Here’s How and Why Grade C or Below Won’t Ruin Your GPA (Tips & Guide)


Last Updated on June 30, 2022 by David Shaw

worrying girl student looking at laptop

Doing bad on a midterm or finals happens to the best of us, and on certain occasions, they occur for reasons within our control. Sometimes on the borderline of a C grade and below, students panic about hurting their GPA and academic transcript, but here’s why and how you can save your GPA from getting a grade of C or below.

In most cases, you can still save your GPA from grades of C and below thanks to the grade forgiveness policy colleges offer to students. Grade forgiveness gives students a second chance to retake the class and replaces the better grade, letting students protect their GPA.

Some classes are no doubt more difficult and intensive than others, and when paired with a difficult professor, falling behind in a class is absolutely understandable. Thankfully, colleges have policies like grade forgiveness in place to offer people a second chance, so fret not!

Grade C’s and Below Can Possibly Be Turned In Your Favor

Getting a bad grade is not the end of the story, nor is it the end of your academic career. College and universities usually have grade forgiveness policies to help students with bad grades. Grade forgiveness, or what some universities might synonymously refer to as ‘retakes’ essentially allows students to retake a certain number of classes and have their grades replaced if their second attempt has a better grade. That said, if you’re bound to finish the course with a C-, D, or F, you could still leverage your chances to protect your GPA on your retake at the same course, thanks to grade forgiveness policies.

For example, if you received a grade of D in a Calculus class, you could retake the class and have your new grade A replace the previously received grade D. So the last thing you should do after failing a class is to contemplate life choices or dropping out!

– Different Universities Have Different Grade Standards for Retakes

Some universities allow retakes for grades C and below, while some only offer it for grades C- and below. For the most accurate information, check with your university department. In certain cases, if you think a grade F looks really bad on your transcript, definitely put all you’ve got to stay as far from grade F and as close to C- while still qualifying for a retake.

The Number of Retaking Attempts Is Usually Limited

Before you think of ways to abuse the system, you can be sure colleges won’t let that happen. Almost every college lets you retake a certain number of allowed units (approximately 3 courses/classes) before you are subjected to academic probation for failing a class too many times.

However, the biggest downside of retaking a class is probably just repaying for the course fee, although you should really think of making use of grade forgiveness policies only once for a class. So appreciate and make full use of it, and if you’re doing badly again the second time, then you’re probably studying or doing something incorrectly.

– Should You Repeat a Class?

Even if you might have the option to retake classes, there still might be a few caveats to it. As previously mentioned, universities and colleges have specific allocated ‘repeat units’ or credits, leaving you to prioritize certain classes over others. For instance, it wouldn’t be wise for an Engineering student to retake a Calculus class over an Engineering class.

The University of California, Berkeley recommends that if “you don’t need the course for a specific requirement, it’s okay to not repeat a class. Focusing on taking new classes that you feel confident in is another strong strategy to improve your GPA”.

Do the Right Thing on Your Second Attempt

taking notes

If you’re unfortunately one of them looking into the possibility of taking grade forgiveness policies, you really have no excuse to do badly again on your second attempt given that you’ve covered the whole class materials. The right step for you now is to prepare ahead to avoid falling for the same mistakes. If you’re totally clueless about what to do next, here are a few helpful tips you can follow to ace the next retake of the same class:

  1. Review your lecture notes once again
    The main idea of reviewing your whole lecture notes from the class is to stay ahead of the class, retaking the class shouldn’t logically require you to put in the same amount of time as you previously did. If you simply familiarize yourself with the lecture notes and can be a few steps ahead of your lecturer’s materials, you can directly feel that you understand what your lecturer is trying to convey and expect from their students.
  2. Go through the mistakes of your previous midterms, quizzes, or finals
    “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” – Eleanor Roosevelt. Our mistakes are often the greatest and quickest lessons to help us pick up by our senses.
  3. Focus on learning and tackling materials in the class you find difficult
    It is hardly the case where we encounter every single topic of the class material difficult, so focus on the ones you feel are harder and more complicated, don’t make excuses to procrastinate on topics you’re already good at but rather on the ones that really need proper attention and revision.
  4. Watch tutorials on the internet that covers the same material
    This is especially useful in my own experience when I didn’t fully absorb the materials from my lecturer’s way of delivering lectures. Learning ahead from better online lessons really helps me understand where my professor’s idea is coming from and overall do better in class.
  5. Visit office hours
    Professors overlook the performance and weakness of their students, the best option of constructive feedback to help you study effectively is to ask them where or how you can best improve. After all, there are only so many tricks and flavors to how their exam or quiz questions can be presented. If you see the pattern of those questions, you can bet things will be significantly easier for you the next time.

Don’t Sweat a Bad Grade That Isn’t Specific to Your Major

it is what it is

It is not to say that we should overlook bad grades and normalize academic ethics bad grades. In the end, what’s already been done has been done. You might just choose the wrong class that’s not for you, if you simply don’t have the privilege or option to retake a failed class, the best resolution is to move on. A good tip is to look back on your failures and reflect on them, there could be a few valuable lessons learned from choosing the right class or studying differently the next time. Like people say, you can always see the good even from your most unpleasant experiences.

David Shaw

I enjoy blogging about the college experience, teaching people how to navigate and hack their way through college. I also enjoy promoting financial literacy among young individuals.

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