Dear Kelly,

I am failing in a required course. Being that it is part of my program, I know I will have to take it again. What advice do you have that might help me next time?

I believe every student has faced this hurdle once, twice or maybe even more throughout their college years. This reader is not alone. Depending on the complexity of the content, the amount of coursework that needs to be completed, learning style or maybe even outside factors, this is a situation so many students face. For this reader, and anyone else who may be facing this issue, my advice is that a change in your way of thinking may help you recharge and prepare to face this challenge and succeed.

First, you have to ask yourself why this course was such a challenge, and you have to be completely open and honest. This is an internal dialogue where you need to ask the tough questions and begin with what YOU could have done differently. Although we wish we had the power to change the expectations, we don’t. But we do have the power to change the way we approach them. Ask yourself, “Did I devote enough time to this class?” Try to determine if this is a class that needs more of your focus — by taking it by itself or taking it in a semester where you lighten your course load.

Then, ask yourself if you truly understood the material from the very beginning. If the answer is no, then next time, you may want to email or meet with the professor during the first week, so you can discuss any misconceptions you may have. You may consider starting a study group where you can review what was said in the lectures and analyze the content with your classmates.

By taking the time to figure out the role you played in not passing the course, you can map out areas that can be improved and plan for when you take the course again.

What I don’t want you to spend time doing is focusing on the role you believe someone else may have played in you failing in the course. There is always the propensity to blame others. “The professor expected too much.” “I couldn’t understand the lectures.” “How could they expect me to complete that much work? Don’t they know I have other classes?” Regardless, those are all things you can’t change. Professors have a reason for teaching the class the way they do, and there is a good chance that there have been students who have succeeded in their course.

Furthermore, a challenging course is just that — challenging. These courses are designed to encourage you to push yourself beyond what you believe is possible. Some of my most arduous moments in school have been in challenging courses. However, when I finally succeeded in those courses, my confidence level went through the roof. I felt like Jack, standing at the front of the Titanic, yelling, “I’m the king of the world!”

The pride I felt knowing I faced a momentous challenge and conquered it gave me a renewed sense of accomplishment and courage to face other new and challenging opportunities.

While failing a class can be discouraging, especially when you know you must take it again, now you have the advantage of foresight. You know what to expect and can predict what you will need to do to succeed. For instance, you may decide to arrive early or stay after to further discuss the lecture. You may choose to set aside time each week for tutoring or meeting with your professor during office hours. If you know the coursework requires time and dedication, you can adjust your schedule to ensure adequate time is devoted, so you can successfully complete all of your assignments. Now, you can anticipate what will be expected and make the necessary adjustments to improve your chances of success.

Finally, I want to leave you with this. There already have been times in your life where you faced difficult situations and challenges and overcame them. This started when you were very little and began learning to walk. Remember, there is a good chance that you fell a few times before you mastered the skill. Give yourself permission to fall every once in a while. When we fall, we have two choices: we can either sit there and do nothing, or we can dust ourselves off and try again.

The truth of the matter is, you wouldn’t be in college if you didn’t have goals and aspirations. Don’t let one course deter you from the future that you aspire to have. Get up, dust yourself off, determine what adjustments need to be made, become your own best advocate, and fight to accomplish your goals. You have what it takes, which is the very reason why you are so discouraged right now. If you didn’t think you had the ability to succeed, your thought process would sound more like, “Welp, I knew that was going to happen.” But rather, you are seeking advice to face this challenge again. Don’t give up. Change your way of thinking and your approach, and get back into the ring! You’ve got this!

And as always, I wish you health, happiness and continued success throughout your journey!

Kelly Browning, an early childhood education/special education major and student ambassador at the Henry County Regional Academic Center, answers questions from the Mercer community. Email her at or fill out our online form to submit your question anonymously.


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