Here at Smart Student Secret’s we often get questions from students related to this situation. A student is scared that they’re going to end up failing their class. Usually they’re worried about this near the end of the semester.
If you’re worried you might fail this semester then there are some steps you should be taking to maximize your chances of passing.
This situation is usually the result of poor decision making earlier in the semester. Maybe the student didn’t study when they should have been or maybe they skipped a few super important assignments.
Sure… unforeseen circumstances can be partially to blame but the reality is that most traditionally good students don’t worry about failing due to life problems. They may drop their grade a little but failure is usually a sign of a whole stack of other problems.
The most important thing you can remember is that you could have scored dramatically higher with dramatically less work if you’d set yourself up right to begin with.
Can You Even Pass Now?
There is a point of no return when it comes to failing a class. At a certain point, your grade is averaging so low that getting perfect scores on all your remaining assignments won’t lead you to a passing grade. If you’ve reached that point of no return, you need to know it. Not knowing you’re at that point of no return can lead you to working super hard just to get disappointed.
If you fail this semester despite working your butt off then it can end up hurting your long term efforts to pass and learn from your mistakes.
Finding out whether you’ve reached the point of no return is usually a reasonably simple procedure. You just need to look at your course syllabus and look at the grading percentages of each assignments. (Sometimes they won’t be listed. If that’s the case it can be more complicated.) Assuming you scored perfect grades on all your remaining assignments, how would that change your average for the course.
If it doesn’t move you into passing range then you need to find a different approach to solving this problem. Just scoring high would be a doomed effort. If your average is barely above failing after calculating this then it’s still virtually a doomed effort because scoring perfect on assignment after assignment (in a class you’re failing) is virtually hopeless. If, on the other hand, you’re easily in upper C to mid B range then you might have a good shot at turning this into a successful turnaround.
If you can’t practically pass at this point you don’t have to give up just yet though.
How Can You Make Passing Possible?
There are usually options available to make passing possible for a seriously motivated student.
You may not fail this semester if you’re willing to get creative enough with your strategies and put in whatever work it requires.
One important option to look into is late work policies. Would your teacher still accept late assignments from you? Are there a ton of papers you could hand in late? If so then how large is the penalty for handing them in near the end of the semester? Most of the time, if you’re desperate to pass, even getting a 50% on what would have been a zero can have a huge impact on your grade. If possible, factor these opportunities into the equation.
If that isn’t a possibility then you may be at your last hope. It’s time to talk to the teacher. (The bigger you class, the more hopeless this opportunity is but when you have no other shot, you might as well take it.)
When you’re discussing your grade with your teacher, whether it’s true or not, take 100% responsibility for being in the situation you’re in. You can tell them about the bad stuff that screwed you up but always end it with how you could have made smarter decisions to prevent being in this situation.
So… imagine a really tough one like this. If your loved one died you might say, “it was a really rough time for me but I know I could have done better. Everyone has problems and I didn’t handle mine very responsibly.” Always find an excuse to take the blame. You don’t want to go to the teacher begging to improve your grade. You want to go to the teacher accepting responsibility. After accepting responsibility, talk to them about the possibility of you passing.
Tell them you’ve estimated that it’s impossible for you to pass the course at this point with any set of good scores. Ask if you might be missing something in your calculation. Sometimes they might throw extra credit assignments in. (If you’re literally in the last few weeks you’re probably screwed.) They may be able to give you some kind of hope.
If Your Teacher Says It’s Hopeless
If your teacher says it’s hopeless, it probably is. You only talked to the teacher because the calculations proved it was hopeless. The teacher agreed. It’s best to accept you’ll fail this semester and be ready to come back next time to crush it.
If they aren’t excited for you to make a comeback then you can expect the grades they give you to represent that. When they’re excited to help you then you can expect those B’s to turn in to B+’s. If they happen to be irritated by you for you trying to pass this late in the game then you can expect those B’s to become B-’s. Late in the semester, this small point differences can be the difference between passing and failing.
At this point you’re given the choice between going down in a blaze of glory trying to pass despite knowing it’s impossible (preparing for next semester) or moving on and waiting until next semester.
As long as you understand failure is inevitable at this point, whether you continue to put in an effort is up for debate. Putting in a ton of effort despite your fail this semester could prepare you for next semester more. Not putting in an effort will let you reduce your stress and allow you to focus on non-futile efforts. The more important thing for you to worry about is this:
What Do You Need To Change?
The strategies you used in your class this semester didn’t work. They led to you failing the class. Don’t let the strategies you used to fail this semester lead you to failing next semester too!
The following semester, most students just try the course again using the same methodology. Odds are, they’re only going to do a tiny bit better than the semester before. That’s because all they had was a little head start. They didn’t learn the fundamental reasons they were struggling.
If a student is struggling in a course it’s almost completely related to the strategies that student is using or the background knowledge they failed to develop. In either case, when you go to take that course a second time (and I’d almost always recommend you do take it a second time,) you need to change either the background knowledge you have or the strategies you use. For some ideas on where you might be going wrong you might want to start by checking out 101 School Hacks For Better Grades And A Better Life.
Otherwise you’re going to end up in virtually the same situation you are now. (Maybe you’ll be on the passing end but odds are, you won’t be thriving without major change.)
I should probably add an important point. You really only fail this semester if you failed to actually learn a lesson from your mistakes. What you learn from this moment can permanently improve your ability to learn in the future. Take advantage of that.
What you did didn’t work! This is an opportunity for you to move on from your mistakes of the past. This blog discusses some of the most powerful strategies I’ve used but change is the most important factor. Don’t keep doing what you’re doing unless you’re committed to getting what you’re getting.
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