How to Fail a College Class

Don't Just Assume You'll Pass by Default

Student sleeping on desk
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For most college students, college life involves all kinds of things outside of the classroom: cocurricular involvement, the social scene, working, family obligations, and maybe even dating. With everything else that's going on, it can be easy to forget just how easy it is to fail a college class.

And while failing a class is obviously less than ideal, it can also happen easier -- and faster -- than you might think. Make sure to avoid these common pitfalls:

Don't Go to Class Regularly

Attending class regularly is pretty darned important in college. Do they take attendance? Not really. Does that mean showing up every day isn't important? No way. Your professor doesn't take attendance because he or she is treating you like an adult -- and because he or she knows that those who pass show up on a regular basis. There's likely a high correlation between an unofficial attendance list and a list of those who pass.

Don't Do the Reading

It can be easy to skip the reading if you think that the professor covers most of the material during lecture -- or if you think that, because the professor doesn't cover most of the material during lecture, you don't need to know it. The professor, however, has assigned the reading for a reason. Do you have to do all of it? Probably not. Do you have to do most of it? Ideally. Do you have to do enough of it? Definitely.

Wait Until the Last Minute

Nothing screams I'm-not-going-to-pass-this-class like turning your paper in 30 seconds before it's due. And while some students thrive on doing things at the last minute, most students don't do their best work under pressure. Life also gets in the way sometimes, so even if you have the best of intentions about doing things late, illness, personal issues, family emergencies, or other situations can sabotage your chances at success.

Never Go to Office Hours

Your professors have office hours each and every week. Why? Because they know that learning for a class happens more than just the three times a week everyone is in the same lecture hall together. Never meeting your professor in person, never engaging with them during office hours, and never utilizing all that they have to teach and offer you is a sad loss for you -- and them.

Assume You Deserve a Grade

You might think you know the material and have a good understanding of what's being covered, so you deserve to pass. Wrong! College grades are earned. If you don't show up, don't make an effort, don't do well, and don't otherwise engage, you don't earn a passing grade. Period.

Never Ask for Feedback on Your Work

Can you not talk to your professor, not really go to class, and just email in your assignments? Yes. Is that a smart way to try to pass a class? No. Going through the motions doesn't mean you'll avoid failing. Get feedback on what you're learning and on what's being covered by talking with other students, talking with the professor, and asking for help (from a tutor, mentor, or academic support center) if needed. A class is a community, after all, and working on your own prevents you from really learning.

Focus Exclusively on Your Grade

There's more than one way to fail a class. Even if you squeak by with a barely passing grade, does that really count as success? What did you learn? What did you gain? What kinds of things might you have failed at even if you earned your required credits? College is a learning experience, after all, and while grades are important, succeeding at your college life takes more than the bare minimum.