Failing a Class

One of the most difficult things that you’ll experience in college is the anxiety and stress from failing a class. Don’t think that it couldn’t happen to you – chances are, it could! Let’s say you just have a terrible professor and you’re frankly not learning anything in or outside of the class – then although it may not be your fault, you’re stuck with the perpetual failing grade. So what happens now?

No professor has to help you, but some may. (photo by UC Davis College of Engineering)

No professor has to help you, but some may. (photo by UC Davis College of Engineering)

Before you think about crying and combusting simultaneously, you may want to think about talking to your professor before the final grades are posted – before they become official. Although it is probably a majority of your part in failing the class, you can simply say, as The Chatty Professor suggests,

In this case, you would say to your prof, “I have failed this class. Based on my grades, it may appear that I didn’t even try, but I did. Where I went wrong is not asking for help when I really needed it and checking in with you to see what I could have done differently.”
(If, in reality, you did very little work and the “F” is no surprise, the conversation is still worth having. Definitely own up and say, “My habits were not ideal this term. I made some mistakes and I’m going to pay for them now, but I’d like to do better next time.”)
You can add, “I realize there is probably nothing I can do at this point, but I wanted to meet with you anyway just to confirm my grade and ask for your suggestions as to my next steps.”

Now, although your professor isn’t required to do anything to help you (in fact, it may be too late regardless!) it is still worth a shot. If anything you can ask what they recommend you do after the fact. Whether that be retaking the class with the same professor or perhaps taking it with a different one, either way you’ll have one up on everyone else considering that you will have insight on the material, and you will understand how the teacher works, provided you keep the same professor.

The article that I quoted earlier also suggests how you go about telling your parents that you failed a course:

“I failed my class this term. I want to be honest with you. I know you’ll be disappointed and I’m disappointed in myself. The only way I can do better is by changing the way I did things this term. So, here’s my plan: I saw my professor and he suggested ___________. I went to see my academic adviser and she suggested _________ (mention any other pre-emptive measures you’ve taken). I feel more confident about going into next term and am confident that with this support in place, I’ll be able to turn this around.



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