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What to Do If You're Failing a Class

Learn 4 Simple Steps for Making a Bad Situation a Little Better

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Young people in a college library
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Failing a class in college can be a major problem if it's not handled in the right way. A failed class can have an impact on your academic record, your progress toward graduation, your financial aid, and even your self-esteem. How you handle the situation once you know you're failing a college course, however, can have a significant influence on what happens after grades get turned in.

Ask for Help -- As Soon As Possible

Ask for help as soon as possible once you know you are in danger of failing any class during your time in college. Keep in mind, too, that "help" can take many different forms. You can ask for assistance from a tutor, your professor, your academic adviser, a learning center on campus, your friends, a teaching assistant, members of your family, or even people in the surrounding community. But no matter where you go, start going somewhere. Reaching out for help just may be the best thing you can do.

Learn What Your Options Are

Is it too late in the semester or quarter to drop the class? Can you switch to a pass/fail option? Can you withdraw -- and if you do so, what is the impact on your transcript or financial aid eligibility (and even health insurance)? Once you realize you're failing a class, your options vary depending on when in the semester or quarter you make that realization. Check with your academic adviser, the registrar's office, your professor, and the financial aid office about what you can do in your particular situation.

Figure Out the Logistics

If you can drop the course, when is the add/drop deadline? By when do you have to get paperwork in -- and to whom? Dropping a course at various parts in the semester can have varying effects on your financial aid, too, so check in with the financial aid office about what needs to be done (and by when). Give yourself a little extra time, too, to gather all the signatures and coordinate other logistics for whatever you plan to do.

Take Action

One of the worst things you can do is to realize you are failing a class and then do nothing. Don't dig yourself in deeper by not going to class anymore and pretending like the problem doesn't exist. That "F" on your transcript may be seen years later by future employers or graduate schools (even if you think, today, that you'll never want to go). Even if you're not sure what to do, talking with someone and taking some action about your situation is a critical step to take.

Don't Be Too Hard On Yourself

Let's be honest: lots of people fail classes and go on to live perfectly normal, healthy, productive lives. It's really not the end of the world, even if it feels overwhelming at the moment. Failing a class is something that you'll handle and move on from, just like everything else. Don't stress too much and do your best to learn something from the situation -- even if it's how to not let yourself fail a class ever again.

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