a class in an undergraduate program, it may not directly impact research opportunities or the completion of a thesis.Failing a class in graduate programs may delay progress in research, potentially affecting the completion timeline for the thesis or dissertation. It could also impact eligibility for research positions or grants.

While consequences for both undergraduate and graduate students exist, the intensity of its effect differs. In either case, it’s important to remember that all is not lost and it’s never late to make changes that can help improve your academic performance.

We’ve dug deep to understand what happens if you fail a class in college. In this section, we’ll help you find solutions to the consequences of failing a class and how to bounce back from this temporary setback.

Reflect and Identify Issues:

Start by taking a moment to identify the reasons why you failed. Was it a lack of understanding, poor time management, personal challenges, or a combination of factors? Identifying the root causes helps you address the issues effectively.

Develop a Plan for Improvement:

Now that you’re aware of the issues that may have led to your failure in a class, it’s time to create a detailed improvement plan. In this plan, consider outlining how you’ll improve your academic performance. One aspect of this plan could be breaking down the large goal of passing a class, into small, specific, achievable tasks, and based on this, establish a study schedule. You could also consider taking a lighter class load to make sure you can study without feeling overwhelmed. If you’re a working professional who has gone back to college, consider finding ways to work fewer hours so that you can dedicate a set number of hours to school.  When making and implementing an improvement plan, it’s vital to develop study habits that work in your favor, and time management skills that can lead to success.

Reach Out and Seek Help From Your Professor:

Next on your list should be reaching out and scheduling a meeting with your professor to discuss your performance. If the identified problem is more emotional than academic, you could also consider reaching out to your college mentor. Your professors and mentors are the best resource to help you understand where you went wrong and chart a strategy on how you could improve. In most colleges, professors appreciate students who show initiative and a genuine desire to succeed.

Utilize Academic Resources:

One of the best places to improve your academic performance is your college itself. You can make the most out of the resources available to you, simply by taking advantage of tutoring services, study groups, or academic workshops offered by the college. These academic resources, also categorized under student services, can offer additional support to help you grasp challenging concepts.

Consider Retaking the Class:

A sure shot way of improving your failing grade could be retaking the class, especially if it is a prerequisite or essential for your major. We’ve spoken about this earlier where some colleges allow you to replace the failing grade with the new one by retaking the course, leaving a positive impact on your GPA. With grade forgiveness, the only adverse impact could be on your time taken to complete your degree.

An overwhelming majority of higher education institutions have policies that allow you to repeat courses under certain circumstances. For example, the University of Colorado allows you to submit your grade forgiveness application under the following criteria and requirements:

  • You need to be a degree-seeking undergraduate student at CU Denver pursuing your first CU Denver degree
  • You have earned lower than a C- in your prior attempt of a course
  • Your course withdrawals don’t count

Some colleges may also allow you to keep your financial aid when retaking a failed class, under specific circumstances. Common scenarios in which students may receive financial aid include, but are not limited to the following:  

  • When repeating a course they previously failed
  • When repeating a previously passed course (with a D or better, including Pass grade) one additional time, whether or not a student received federal financial aid for an earlier enrollment of the course. 

Retaking a class can help you recover academically, in case you happen to get an ‘F’ in one of your subjects. All you need to do is check your college policies to understand what works in your best interest.

Seek Support from Loved Ones:

We’ve spoken about how failing a class can be emotionally challenging. Consider seeking support from a college counselor or mental health services available to college students. The primary goal of these resources is to provide guidance on coping with stress, anxiety, or any other emotional challenges that may have contributed to your academic struggles. Talking to your family and friends can also help tremendously as their unconditional support can help you look at the big picture and see how this is just an obstacle that you can get beyond. Remember, failing a class is a temporary setback, and it’s crucial to view it as an opportunity for growth and improvement. 

Simply by taking proactive steps and seeking assistance, it is quite possible for you to turn the situation around and find solutions that can set you up for academic success.


Failing a class in college is not the end of the road; it’s simply a detour. Take a breath, figure out what didn’t work for you, and use it as fuel to bounce back and perform better the next time around. Instead of simply wondering what happens if I fail a class in college, take action by talking to your professor, exploring resources offered by your institute, and craft a game plan to tackle this challenge. Remember, setbacks happen, but they don’t define you. Use this as a chance to grow, adapt, and show resilience. Keep your head up, stay focused, and find the confidence to turn things around. You’ve got this!

How many classes can you fail in college?

There is no right answer to this as there isn’t a fixed number of classes you can fail in college. It varies based on your institution’s policies, academic program, and degree requirements. Failing multiple classes can jeopardize your GPA, academic standing, and financial aid. You must prioritize learning from setbacks, seek support from professors or advisors, and utilize available resources. Some colleges may have limits on course retakes, affecting your ability to recover from failing grades. Ultimately, consistent academic struggles may lead to probation. Stay proactive, address challenges, and aim for academic success.

Does retaking a class replace the grade in college?

Yes, retaking a class can often replace the original grade in college. Many institutions allow students to retake a course to improve their understanding and GPA. The new grade typically replaces the previous one in the GPA calculation, offering an opportunity for redemption. However, policies may vary, and some colleges may average the grades or have restrictions on the number of times a course can be retaken. It’s essential to familiarize yourself with your college’s specific policies on retaking classes to make informed decisions about improving your academic record.

Does it cost to retake the class?

Yes, retaking a class usually comes with a cost in college. While tuition fees are standard for the course, additional expenses may include textbooks, materials, and sometimes a retake fee. Financial aid or scholarships may cover some costs, but it’s essential to check your college’s policies. Before retaking a class, consider financial implications and explore options like tutoring or academic support services to enhance your understanding without incurring extra costs. It’s wise to consult with your college’s financial aid office for guidance.