How to Help Your Student Who is Failing a Class

Discovering your child’s options and implications of failing or withdrawing.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

September 11, 2023

How to Help Your Student Who is Failing a Class
Parents can help their child as they work through failing a class or withdrawing from college.
College can be a difficult transition for many students. For the first time, students are living independently of their parents or guardians, which entails getting up for classes and making themselves study on their own. For some, this transition can take a few weeks or months. However, for other students, it can take longer, impacting their success in college and culminating in real-life consequences. As a parent or guardian, it’s natural to want to come alongside your child and help them in any way you can. If your child is failing a class in college or struggling with their GPA, there are steps you can take to equip them for what comes next.

My Student is Failing a Class

If you have learned that your child is failing a class, you’re likely not too pleased. At the same time, you want to help them fix their grade. While you shouldn’t email their professor or registrar on their behalf, there are pieces of advice that you can give your child.

Encourage them to talk to the professor.

Part of a professor’s job is to work with students who need help understanding the material. This may come in the form of helping during office hours or directing struggling students to their Teaching Assistants (TA) who are experts on the subject matter. TAs are more commonly found on large college campuses or universities. They are paid to assist professors in a variety of ways, one of which is helping students who need extra time learning the material.

Advise them to ask about extra credit.

There may be ways for your child to earn extra credit for a class in which they struggle. Most professors want to see students earn a favorable outcome in their courses, and it never hurts to ask about these opportunities.
Extra credit may come in the form of writing extra research papers, assisting the professor somehow, or attending specific on-campus events that relate to the subject matter in the course.

Suggest tutoring.

Finally, there is no better place to find help for struggling students than on a college campus. Most colleges provide tutoring services for free – all students have to do is reach out. Encourage your child to schedule an appointment with tutoring services or have them ask their professor about tutoring opportunities. They may be able to direct your student to someone specific that knows a great deal about the subject material. While it can be hard for your child to ask for help in these instances, it’s a great life lesson. This will help them just as much in the real world.

Financial Aid Impacts of Failing Out of College

If your child is failing more than one class, the likelihood of them turning both grades around is lower. Unfortunately, when a student’s grades fall below Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP), there are financial implications to aid packages and student loans.

Dropping Classes

If your child is failing a class, they have the option to drop the course before a certain date in the semester. When they drop that class, it will not impact their GPA or financial aid. However, dropping more than one class may make them ineligible for financial aid because they may not be considered a full-time student, depending on their remaining courseload. It’s also possible that your child could add new courses to make up for those dropped. It’s important to note that the “drop date” for classes occurs toward the beginning of the semester. Once that date has passed, students will have to withdraw.

Withdrawing from Classes

Withdrawing from a class means the grade will not be counted toward their GPA, but it will appear on their transcript. Should a graduate school or future employer request their transcript, they may have to explain that discrepancy. Withdrawing from classes also impacts financial aid. If a student falls below full- or part-time status, depending on the stipulations of their aid package, they could lose funds – or be required to pay them back.

Withdrawing from College

If your child has decided to withdraw from college, they will lose their financial aid. Student loans will fall into repayment mode; however, there is typically still a six-month grace period before payments must be made. Additionally, the school may require your student to pay back any scholarship or grants that they received up to the point that they withdrew. If your child decides to return to school at a later point, they may be ineligible for financial aid.

Who Your Student Should Talk to on Campus

Withdrawing from classes – and college altogether – should not be a spontaneous decision. Before your child begins the process, there are a few steps they should take first.

Talk to the professor of the class(es).

First have a conversation with professors to review your options. Is there a way for you to turn this grade around? If so, follow their directions carefully and take advantage of tutoring. If there is not a way to turn the grade around, you need to seek help and advice elsewhere.

Meet with an academic advisor.

Academic advisors not only help students select classes and maintain a courseload that will help them graduate on time, but they can also assist during times of struggle. An academic advisor will have more experience helping students who are failing classes with next steps. An academic advisor may know about programs geared toward students failing classes. It may be that you can enter a remedial program at your school, which requires you to take part in an academic plan that will restore you to SAP while enabling you to keep your financial aid. This is undoubtedly something they have dealt with before. They will be able to direct you to contacts in the financial aid and registrar’s offices.

Discuss finances with a financial aid officer.

A financial aid officer will be able to go over the financial implications of withdrawing from classes or college. They will notify you of student loan repayment plans and when those go into effect. They’ll also be able to provide an estimate of what you will owe if you withdraw from college. Knowing these costs ahead of time may sway your decision on whether it’s financially better to withdraw complete or stay on as a part-time student before becoming full-time again next semester.

Complete paperwork in the registrar’s office.

The registrar’s office will be the final stop. Your child must complete withdrawal paperwork before leaving school. Failure to do so may impact them later in life, like when they’re applying for a job or attempting to return to school. If withdrawal paperwork is not filed, then their entire transcript could become null.

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Kathryn Knight Randolph

Associate Content Editor

Kathryn Knight Randolph is the Associate Content Editor at Fastweb. She has 17 years of higher education experience, working first as an Admissions Officer at DePauw University before joining Fastweb. In b...

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