How to Cope with Failing an Online Class

How to Cope with Flunking an Online Class

Students who receive an “F” for one or more online class assignments are usually not surprised to see that they failed to pass a certain class. By the middle of a college semester, students have taken two or three exams, several quizzes and submitted enough homework to know how well they are doing in the class. Fortunately, online and traditional higher education institutions provide the option of withdrawing from a class towards the latter part of a semester in the event the student realizes they cannot possibly raise their grade above a “D” or an “F”.

When students choose to remain in a class they are failing in hopes of pulling off a miracle by getting an “A” on all of the remaining quizzes, homework assignments and exams, this strategy sometimes backfires, resulting in a depressingly final grade of “F”. What should a student do if this happens? How bad will an “F” affect your GPA? Does flunking a class mean the student is not college material?

As a rule, the emotional drawbacks of flunking a class is usually greater than the external consequences. Because most students have at least an inkling that they may fail a certain class before it happens, seeing an “F” on a transcript does not come as a soul-shattering shock to them but is rather more of a self-esteem issue worsened by a sense of gnawing anxiety at what comes next.

Before deciding to withdraw or stay enrolled in a class you know you are failing or close to failing, consider what really happens when you flunk an online class:

  • You will have to take the class again if it is a degree prerequisite
  • Your GPA will drop considerably (for example, if you have a 3.0 GPA and receive three Bs and an F for the semester, your GPA may drop down to a 2.8 or 2.7)
  • Receiving an “F” in a general education course usually does not affect your ability to be accepted in a Master’s program. However, a psychology major who receives an “F” in abnormal psychology and later retakes the class only to receive a final grade of “C” may encounter problems with being accepted into a psychology graduate program.
  • Flunking a class will not affect a student’s financial aid eligibility unless he or she’s GPA falls below a 2.0 due to receiving that “F”.

Withdrawing from a class early because you know you are not going to pass with at least a grade of “C” results in a “W” on your transcript instead of an “F”. Graduate programs and employers who see a “W” on a student’s transcript are not given any other information about why the student withdrew from the class. They only know that the student did not complete the class for one reason or another.

Why Would a Student Flunk an Online Class?

bachelors degree studentUnless something tragic or life-altering happens to a student during the semester that forcefully interrupts his or her ability to devote enough time to completing assignments and passing exams, other common reasons for failing a class involves procrastination,“slacking off” and overconfidence.

Class instructors were not born yesterday. They can spot a research paper that has been thrown together at the last minute by a student within seconds of reading the first paragraph. Procrastination of an essay, paper or presentation will result in the instructor not being fooled and the student being graded accordingly for sloppiness and inaccuracy.

Nobody wants to spend all their free time studying but neglecting your textbook until the night before an exam and cramming 30 pages of reading into several hours almost guarantees you will see a “D” or an “F” blackening your final semester grades. In addition, many students who “slack off” are under the impression that they can pull off the ultimate academic miracle during the last few weeks of a semester by cramming incessantly, turning in brilliant assignments and breezing through exams. Unfortunately, this unreasonable sense of immortality lasts only until final grades are issued and the student is crushed to learn he wasn’t as infallible after all.

How to Avoid Failing a Class

The best way to avoid failing a class is to seek help from your instructor or academic adviser as soon as you experience problems in the class. If you fail your first exam and were not expecting such a low grade, don’t hesitate to email or even call your professor for a one-on-one discussion about what you can do to prevent failing another exam. Instructors can usually offer valuable insight into why the student is having difficulty with a particular class and help guide the student towards a more productive and rewarding path.

Many students have trouble with math, chemistry and physics classes and simply need a tutor to help them enhance study habits, note-taking and critical thinking skills. Accredited online schools provide tutors free of charge in most undergraduate courses and will also direct the student to additional resources that complement online tutoring sessions.

Sometimes a student and a class are just not meant for each other. It is not uncommon for pre-med, pre-law and nursing students to begin taking degree courses only to discover the program is not what they expected. Some people are better at retaining vast amounts of information while others possess good, hands-on skills that do not need a near-photographic memory. In cases like this, academic advisers can help students determine whether their choice of major is a good fit for their personality and interests.

Failing an online class does NOT mean your online college career is over by any means. Instead, students should take the time to think about their actions (and possibly attitudes) that led to the bad grade and resolve to change them before the next semester begins. GPA scores reduced by Ds and Fs can be raised significantly within two or three semesters by applying improved time, energy and organizational skills to your online courses and reaching out to teachers, advisers and classmates for help when you need it.

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