Let’s face it, university can be hard. Sometimes you blink your eyes and it’s already week 10 and you never caught up on that one course that has been slowly slipping through the cracks all semester. It can be scary knowing you might be about to fail a course—especially if it’s never happened to you before.
If you think that you may receive an F (0-49%) in your course, keep reading. Or, if you’re not doing as well as you hoped you would, check out some of our other blog posts:
- 4 ways Dal’s libraries can help you ace your work
- How to take notes like a pro
- 6 ways to stay on top of your time
1. Know what failing a course means
It’s important to understand how failing a course impacts your GPA and transcript. An F in your course counts as a zero towards your overall (or cumulative) GPA (you can use the online GPA calculator to figure out how much each individual course affects your GPA). If you choose to repeat your failed course, the highest grade will count, but both attempts will still show up on your transcript.
You will also need to check with your department (departmental advisors or assistant dean) to find out how failed courses are handled in your program. Depending on what faculty or program you’re in (e.g. undergrad, professional, graduate), there could be additional consequences or next steps.
2. Reflect on out how you got here
There are a lot of factors that can contribute to a failed grade. They could be personal, social, environmental or any number of things. To help you figure out how you got here, reflect on these questions:
- When did you first notice that you were struggling in the course?
- What did you do when you noticed you were struggling?
- What factors outside of the classroom were/are impacting your studies?
- Have you accessed support services to help deal these factors?
If you think you may fail a course as a result of a Dalhousie academic policy (ex. an academic offence or violation), we recommend making an appointment with Dal’s Ombudsperson or with DSU Advocacy Services for advice related to your student rights and responsibilities.
3. Talk to someone
However you got here, you should talk to someone – your professor, an advisor or someone else in your faculty. We know how hard it can be to admit to yourself, let alone someone else, that you are struggling, but we promise it’s easier when you have people supporting you through it!
Your profs want you to succeed, and usually, they have lots of strategies to help students get out of this situation. They can help you understand the content better and give you study strategies for the particular format of their class. The sooner you talk to them, the better (if your exam is tomorrow, it’s almost certainly too late).
Advisors are also an amazing resource available to all students. This handy page can help you figure out where to go for advising, whether that’s within your faculty or one of our Student Success Centres. They can help you with steps 1, 2 and 3 (figuring out what failing a class means, helping you figure out how you got there, and even tips for talking to your prof). Dealing with anxiety or stress? Don’t forget about peer and professional mental health supports available to you in Halifax and in Truro.
There are also programs available that can help you like Stay on Track or Back on Track. The Back on Track program is designed specifically for students facing academic probation (GPA less than 2.0) to help them improve their academic standing.
4. Use all of this information to make a plan
This part is different for everybody. Based on what failing a class means, how you got there, and what advice you receive from your professors, advisors or other support services you’ll be able to come up with some next steps. These next steps could relate to your course load, schedule, study habits, major or anything else. Figuring out what to do next can be stressful, so it’s important that you feel supported throughout the process.
[Related post: 5 tips for dealing with failure]
Sam knows how to jump into action when things aren’t going as planned—and she hopes you now know too!