Should My College Student Consider Retaking a Course?

If your college student has failed a course, or has done poorly in a course, they may have a question about whether or not they should retake the course.  This is an individual decision and will depend on your student’s circumstances as well as their institution’s policies. Some schools may not allow a student to retake a course, some may only allow a student to retake a course in which they have received an F, and some schools may allow a student to retake any course to improve the grade. The best thing would be for your student to discuss the option with their academic advisor.

However, there are some general things that your student might think about before they meet with their advisor.  There are some compelling reasons to retake a course, and there are a few reasons why it may not be the best decision for your student.

Why to retake a course.

  • Retaking a course may raise your student’s GPA (grade point average).  In many schools, if a student retakes a course, the most recent grade will replace the lower grade in the student’s GPA.  The earlier, lower grade will remain on the transcript, but will not be included in the GPA.  Some schools, however, average the two grades and include the averaged grade in the GPA.  Although this means that the improvement will not be as dramatic, it will still help to improve your student’s GPA.
  • Obviously, your student will need to retake a course in which they have received an F if that course is a required course or a required prerequisite for another course which they need.
  • A student who is retaking a course to improve their GPA needs to retake the course at their own institution.  Most schools will accept credits in transfer from other institutions, but will not accept the grades to include in the GPA.  If your student is retaking the course to complete a requirement, then they might consider retaking the course at another institution – perhaps at home during summer session.
  • If the course is in the student’s major, and they will be taking other courses that build on the material, it may be a good idea to retake the course to be sure that they are confident in their understanding of the material.

Why not to retake a course.

  • Before your student decides to retake a course, they should consider their reasons carefully.  Obviously, this is not the case if the course is a requirement.  Your student might do some math to determine how significant the GPA improvement might be.  It is possible that there are other goals, such as finishing their degree on time, that may be more important.
  • Your student will need to stop to consider whether they think they will be able to improve if they retake the course.  What will be different?  Will they take advantage of tutoring? Improve attendance?  Pay more attention?  Do more homework? If your student does not think they can improve the grade significantly, they may not want to retake the course and get a second poor grade.
  • Your student should remember that they can only receive credit for a course once.  If they passed the course, but are considering retaking it to improve the grade, they will not receive credit for both classes.  Your student may want to take another course to move ahead with their credits rather than use credits to retake this course.
  • Although it may not be common, if the poor grade happened during the first year of college, some colleges may allow a student to have it removed from their transcript. In any case, most employers looking at a transcript will understand the difficulties of that transitional year.  If subsequent grades are better, it may not be worth retaking a course.
  • A student may be able to explain to a future employer why one particular course gave them difficulty.  Most employers understand that not everyone is good at everything, and that students may have extenuating circumstances that may affect one course or semester.  Your student should put the poor grade into perspective.

What should my student consider when they retake a course?

  • If your student decides to retake a course, they should do it as soon as possible.  Although they may not have done very well the first time, they were, at least, exposed to the material.  They should retake the course while they still have some of the information in mind.
  • Your student needs to consider carefully what went wrong and what they will change this time around.  Simply doing the same thing again may not bring about a better result.
  • If there is an option, your student should consider whether or not they want to retake the course with the same professor.  The advantage of retaking with the same professor is that the student will know the instructor’s expectations and teaching style.  The disadvantage is that if the difficulty arose from teaching style, the same problems will be present again.  Your student should consider whether or not they would like to begin with a clean slate with a new instructor.

Retaking a course is a good solution for some students in some situations.  It will improve the student’s GPA and, although it will not remove the lower grade from the transcript, it will demonstrate that your student is interested in and capable of improving.  However, there are some circumstances in which retaking a course may not be the most beneficial plan of action.  Only your student can decide what to do.  If your student does decide to retake a course, it is important that they think carefully about how they will ensure a different outcome the second time.  Be sure to congratulate your student on their determination to succeed.

Related Posts:

What to Do If Your College Student Is On Academic Probation

Should My College Student Consider Withdrawing From a Class?

Helping Your College Student Find Support on Campus

Who Is Advising My Student About Academic Issues?

How Parents Can Help Their College Student in Difficulty

Should My College Student Consider Summer Classes?


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