What Happens If You Fail a Class in College?

When college tuition fees can cost upwards of $10,000 annually, you’re definitely going to want your money’s worth. And, for some college students, that means preparing for anything that can happen that can throw off your educational experience.

So, what happens to your college education should you fail a class? While it may involve repeating a class and possibly getting delayed a few terms, it does not mean the end of your college stay. Here’s what you need to know if you think you might be failing a class.

Read Your University or College Policy

Most universities have a limit to the number of units you can fail, so it’s best to find out what that limit is beforehand to give you some peace of mind. This may be your first time to fail a course in college, so don’t worry because most universities have allowances bigger than one course or subject. In my university, you could only fail 15 units per academic year and 24 units during your entire stay. However, the policy can vary in other colleges.

Also, check if your policy on class failures focuses on units or courses. Most subjects in universities have 3 units each (some courses can have 6, 9, or 12) units, so if it says you can fail 9 subjects during your entire college stay, then you have more leeway than if your policy says 9 units, which is equivalent to roughly 3 subjects only.

Mitigate the Effects on Your GPA


Failing a subject will negatively affect your GPA. Failing a course with three or more units will pull your grades down further than a course with less units, so prepare accordingly.

Some universities have a minimum GPA for all its students, while in other cases, certain degree programs require its students to maintain a certain GPA. Because this might be your first-course failure in college, if you performed average or above average, your GPA may lower but not so much that it might fall below the minimum GPA requirement.

On the other hand, if your grades have constantly hit the bare-minimum mark and your GPA isn’t very high enough to offset the decrease your failed class will bring, then you might have to do something about your grade in the following term or semester. If your GPA falls below the university or degree program standard, you may either be placed on academic probation, forced leave of absence, or be dropped from the university, depending on your university’s policies.

How this affects the rest of your college experience, however, will depend on what you decide to do after. If this is the start of your decline and you continue to fail multiple subjects to the point that you’ve hit your maximum number of failures, at worst, you may be dismissed or suspended from the university and will not be allowed to enroll.

You Might Lose Your Scholarship or Financial Aid

Most financial aid programs and scholarships provided by universities or third-party organizations stipulate a required GPA, minimum number of credits, or no failures. If you are paying for college with either of these, expect that you may not have the GPA or comply with the no failure criteria to continue receiving financial aid. If this is the case, you might have to start looking for other scholarships or financial aid for people with failures or consider the possibility of taking out a student loan to finish your college education.

You Still Have to Retake Classes (But Your Failed Course Will Remain In Your Records)

Most schools will allow you to retake a course, but both your original failing grade and the passing grade will remain on your academic record. Some universities will allow you to take a course multiple times after several failures as long as the number of failures fits in with their prescribed limit of failures during your stay in the university.

You Might Be Delayed for Graduation

Your degree program’s curriculum has a certain schedule where, if you take up enough units to be full-time, you can graduate on time. However, because you’ll be repeating the same course in the following term (or a future term – it doesn’t have to be immediately retaken the following term unless it’s a prerequisite for another course) or dropping classes you still can’t take because that failed course was a prerequisite for another subject, your course flow will be pushed back one or two semesters, thus graduating a bit late than scheduled.

Remember That One Failed Subject Does Not Make You a Failure

Remember that success isn’t always measured by your ability to avoid failure, but your ability to rise up from your failed class and try again. No one deliberately tries to fail their college classes, but sometimes the workload and the professor can be so overwhelming that you end up unable to save your course grade.

If you’re willing to stop, look back, and learn from your mistakes, retaking your failed course can be much easier. Your GPA will drop, but it is not impossible to recover it over the next few years during your stay. You may not be able to achieve a perfect 4.0, but at least you can be proud knowing that you attained a higher GPA than you had during the lowest point in your college career.

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