Image from Stocksnap.

Image from Stocksnap.

Picture this: you’re having a blast at college. You’ve made some new friends, you guys study together sometimes, and so far all your classes have been good. Not great, but good enough. Fast forward to the end of the semester: you’ve been kinda worried about one paper. You check your exam results online and… sigh. You want to cry, or you want to throw something, because you’ve just failed a college paper.

Firstly, don’t freak out! And secondly, recognise that this failure is simply a stepping stone in your tertiary education. Failing a paper in college doesn’t make this end game (unless you’ve failed your whole semester’s course work, which I’ll deal with later on).

For your whole life, you’ve been told that failing anything at school is a massive no-no and that if you do, your life is over. Luckily, this isn’t true at college. Another silver lining to this situation is that redeeming yourself after failing a paper is slightly different to how you’d redeem yourself at high school.

One easy solution to this problem is that you retake the class in another semester. A benefit of retaking a class you’ve failed is that because you already know a portion of the coursework, and you’re already familiar with the way the work is taught, you will have an easier time dealing with your lecturers and asking for help where you need it. Retaking a class can also allow you to re-evaluate where you went wrong the first time around and can warn you in advance of any areas that need more improvement over any other units in the course.

Another solution could be that you ask to have your exam and coursework  recounted again. This option is really only for people who were on the verge of passing a paper, and if you really don’t want to take that paper again, this is one you could try first. Keep in mind that recounts don’t necessarily boost your mark by a lot – you might only get a 1% boost in your coursework overall. Often, recounts will have to be paid for for a small fee, and you have a limited amount of time to apply for a recount.

Another way to avoid retaking a whole paper is to apply to only do the final exam again, instead of enrolling in the course and having to attend all lectures, labs/tutorials and any other mandatory classes required to pass. This option is good for people who aced all their internal assignments (i.e. you passed all your labs, did assignments on time and to the best of your ability and got good marks for them) but bombed the final exam. When you choose to apply for this option, you aren’t permitted to attend any classes relating to the course, but you are welcome to study the material by yourself in your own time. Like recounting, you’ll have to pay a fee to do this type of enrollment as you’re still technically considered as enrolled in the program – just not taking the classes. The fee is a lot lower than they’d charge for retaking the whole paper again, though. This type of enrollment is also good for students who know where they went wrong and simply need more time to study the material, as this doesn’t take up as much time as retaking classes.

Of course, this is only a few things you can do if you’re faced with the failure of a college paper. You can always go to your faculty and find out more about how to make up for a failed paper. Sometimes, if you’ve failed just because you missed the exam, some professors might allow you to take the exam at a later date (although the chances are slim). What I’ve listed above are only some of the options you have available to you – there’s always plenty more help if none of the above apply to you.

So, what do you do when you’ve had a really bad semester and you’ve failed most of your papers? Again, don’t freak out, and definitely DO NOT avoid the problem. If you find yourself failing a lot of your papers and you can’t figure out why, take a look at your life. What’s changed, and what hasn’t? Are your study habits good? Do you have positive influences in your life that help you focus when you need to? Are there any outside influences that are otherwise harming your potential? Or have you just had a bad time adjusting to college life and need a few more months to be able to process this newly-found freedom?

Once you’re able to identify the problem areas in your life (you might need someone else to help you with this), you can tackle the problem of your failed papers more easily. Ask the relevant faculties, or the administration team, if there are any ways you can make up for these papers without it affecting your GPA or without delaying your degree by another semester/year. Another thing that I’ve noticed about failing is that your parents or guardians will always ask about it. Don’t lie to them about it unless you really think that them knowing would be detrimental. They’re there to help you progress through your life: ask them for their advice and see if they’ve had any experience with failing a paper. Your elders are always a great source for advice.

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the author

Nkhaya is a Psychology student who's still a little bit unsure about how to go about being an adult (even though she flew halfway across the world for her dream school). She has an unhealthy devotion to anything with chocolate in it, and loves to write in her spare time. When she's not busy studying, writing or marathon-watching series on Netflix, you'll find her on Twitter or Instagram (@nkhayapm).

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