Did you know that 50% of college students report that they didn’t pass college algebra on their first try (Grade D, F, Withdraw or Incomplete)? Math/Science courses are the most commonly re-taken courses in college. If you’re struggling to pass a hard class, don’t let it get in the way of succeeding elsewhere. 

Here’s a few tips for those of us who have had trouble passing a class.

Get Prepared for Hard Courses

Knowing ahead of time which courses are going to present a challenge will be the best way to deal with the increased academic pressure. For example, you may want to avoid taking too many math/science courses at the same time. 

The most commonly failed courses are:

  1. Algebra
  2. Freshman Composition
  3. Foreign Language

The best way to deal with a course you’re failing is to… not fail. Here are 2 common ways to avoid failing. 


You can usually tell if a course is going to be too difficult for you in the first days/weeks. If this is the case, consider withdrawing & entering a lower-level course.  This is only available if you’re within the withdrawal period (usually the first 3-10 weeks). 

Request an Incomplete

If your academic struggles are the result of an emergency, or unplanned situation, consider asking your professor for an incomplete. This shows that something came up and will provide you the chance to try again later.

This scenario is typically described in your college guidelines and is usually reserved for special circumstances.

What to Do When Actually Failing a Class

So, you are near the end of a term, your grade is rock-bottom, the professor has already given you all the leniency they can, and even if you score perfect on every assignment and exam from now on, you are still not able to pass the course. 

If this is your situation, then it might make sense to cut your losses. There’s no shame in admitting defeat. Begin assessing the damage and taking steps to move forward with your schooling.

Bottom line: don’t continue to struggle in a course where you don’t have any chance of passing. 

What to do

Step 1. Know the consequences.

How will this failure affect your GPA? (Use this GPA Calculator to help you)

Are you in danger of Academic Probation? (Check your College’s rules for how to define this)

Will a failure affect your degree requirements? (Some degrees have minimum grade requirements)

Step 2. Reassess Academic Goals

Can you & should you still pursue the same path and/or degree?

Should you reduce your course load? If so, how will this affect your financial aid?

Step 3. Prevent Future Issues

Anticipate the increased difficulty.

Take every opportunity for extra credit.

Visit office hours.

Utilize on-campus tutors.

Learn from Failure

By learning from failure, you can become a highly successful and motivated student. How you handle & overcome failure can be one of the best learning experiences you have in college. 

For more tips, be sure to connect with us @ecampusdotcom on Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook for more resources, tips, and some great giveaways! And when it’s time for textbooks, eCampus.com has you covered for all your course material needs at savings up to 90%!