What Happens if You Have a Failing Grade in High School?

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The absolute worst thing that could have happened has happened. You’ve got a failing grade. Are all your future hopes and dreams gone forever?

No, it’s not the end of the world, and you will not end up miserable and homeless forever. That is if you take the correct steps to remedy this blip (or blips) on your otherwise outstanding transcript.

Failing courses and doing nothing will prevent you from graduating high school, which is detrimental to your success in life. What happens if you have a failing grade in high school?

We’ve included everything you need to know in this guide, including steps to minimize the harm to your transcripts. We use classes and courses interchangeably.

What is a Failing Grade in High School?What is a Failing Grade in High School?

The precondition for failing a high school course varies and depends on many factors. The most telling resource for understanding a failing grade is the course syllabus. We know you probably never looked at it, but trust us. It’s a good idea to look at the grading information, especially since teachers hate it when you ask questions that are already in the syllabus.

A failing grade is when your high school and teacher have decided not to give you credit for the course due to inadequate performance. Retaking a failed class in high school down the line is required if you want credit for that class.

Most classes have a truancy policy and require a minimum attendance of class days. Most teachers don’t take kindly to tardiness, but it’s more forgivable than unexcused absences.

If you are caught cheating on exams, they will give you a failing grade for the exam. If caught again, you will most likely be given a failing grade for the course.

Students are most familiar with failing a course through inadequate scoring on assignments and exams. Typically, the overall course grade required to pass a class is 60% or a “D” grade. However, some courses require a “C” grade or 70% in the overall course grade to pass. It all depends on the class, the teacher, and the school policy for grading.

How Normal is it to Fail a Class in High School?

How Normal is it to Fail a Class in High School?

Failing a class in high school happens often, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic. This is due to both students and teachers moving to remote learning. Online classes have been shown to negatively impact both students’ performances in classes and teachers’ ability to facilitate effective learning. With the pandemic’s sudden and immense impact on the learning environment, students and faculty alike were unprepared to deal with the mass movement to online education.

Interestingly, even before the pandemic, the failure of at least one high school class is not uncommon. With about one-fourth to one-third of students failing one class in high school before COVID-19, failing a course is not the end-all-be-all. There are ways to improve from a failed class; however, there are some real consequences associated with a failed high school course.

5 Consequences of Having a Fail Grade in High School

5 Consequences of Having a Fail Grade in High School

Consequence 1: The most significant consequence is the effect on your ability to graduate. Whether or not you plan on going on to higher education or straight into the workforce, there are certain classes needed to be completed and given credit for to graduate.

Most high schools require four years of math, four years of English, three to four years of social studies, three to four years of science, four years of physical education, and two years of a foreign language. Every school has different requirements, but almost all high schools require credit from these courses.

Consequence 2: So, what happens if you fail a math class? Simply put, you need to take the course again to receive credit and to graduate.

This has the possibility of taking an additional year after the usual four years in high school if your schedule is already full for the rest of your time.

Consequence 3: For future college students, the consequences are complicated. Failing a class in high school may seem only negative, but may provide an opportunity to show resilience as a student.

For example, if you fail some classes during your freshman year but the following years show steady improvement, many colleges will see that as very positive. Colleges may like your ability to improve over the years.

Additionally, if you have failed a class your senior year, some colleges may understand that you are applying to schools; they may attribute the lower GPA to you applying.

However, most schools generally frown upon failing classes during your second or third year. This is because it indicates a downward trend in ability or motivation in school.

Despite this, it is important to remember that when comparing failing grades and passing grades on a high school transcript, the latter will always be preferable. We DO NOT recommend intentionally failing a class during your freshman year to show resilience as a student.

Consequence 4: If you have failed a course, there are also consequences from the high school faculty itself. Your counselor may view you negatively, and your integrity as a student may be compromised in the eyes of the school.

The school faculty may treat you differently and label you as a student who is not serious about school. Worst case scenario, they may put less effort into your learning, even though they should be working harder to help you succeed.

This is especially apparent if you fail a teacher’s class and retake that class with the same teacher. This teacher will have already seen the quality of work and effort you have put in and may judge you based on that.

The worst thing you can do for your image as a student is to fail a class because you don’t attend class. Nothing sends the message “I don’t care and have better things to do” than truancy.

Should teachers and faculty have that view on students who have failed classes? No, it’s wrong to judge a student and to treat them as lesser students based on their performance. However, your high school’s staff are human; it isn’t fair, but it’s a real possibility.

Consequence 5: Failing a class in high school has negative consequences on your home life and mental health.

Your parents, guardians, and extended family would prefer you to succeed in high school rather than fail. Not to be cliche, but your family generally wants the best for you and has pride in you. This can manifest in several ways depending on your family members’ temperament.

Most commonly, breaking the news to them will cause all hell to break loose a home. Often, disappointment, arguments, and, finally punishment follows. You’re already disappointed in yourself as it is, and the added stress from your family does not help.

Whether or not you truly care what your family thinks about you (we recommend that you are at least somewhat), you should do what you can to avoid pissing off your family. It will make the already stressful situation smoother.

How do you minimize the mess at home? If you are here reading this, that is a great first step; educate yourself on what to do.

After going through this guide and reading up on other resources, you need to devise a plan. What are you going to do to change your grade situation? It should be more than “I’m gonna just go in and talk to the teacher”.

The plan should have steps and multiple things you will change or do differently. You should understand where you have made mistakes and how you will remedy them.

Writing it down also helps, so when you talk to your family, they can see you’re serious and ready to put in the effort (you should be sensing a trend here).

On top of that, you can bring this plan up to your high school teacher and counselor. It will help with consequence 4 and help you start off retaking the class on the right foot with your teacher.

Sometimes you can’t avoid stress from your family, no matter what you say or how well you plan. That’s okay! Once you do everything you can to improve where you’ve failed, they will be much prouder of you for it.

How Does Failing Grades Affect the Students?

How Does Failing Grades Affect the Students?

We have already covered the extrinsic consequences that may affect you. But how does a failing grade affect your intrinsic mental health?

Seeing an “F” grade that represents failure can make anyone disheartened and depressed about their abilities. Nobody wants to be told that they are failing at something.

This can demotivate a student and damage their psyche. With the addition of the previously mentioned consequences, the student may become demotivated and begin doing poorly in other classes.

It is important to remember that this one failed class does not represent your abilities as a student. Everyone makes mistakes, and you cannot let this grade define you as a student or person.

You can only improve from here, and if you have done everything in your power to improve, that will speak volumes about your capabilities. It will overshadow what you have done in the past.

Many schools offer counseling services, and you should take advantage of these. Have a conversation with your counselor or teacher, and be honest about how you feel. If you can show that you are willing to do whatever it takes to improve, your school’s faculty will help you get to where you want to be.

How to Avoid Failing Grades?

How to Avoid Failing Grades?

If you haven’t already noticed the theme for success in high school, it can be defined as effort. Putting in the necessary effort will cause those around you to want to help you succeed; do not underestimate the impact of hard work on your results and the amount of support it will bring from others.

You may see others as more “talented” or “intelligent” than you are. But remember that hard work with no talent will always surpass a natural gift for school but no effort. Talent is realized after you have put in hard work; you may be more talented than you initially think, but you will never know unless you put in the work.

As mentioned before, go to class! If you don’t go to class, how can you expect to learn anything, let alone know what is expected of you from your teacher? This is the easiest thing you can do to succeed in high school.

Communicating with your teacher will make getting a good grade much easier. As we said, discuss your plan with them and get their help. The teacher can help guide you to success in the class.

This can be done by meeting with them during study hall or after school to get additional help. Instead of socializing for the entire lunch period, you can meet them for some of your lunchtimes a few times a week.

Putting in additional time to succeed in the class will allow you to get additional ways of learning from the teacher that they might not otherwise mention in class.

Wrapping Things Up: What Happens if You Have a Failing Grade in High School?

Now you understand the consequences of a failing grade, how it can affect you, and what to do to avoid a failing grade.

Depending on what class you failed, you may not be eligible to graduate and have to retake the course. A failed class can also have negative impacts on you, your family, and the high school faculty. It may also lower your chances of getting into college.

Thankfully there are things you can do to improve your lower GPA. Come up with a plan and communicate with your teachers and family members. Utilize all of your resources, such as your teachers and counselors.

Be sure to do things to avoid failing classes in the first place. Show up in class and try to participate; it will help you with your learning and keep you engaged. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, put in some hard work, and take extra time to learn the material if needed.

If you continue to implement this guide, that failed letter grade won’t be a problem for much longer and you will be less likely to fail other classes in the future. Good luck and study hard!

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out our other blogs for similar content.

> How Many Classes Can You Fail in College Before You Get Suspended?

> How Many Classes Do You Have to Fail to Repeat a Grade in Middle School?

> Failing School Because of Laziness: What to Do?

Picture of Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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