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24 May

What Happens When You Fail a Class?

Failing a class with fafsa

Sometimes, despite your best effort, you don’t perform as well as you had hoped in a class. Perhaps it’s because 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, though, failing a business school class can be frustrating, and it can cause you to worry about the success of your overall MBA journey.

As long as poor course performance doesn’t become an ongoing issue, failing one class is not 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.

Why Did You Fail?

The first step in recovering from a failed course is to determine why you were unsuccessful in the first place. If it was due to a one-time event—if you were ill and fell behind, for example—then it’s unlikely that this will be a repeat occurrence.

However, if there were other, more ongoing factors at play—if you were too busy at work or you just weren’t willing or able to put the time in to do well—then it’s possible that it could happen again. If this was the case, you may want to re-evaluate your commitment to an MBA at this point, and consider whether a short break is in order to give you the time to rearrange your schedule. Most graduate programs, including the Online MBA at Santa Clara University, allow for pauses when necessary, which will extend your timeline for completing the degree, but can help ensure that you finish successfully.

MBA programs require focus, commitment, and rigorous self-examination to be successful. Failing one course doesn’t mean that you aren’t cut out for the rigors of a business education, but you need to take responsibility for a poor performance and work hard to avoid another such incident in the future.

One good strategy to avoid repeated failures is to schedule an appointment with your Student Success Coordinator or advisor to discuss the situation and develop a plan of action. If you failed because you were having trouble with the material, your advisor may be able to recommend some additional resources, such as tutors or a refresher course to get you back up to speed. Your advisor can also help you determine whether you need to retake the failed course.

Seek Alternatives

Even if you struggled with a course, there may be ways to improve upon a grade of “F” before it is finalized. If you sense that you are in danger of failing, the best tactic is always to be proactive as early as possible. Meet with your professor as soon as you realize your grade is in trouble to discuss potential avenues to improvement. For instance, your instructor may be willing to grant an incomplete, provided that you turn in necessary work to bolster your grade by a certain date. Or you may be given the opportunity to revise or correct some assignments, which can result in a grade change.1

Timing is key with this strategy: if the term is drawing to a close, it’s less likely that your professor will be able to accommodate extra assignments. Above all else, be sure to approach a conversation such as this by making clear that you take full responsibility for your current situation. And if you’re unable to negotiate a way to improve your grade, try to discuss what you can do to improve in your coursework in the future. Do you need to participate more? Think more analytically? Improve your writing? Keep an open mind toward any advice you may receive in this setting.

What Failure Means for Financial Aid

If you are currently receiving financial aid, you may be wondering how failing a class might affect your support going forward. Failing a class can indeed have some serious ramifications for your financial aid. Most aid programs, including employer reimbursements, have satisfactory academic progress stipulations, requiring aid recipients to earn a minimum GPA or course grades to continue to receive reimbursement at the rate you currently enjoy.2

Many private scholarship programs have similarly strict standards for academic progress that they monitor themselves. If your GPA takes a big hit due to failing a course, you could risk losing that money.

On the other hand, federal student aid programs, including loans, do not set the parameters for satisfactory academic progress, but instead defer to individual schools.3 For these programs, your financial aid eligibility is usually determined by your performance overall, meaning that failing one class 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. Keep in mind, however, that appeals are usually granted only in cases of special circumstances, such as illness or a death in the family.


You should typically know that you are in danger of failing a class long before final grades are submitted. If you think your grade is at risk, talk with your instructor right away and attempt to make a course correction before your GPA takes a hit. In the Online MBA at Santa Clara University, dedicated Student Success Coordinators are standing by to help you achieve the grades you need to earn your MBA even with the occasional roadblock.

Sources

1 Retrieved on May 9, 2018, from chattyprof.blogspot.com/2011/12/you-failed-your-class-now-what.html
2 Retrieved on May 9, 2018, from bankrate.com/finance/college-finance/abcds-of-tuition-reimbursement-1.aspx
3 Retrieved on May 9, 2018, from studentaid.ed.gov/sa/eligibility/staying-eligible