Do Students Get Held Back?

No college student wants to fail a class. Life as a student is tough enough without dealing with the extra problems that come with flunking a class. If you are reading this article, you might have failed a class, or you are in danger of failing a class, and you want to know if college students can get held back like in school. Some students work multiple jobs and deal with very busy private lives that make them struggle academically. Let’s start with Do Students Get Held Back?

A college student does not get held back like an elementary or high school student who fails their classes. Unlike in school, where you repeat the whole year, you get another chance to retake only the classes you failed, depending on if they are required for your college major.

Getting Held Back

There could be many culminating factors resulting in failing a class. Perhaps the student just did not put enough effort into attendance or passing the class. Sometimes, other external factors could be why a student failed a class. It could be that they were in a bad mental state for an extended period, or they had an illness that kept them away from school for a while.

Effects Of Failing A Course In College

Effect On The Student’s GPA

Obviously, failing a course means trouble for your GPA. An F equals zero grade points, so it will significantly affect your GPA. It could also hurt your graduate school application.

Retaking The Class

You will have to retake a class if it is required for your major or if it is a pass/fail course. Different schools have different policies for repeating classes and how the scores appear on your transcript. In some schools, the new and old grades are shown while the new grade replaces the old one in others. Retaking classes could be more difficult for you in subsequent years for you as well because you might have to deal with clashing schedules.

Delayed Graduation

Failing a class required for your major in your final year of college means staying in college for an extra session. You will not be allowed to graduate without passing the required classes.

Losing Your Financial Aid

Most colleges expect students that benefit from financial aid to get good grades. Other scholarships a student might have won previously could be rescinded because of a single F. Losing one’s financial aid, especially when they depend fully on it, could be damning for a college student.


You could be asked to withdraw from the college if you fail a class repeatedly. Failing a course multiple times might show that the student cannot cope with that level of education.

Psychological Effects

Failing can have a huge psychological toll on students and affect their mental health because it can be very demoralising. It can then lead to a situation when people start doubting themselves and second-guessing their intelligence. If a person is already depressed, failing can worsen things.

What Can You Do After Failing A Class?

It is important not to beat yourself up or lose hope because you failed one class. The first step in making the situation better for yourself is accepting that you failed the course and cannot change the past. Failing a course does not mean you will not graduate. You would even be surprised to know that it is a very normal occurrence and many undergraduates retake courses every year.

However, failing a class could be a good thing for you if you previously were unserious with your academic work because it would encourage you to buckle up and make changes in your study life. Channelling your efforts to find solutions and get out of your situation rather than lose hope is the way forward.

Here are steps you can take to overturn the situation.

  • Reach out and ask for help from your professors, academic advisors, friends, and family to offer you advice and support.
  • You could also get help from a tutor to help you keep up with your classes.
  • Consider doing some extra credit work to raise your grades.
  • Find out your school’s policies on removing F’s from your transcript.
  • You can also consider changing your major if you feel like it’s not right for you.

Failing Classes In High School: Does It Affect Your College Application?

Grade retention has always been a controversial topic in the US school system, and it has increasingly declined in the last 20 years. It is highly uncommon in high schools today, so you do not usually see or hear high school students repeating a grade. However, a senior still needs to have the required passing grades before graduating. So, students can spend extra years in high school to meet graduation requirements. Also, students who perform poorly during the school year are usually asked to go to summer school to improve their grades.

Failing a class in high school can be dangerous once your GPA starts counting towards college applications. Failed courses will reflect on your GPA. So, you must start to take your academics very seriously at that point. Not to worry, though; this is not to say that you will not get into a good college if you failed a class in high school. It would be best if you avoided getting in that situation in the first place.


It is never a good thing to be unfortunate with grades in high school or college. Students must do all they can to avoid such situations. However, sometimes these things can happen and are not always under a person’s direct control. Therefore, albeit the negative effects failing a class can have on a student, it never means that it is the end of the road, and it does not always determine the student’s fate. You can always learn from these and make an effort to change things for the better.

Frequently Asked Questions 

  1. How many classes can a person fail to be held back?

You will be held back in middle school or high school if you do not pass enough courses to graduate into the next class. In college, you are to retake a class if it is required for your major and you fail it.

  1. Is it normal to fail in college?

Yes, it is completely normal to fail a college course. A study in Ohio revealed that 10% of undergraduates retake a course every year.