What To Do When You’re Failing A Class


We’ve all been there. Maybe you signed up for a notoriously difficult class, or maybe something happened, maybe you missed an important exam or you’ve taken a couple of quizzes, each one worse than the last, but whatever happened to get you in this predicament you’re in it now.

And it sucks. Believe me, I know.

It’s easy to freak out, to catastrophize and begin to downwardly spiral or (in some ways worse) become apathetic and simply stop trying. When you’ve been on a losing streak at school, this can become a pattern, one that’s not easy to break.

The fact that you’re even looking at this article says to me that you care enough to try and save this, and that’s a good thing. Here are a few things to consider first:

Extra Credit and Unfinished Business

I know this may sound obvious but go back over the syllabus. If your grades aren’t up to date on Canvas or whatever online site your university uses, try and go over each and every possible assignment you’ve turned in and what grade you got for it. What (if anything) is missing? Check, and then re-check your professor’s late-policy. Sometimes they will open up the homework to be submitted late, even partial credit is better than nothing.

Then check for extra credit assignments. What can you do? Is there any extra extra credit you can gain by doing more of it? (I’m not saying I passed Spanish by writing multiple reviews of Spanish movies, but that’s exactly what I’m saying).

What To Do When You’re Failing A Class

Grad Calc

On Canvas, there’s an option for you to input future grades where you can see how a certain assignment could impact your overall score. If you haven’t been getting full marks on past assignments don’t be unrealistic with this: try and see what a passing or above passing grade for these assignments could do for you.

If even getting 100% on all of your future assignments doesn’t seem to get you out of the doghouse, that’s when you know you’re in trouble.

What To Do When You’re Failing A Class

Talk to the Professor

I know, I know. This part sucks. It’s embarrassing to have to go up to your professor and talk about the fact that you’re not passing their class… but here’s the thing. They already know. They may not have your face in mind, but you are in their grade book… and they would much rather have you come up and talk to them about it instead of just quietly failing. No matter how vindictive or evil you may think your professor is, they don’t actually want to fail you. If nothing else, it doesn’t reflect well on them if they have too many failing students.

What To Do When You’re Failing A Class

To Drop or Not to Drop

After you’ve done all that you can: talking to the professor, turning in missing assignments and extra credit, and determining what you’d need to get in order to pass, comes the hard decision.

Do you stay or do you go?

If things look hopeful, especially after communicating your struggles with the professor, then it’s really up to how hard you are prepared to work in order to beat this thing. Are you willing to dedicate the time to sit in front of a computer doing the work, watching tutorials when you’re stuck or even getting tutoring?

The other side of this is down to timing.

If it’s still early, you may be able to drop it without consequence. Otherwise, you’re looking at the difference between a “W” and a failing grade.

What To Do When You’re Failing A Class

Reevaluating Failure

If you are absolutely stuck, based on time and a number of other awful things, it can be easy to check out and stop even going to class. I would still normally recommend attending and sticking around. I know, this sounds like torture. If you know that you don’t have a chance, why bother?

If you are already failing anyway and/or it’s a required class, you’re going to have to take it again. Why not get the most you can from this one bad run and use it in the future?

When I took English 100, I was so afraid of failing that I mortifyingly cried during my one-on-one with my professor. Instead of reassuring me that I wouldn’t fail his class, he told me that in many ways, he thought it was healthy for students to fail a class or two.

“It’s only by failing that you learn,” he explained. And you know what? He was right. The crippling fear of failure is the only thing worse than failure itself.

Think about what you can learn from this time, and use that to motivate yourself and as a way to talk to your parents/counselor/whoever you’re worried about telling. Instead of derogatory remarks about yourself, say:

“Next time I will…”

-go to a tutor sooner

-go to office hours regularly

-make sure I turn in my assignments on time

You get the idea. By all means, work hard, do everything you can to pass this class…but, if it’s too late to save this one, that’s okay too.

What To Do When You’re Failing A Class

Have you ever failed a class before? What was that experience like for you? Let us know in the comments down below!

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