Is There a Retaking Limit? Should You Retake a Class in College?

Last Updated on December 19, 2022 by David Shaw


Did you fail a class or messed up a big exam or finals? Typically in these situations, the next things a student would be scrambling for is the option to retake, knowing the retaking limits, or how will retaking affect your resume.

Generally, colleges allow students to retake the same class up to 3 times before they start questioning them. Also, retaking a class won’t directly affect your academic transcript, and it is often better to retake a class below grade C or D if you’re confident you can do better the next time.

There are just times when our personal matters interfere with our performance in class, and messing with one exam or assignment shouldn’t be measured with our grades in these circumstances. Nevertheless, there are many things you can do and smart decisions you make to make a good comeback in the interest of protecting your GPA.

How Does Retaking a Class Work in College?

There is typically no strict limit on the number of times a student can retake a class in college. However, colleges may have policies in place that limit the number of times a student can retake a class and still receive financial aid. Additionally, some colleges may have grade forgiveness policies, which allow students to retake a class and have the original grade erased from their transcript.

Normally, the process of retaking a class within your first 3 attempts should remain the same as registering for any other class. Students shouldn’t need to request or write emails to college faculties before they wish to retake or register for classes.

Usually, after your second attempt, both grades will be audited and reflected in your transcript, whereas some universities might label the grade of the class during your first attempt as ‘Retake’ as the final grade.

Calculating GPA for Repeated Classes

When you retake a class, the GPA grade for the class is often recalculated by taking the average of the two. So unless there is a greater disparity between the 2 grades, like a D on your first attempt, and an A on your second, that usually provides a greater GPA advantage.

Scenario 1Scenario 2
Grade of 1st AttemptD (2.0 GPA)D (2.0 GPA)
Grade of 2nd AttemptC (2.5 GPA)A (4.0 GPA)
Average GPA2.253.0

So will retaking a class raise my GPA?

Yes indeed, retaking a class can certainly raise your GPA if you earn a higher grade in the class the second time around. This is because your GPA is recalculated by dividing the total number of grade points you have earned by the total number of credit hours you have attempted. If you retake a class and earn a higher grade, you will earn more grade points for that class, which can increase your overall GPA.

In another case, your grades won’t be averaged due to the grade forgiveness policy since you can have the original grade ‘forgiven’ and fully replaced by the new grade. In the table example above, scenario 2 shows that having both grades of the same course averaged can produce a higher GPA grade.

Retaking a class won’t likely impact your resume or academic transcript

Even if retaking a class provides only a minimal or no increase to your GPA, you shouldn’t worry too much about it if your second attempt was better than the first. When you apply for a job both on or off-campus, your hiring managers typically won’t question the reason behind a few retakes for a few classes if the second attempt reflects improvement.

With that said, it is definitely a plus point if you can provide reasoning or reflect in your transcript that you’re improving in your grades after retakes and not the opposite.

The Grade Forgiveness Policy Can Save Your GPA

Some universities have grade forgiveness policies in place to give students a second chance to save their GPAs from dropping. While some may have used a different term, grade forgiveness policies essentially allow the grade of your first attempt of a course to be ‘forgiven’ and will not be considered in your GPA computation.

However, know that these policies usually apply to only a limited number of credits or units, and typically will only apply once for a specific course. And if a non-repeatable-for-credit* course is no more eligible for grade forgiveness, further grades from additional attempts will be averaged.

No matter what grade forgiveness or retaking policy a university might have, they will still show both or all the attempts of the same classes you did. As for the grades that will be on your transcript of all repeated classes, some universities might show all the grades you earned or “RP” for repeat instead of a letter grade.

*Non-repeatable-for-credit/unit courses mean one cannot gain additional credits/units for retaking the course. There are courses you can take multiple times while earning credits from each attempt, but there is usually a limit to how many times you can repeat a course.

Will Retaking Classes Impact Your Financial Aid?

Retaking a class can affect financial aid in a few different ways. Some colleges have policies in place that limit the number of times a student can retake a class and still receive financial aid. This means that if a student exceeds the allowed number of retakes, they may no longer be eligible to receive financial aid for that class.

Additionally, if a student is required to pay for each class they retake, this could impact their financial aid. If the cost of the class is not covered by financial aid, the student may need to pay for it out of pocket or seek alternative funding sources.

It is important for students to understand the impact that retaking a class can have on their financial aid and to carefully consider this when deciding whether to retake a class. In such cases, you should always speak with an academic advisor or financial aid counselor if you are unsure about the decision.

Retaking Is Often a Wise Choice if You Enjoyed the Class Materials

If you end up finishing the class with a bad grade, then the thought of retaking the class is actually not a bad choice at all. Besides, retaking a class can be beneficial to your GPA, and if you enjoyed the class and think the materials are applicable to you, then retaking a class will definitely be worthwhile.

Nevertheless, as much as we know there are many advantages of repeating, we should also disclaim that deliberately messing up your grades to retake is not a good practice. Repeating a class should only be a last resort, and help you when a semester or quarter is not going smoothly due to rare circumstances.

– Try out a new professor

Sometimes the right professors in college might just align the stars of your career. And you never know, maybe you will perform significantly better and learn something so valuable that will transform your entire college experience.

Keep in mind that switching to a different professor does not guarantee a different outcome or experience. It is always a good idea to do some research and speak with other students or faculty members to get an idea of what to expect from a particular professor.

And before you think about abusing these privilege universities has to offer, don’t forget there is a limit to the number of retakes you can take in your undergraduate journey, so you shouldn’t always rely on the thought of retaking a class if you messed up a midterm or quiz halfway through the term.

As much as we don’t recommend repeating a class more than once as your third attempt might suggest you’re declining in academic performance.

Final thoughts

When considering whether to retake a class, it is important to evaluate the reasons for receiving a low grade, assess whether you have the time and resources to commit to retaking the class, consider your academic goals, and explore alternative options.

These factors, along with your individual circumstances, should be taken into account when making a decision. It is also advisable to seek guidance from an academic advisor or counselor before deciding whether to retake a class.

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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