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What Happens When You Fail a Class?

24 May
Failing grade is written with red pen on a test

Sometimes, despite your best effort, you don’t perform as well as you had hoped in a class. Perhaps you struggled with the material and performed poorly on tests and assignments. Or perhaps outside factors, like a crisis at work or in your personal life, prevented you from putting forth your best effort.

Regardless of why it happens, failing a class can be frustrating, and it can cause you concern about the success of your overall academic journey. You may also worry that potential employers will ask about your grade point average and realize you’ve failed a class.

The stakes can feel even higher when you’re pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA), but don’t worry. As long as poor course performance doesn’t become an ongoing issue, failing one class isn’t going to torpedo your ability to earn an MBA. With an attentive response and an eye on self-improvement, you can recover from such a momentary setback. It’s essential, however, to understand the consequences of a failing grade and the causes behind it so that you can succeed in future courses.

So what happens when you fail a class in business school? Read on to explore several personal and academic effects of class failure and tactics for overcoming the challenge as you move ahead.

Consequences of Getting a Failing Grade

Lower Grade Point Average

Higher education institutions and employers often view grade point average (GPA) as an indicator of academic performance. Most colleges use the popular 4.0 scale to calculate GPA,1 adding the scores for each class and dividing this sum by the total number of courses taken that term. A failing grade can significantly reduce your GPA, especially if you’ve only taken a few classes. Say you completed three classes during the first semester of your MBA and earned two As and one B. Your GPA would be 3.67. By contrast, if you earned two As and one F, your GPA would only be 2.67.

A poor academic record can affect your position at the school, your financial aid status, and even your future job prospects. A 2021 study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, however, found that only 56.6% of employers consider GPA when making hiring decisions.2

Delayed Graduation

Some graduate programs only offer required courses during particular semesters. For instance, you might only be able to take an entrepreneurship class during the fall semester. If you fail the first time, you’ll need to wait a full year to retake the course so you can complete your degree. As a result, a failing grade could delay your graduation and create the need to pay additional tuition.

Ineligibility for Financial Aid

Failing a class can have serious consequences for your financial aid. Many aid programs, including employer reimbursements, have satisfactory academic progress stipulations, requiring each aid recipient to earn a minimum GPA to continue to receive assistance.

Federal student aid programs, including loans, do not set the parameters for satisfactory academic progress. Instead, they defer to individual college policies.3 For these programs, your financial aid eligibility is usually determined by your performance overall, meaning that failing one course likely won’t result in a loss of aid.

If you do lose federal financial aid due to poor academic performance, you may be able to appeal the decision. Remember, though, that appeals are usually granted only in cases of extenuating circumstances, such as illness or a death in the family.

Emotional Responses to Class Failure

Failing a college class can negatively affect your emotional and mental well-being. According to an article published in the journal Higher Education Research and Development, the effects of academic failure include:4

  • Stress
  • Isolation from peers and faculty
  • Decreased sense of self-worth
  • Loss of motivation
  • Depression

Common Causes for Failing a Class

Identifying the root cause of your failing grade can help you improve your performance and excel in future classes. As Deniz Ucbasaran, Professor of Entrepreneurship in the UK’s Warwick Business School, noted in an article for the Association of MBAs, common reasons for failure include:5

  • Lack of effort
  • Lack of knowledge, understanding, or experience
  • Overload of work
  • Stress

Many students also experience challenges in their personal lives—such as mental health crises or the need to care for a sick relative—that make it difficult to earn a passing grade. If your failure was due to a one-time event, such as an illness, then it’s unlikely that it will occur again if you resolve the underlying issue. If other, more ongoing factors were at play, however, you will likely need to reevaluate your priorities and work hard to avoid future failures.

Strategies to Overcome Your Failing Grade

Failing a college class might feel like the end of the world, but you can take this experience as a valuable learning opportunity and concentrate on self-improvement. These steps can help you advance your educational journey and achieve your academic goals.

Retake Failed Class

Most schools allow students to retake failed classes. If you choose this path, it’s important that you honestly assess what went wrong the first time to avoid failing again. You can also request a meeting with the professor who taught the first class to ask for advice on improving your performance.

In order to earn a passing grade, you may need to:

  • Spend more time studying
  • Participate more actively in class
  • Improve your writing
  • Think more analytically
  • Meet deadlines
  • Strengthen your collaborative skills

Seek Support

Failing a class can be an isolating experience, but you’re not alone. Most schools offer resources to help students succeed, such as:

  • Academic advisors: Meet online or on campus to get personal advice about your schedule, study habits, and professional goals
  • Faculty office hours: Attend office hours with your professors to ask questions about the course material and get support
  • Tutoring centers: Work with a business or writing tutor who can help you master difficult concepts and strengthen your writing

Prepare to Succeed and Thrive

Invest in your long-term success by earning the Online MBA from the Leavey School of Business. SCU’s distinguished faculty and robust curriculum prepare you for the fast-paced, dynamic business world, while you enjoy the flexibility of online learning, balancing work and life while advancing your career.

You’ll be invited to participate in the New Student Success Seminar and you’ll have the support of full-time student success coordinators. Further, you’ll have access to personalized career coaching, networking opportunities, an alumni network of influential business leaders in Silicon Valley, and a career support team who provides comprehensive resources to help you navigate the job market and land your dream job.

Make your career goals your reality. Start by scheduling a call with an admissions outreach advisor today.