I’ve Failed a High School Class! Now What?

This week I learned that assuming that certain things will happen isn’t the best mindset. Yet I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that if you’re reading this article, it’s likely you’ve failed a high school class.

If you’ve just learned the news, I’d recommend taking a day or two before coming back to this article. There’s some advice I want to impart, and I want you to be in a more positive, receptive mood.

Failed a high school class - magoosh

Original photo by Hutomo Abrianto on Unsplash

Two Days Later…

Okay, so you’re in a slightly better mood. The world hasn’t stopped spinning, and your entire life hasn’t fallen apart around you.

The first thing I want you to know is that failing a high school class is something that you can fix! Yes, it is true. As a teacher, I helped many students repair their grades, GPAs, and chances for college admission success. So if you’re ready to be proactive, let’s get started!

Make-Up Work

Based off my experience in the classroom, I know that most students who fail a class do so in the fall semester. Why is this the case? Well, whenever you learn new material, there are going to be new challenges, some of which you will find extremely difficult (if not impossible) to overcome. In fast-paced classes, it becomes all too easy to fall behind. Mix all of that together, and you get an F on your report card.

Anyway, if you have failed the first semester of a class, there is always the chance your teacher will let you do make-up work. Basically, you have the opportunity over winter break to complete a series of make-up exercises. When you return for spring semester, you take an exam to demonstrate that you are proficient in the material.

Though working over winter break may not sound too appealing, make-up work is the best way to repair your grade. In my experience, it is the least stressful for students, and produces the best results.

So if you’re finishing up the fall semester, and expect to see an F on your report card, go to your teacher and ask about make-up work. He or she may say no. After all, rules and regulations are different everywhere. The following two options (or maybe just the final one) may be the only ways to repair your grade.

2nd Semester Redemption

Another option is known as ‘2nd semester redemption’. My school used it mainly for students who had ‘barely’ failed a class, as in earning a 65-69. If this was the case, the student signed a contract stating that he or she was willing to work smarter in the spring semester. If the spring semester grade and fall semester grade averaged out to a 70 or above, the teacher would change the grade for the fall semester.

Problem solved.

This, too, provided decent results for students. Students who failed in the fall had a good reason to do better in the spring. Yet there was a drawback –- the stress/fear of failing again. Teens are already stressed out enough, which in my experience leads to a self-defeating attitude. ‘I failed in the fall. I just fail again in the spring. Why should I even try?’ Though this sentiment was expressed by students in a variety of ways, it is an attitude to actively avoid. Skip down to ‘Making Sure Failing a High School Class Never Happens Again’ for tips about creating a better academic mindset.

Last but not least, we have (drum roll, please)…..

Summer School

Yep, there is always the old standby of taking summer school. I am a bit biased against the idea of summer school. Due to the short time frame, the courses rely heavily on rote memorization, worksheets, and not the most motivated teachers. I know there are exceptions, but to be honest, I wouldn’t bet on it.

Yet if summer school is the only option your school district offers, take it as a gift, even if it may not feel like one. Besides showing up and working hard, here’s an extra piece of advice. If you feel that your teacher is going too fast, make sure to let him or her know that right away! You need to make your voice heard if you’re having any difficulty whatsoever.

Making Sure Failing a High School Class Never Happens Again

This section is all about what you do after repairing your grade, no matter how you did it. In short, after taking a well-earned sigh of relief, it’s time to make a game plan for the future.

Like football players watching the game tape after a devastating loss, you should examine the past to determine why you failed. Was it because the teacher was going too fast? Was it because you’ve struggled with the subject all your life? Was it because of a health issue such as not having glasses to read the board/presentations? Was it because (and I hate to say this, Magooshers) you were lazy? Was it a mix of reasons?

Once you’ve figured out the cause(s), it’s time to come up with a solution that will help you pass future classes. As I don’t know your specific situation, here’s some advice that can help just about everyone who’s bouncing back after failing a high school class:

  • Ask your teacher to help you take better notes.
  • Ask your teacher about the best ways to organize your notebook/folder.
  • Ask questions in class when you feel unsure about something. (This one is huge!)
  • Get your eyes checked. (You wouldn’t believe how many people DON’T KNOW that their vision is terrible.)
  • Research online tutoring resources. (One of the largest is Khan Academy. Note: this service also helps students prepare for the SAT FREE of charge!)
  • If you or your family has the money, consider hiring a professional tutor. (See my article on Choosing an ACT/SAT Tutor for some tips on how to find the tutor of your dreams.)

Final Thoughts on Failing a High School Class

Hopefully this article has taught you that all is not lost after failing a high school class. The opportunities are there. You just need to reach out and take them.

Till next time, Magooshers.

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  • Thomas Broderick

    Thomas spent four years teaching high school English, social studies, and ACT preparation in Middle Tennessee. Now living in Northern California, he is excited to share his knowledge and experience with Magoosh's readers. In his spare time Thomas enjoys writing short fiction and hiking in the Sonoma foothills.

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!