Failing that college exam you’ve either studied your butt off for or maybe studied hardly at all isn’t a fun experience. We’ve all been there, and in fact, I’ve been there too, and I know what it feels like to be failing at college.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman, sophomore, junior or even senior; this can and does happen to anyone, and we all know what can come with it; Anxiety, Depression and more. I think we all can agree that we’ve experienced this feeling one time or another; regardless if it’s our fist text, quiz, or exam. It simply isn’t fun.

And I know what you’re thinking: What Do I do? It may not be easy, but I’ve tried to create an outline that will help you succeed and turn this semester around.

The most import part will be how you react to it and what you’re going to do about it.

We’re all not perfect, and the people who claim they are; are those who are lying to you. Nobody likes to admit that they failing and well, are failing; but what’s more important is what you’re doing to overcoming this failure and moving forward on that.

Just to break the ice and help you move forward, let me talk about some of my not so proud moments: I’ve had many bad exams. In fact, this post came alive from failing a math exam I had a a few months ago.

  • Sophomore year, I struggled with a programming class in which I knew a lot about, or well, so I thought. It was even a prerequisite for my major, one that everyone should be able to pass with ease. Being myself, I thought it shouldn’t be too hard and took the online section. Not soon after, we had the first exam, and I bombed it, and well, I bombed it hard.

    Didn’t even get near the average, it didn’t look good for me. Soon after, I found half the class dropped, and I was left with seniors and graduate students still enrolled.

    Obviously, my quickest reaction was to drop and retake it, but I decided to bite the bullet and create a plan to pass. In fact, I ended up passing that class with an A- after the curve.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s embarrassing and hard to accept; but I’ve come to terms that beating yourself over it for days isn’t the way to deal with it.

    But, the key to recovering from that failed semester or exam in college is creating a successful game plan to act on.

I know what you’re thinking, “Max, I’m in college and I’ve made it this far; what can this game plan do for me that I don’t already do?”

First and foremost, you are right. This plan will not work unless you are dedicated to it. It will not just work for itself, and you need to commit to it.

Thankfully, I’ve tried my best to create a system that will help you pinpoint these mishaps and get you moving forward.

Hey Now, It’s Gonna Be Alight

Failing College isn’t the end of the world. You can come back from this. Therefore, take a break and do something to give yourself a mental vacation. Life will go on, and I promise you everything will be okay.

So throw on your favorite show and relax. Do what you have to do to regroup and hit it the following day. Whether this means you go on a walk or a hike; just do you and get ready for some change.

Starting The Plan

This system is simple and just like my professor said in Business Calc, “KISS It, keep it simple stupid.”

This 3 step plan includes:

  • 1. Reflection and Identifying Mistakes
  • 2. Creating A Plan
  • 3. And finally, creating achievable goals that will help you stay on track

You need to create a plan that will not only help identify your mistakes, but also one that will help you fix them too. This is easier said than done. We both know that.

Step 1: Reflection and Identities Mistakes

Reflect on the past exam or semester, have you put in enough time in the class? Have you studied accordingly?

Some of these identified failures can include things like:

  • Taking the hardest professor?
  • Simply not studying enough?
  • Unmotivated throughout the semester?
  • And More…

Keep in mind; every three credit class is recommended to have roughly three hours every week dedicated to purely studying outside of class. We both know this these hours of studying rarely happens, but some classes may need these full three hours or even more.

In my experience, one of the biggest pitfalls of students is not creating effective notes.Some courses obviously bring their own challenges and note taking may be one of them. I’ve been there, I’ve had those professors who honestly either:

  • Write Way Too Dam Fast
  • Worse Handwriting Than A First Grader

And more recently, those that don’t believe in powerpoints.

Regardless of the circumstances, you need to figure out a plan to counter these challenges this professor or maybe class brings. For instance, you may need to ask your professor if you can record the class so you can take notes effectively. Sounds a bit out there, but I’ve seen people do that in my courses.

Step 2: Create A Plan

With these pitfalls or challenges identified, we now need to create an action plan not to allow these issues to happen again in the future.

This may mean you need to:

  • Create a study group
  • Just clock more hours studying
  • Create better and improved flashcards
  • Or something different alltogether

Step 3: Creating Goals

I’m a huge fan of creating goals. These can be as simple as weekly goals or large as life goals. Regardless, I’m a huge believer in moving towards an objective (goal).

Therefore, I believe everyone should create some goals in life. In fact, failing college is a perfect example of when someone should create some goals to set themselves up for success.

For example, some of these goals can be as simple as:

  • Taking notes every week
  • Being prepared for class
  • Getting 80% on the next exam
  • Or even graduating college

Hopefully, a few of these ideas will help you create your goals and allow you to succeed from failing college.

Make Your Goals Achievable

This is something that I often struggle with as you want a healthy balance between making your goals challenging, yet achievable in a decent timeframe. I mean, it’s great to say you want to “Ace That Class,” but sometimes that simply is not possible.

Therefore you need to have not only long term achievable goals but also little goals along the way to help motivate yourself.

Finally: Use Your Resourses

This may not be a step in my book, but always remember you need to utilize your resources. Whether this means calculating your grade and deciding to drop the course will be the best option, or simply joining a study group.

More importantly: Getting a little extra help isn’t something to be ashamed about. Surprisingly enough, most universities offer SI sessions (student lead help sessions) for many courses and or have incredibly cheap tutoring available.

I even suggest simply going to your professor’s office hours and seeing if they have any words of encouragement or direction. More likely than not, they will help you and get yours through this course. Just do not wait until the last minute as there isn’t anything they can do at that point.

In Summary

Life isn’t over just because you’re failing college. You can recover from that failed exam, whether you’re a freshman, sophomore, junior or even senior. Just take a moment, and set yourself on a solid plan.


Maxwell Emerson
I'm Max and I'm the brains behind College Coverage. Currently, I'm a Senior at Iowa State University and majoring in MIS. Through one hack at a time, I'm looking to make college a more enjoyable and easier experience. Think I missed something? Have a good suggestion? Comment or Tweet at me and I'll fix it!

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