How to Deal with Bad Grades in College: Do's & Dont's (2023)

Even if you are a straight-A student, the chances are high that you have dealt with bad grades at some point in your academic career. Sometimes you expect to fail due to inadequate preparation or poor understanding of the material. Other times you are confident you will be getting an A, but the teacher gives you B-. This can be challenging as it affects motivation and self-confidence. It can also cause anxiety and fear of future failure.

You might be wondering how to overcome this situation. What is the best way to navigate a poorly graded paper or a failed project? How do you go about recovering your GPA? To answer these questions, our team has gathered together a series of tips in the article. We have also presented what you should avoid when getting a bad grade.

Table of contents

  1. 👍 What to Do
  2. 👎 What NOT to Do
  3. 🔗 References

👍 What to Do When You Get a Bad Grade

Further down, we have explored how to react to bad grades and move further. Find tips that will work for you and help you overcome any problems.

How to Deal with Bad Grades in College: Do's & Dont's (1)

And if you struggle with academic writing, check free college essays that will come in handy when studying.

(Video) WHAT TO DO after getting a BAD GRADE | how to BOUNCE BACK from FAILURE *productive & motivational*

✔️ Remain Positive

When you get a bad grade, the most critical step is not letting negative thoughts overwhelm you. Staying positive is a must in these situations.

According to scientists, there are some physical and mental advantages to staying upbeat. Among them are lower chances of physical health problems, better resistance to flu, and lower blood pressure. At the same time, positive thinking can encourage greater creativity, better mood, less severe cases of depression, etc. Many studies show that people with a more optimistic view of life have fewer symptoms when they get sick.

How to Deal with Bad Grades in College: Do's & Dont's (2)

Look at the list of some of the easiest ways to focus on the positives after getting a bad grade:

  • Reconsider your errors. No one enjoys making mistakes, but mistakes are necessary to help us grow. Embracing this attitude towards error is called the growth mindset. Our brain develops when we make mistakes. Applying the knowledge we have acquired through trial and error allows us to avoid repeating them.
  • Recall why you study. Learning can be challenging, and at times, we forget about the process by only focusing on the result. Do not rush your studies, as doing so can impede skills development. Take your time to recollect why you enjoy the learning process.
  • Talk to supportive and positive people. Surround yourself with an optimistic and supporting crew. It can include your classmates, friends, teachers, even great books with powerful messages. Pay attention to the way people make you feel and spend your time with those who encourage you.
  • Be kind to yourself. Do not look at yourself in a negative light because it will affect the extent to which you can handle stress. As we mentioned earlier, positive thinking and self-talk inspire self-acceptance. Verbally identify your strengths and skills, which will help you overcome difficulties. Make sure to encourage yourself and consider each failure as a useful experience.

And lastly:

Don’t forget to believe in yourself. Realizing that you can overcome any challenge and learn from your failure is the attitude you want to adopt. Focus on the things you can accomplish rather than on previous mistakes.

✔️ Learn from Your Mistakes

One bad grade is not the end of the world – see it as a reminder that you need to concentrate on your studies. Most of the time, A’s, B’s, and C’s don’t even reflect your overall knowledge. What if you simply misinterpreted the question? In this case, it’s not the issue of your comprehension but your attentiveness. And the solution is simple: you should always read the homework assignment carefully and proofread it before turning it over to your instructor.

How to Deal with Bad Grades in College: Do's & Dont's (3)

We suggest you approach learning from your mistakes step-by-step:

📍 Step 1: Analyze your mistakes.

To move forward and fix your mistakes, you need to understand what was done wrong. Did you format the paper correctly or miss a key element of the work? What if you covered the topic superficially? Or did you need more time to prepare effectively? If you don’t fully grasp what went wrong, ask your instructors or peers to help you figure it out. Understanding the causes enables you to change the outcome next time.

📍 Step 2: Note what mistakes to avoid.

Understandably, if you want to grow, you need to learn how to avoid making the same mistakes repeatedly. First, write down all the errors. Second, find patterns and correlations to understand how your mistakes are connected. Third, consider what overall lesson you can learn from these cases.

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📍 Step 3: Adjust your expectations.

Your studies rely on proper time management and correct expectations. You can put off work until the last moment and anticipate a good outcome each time. In other words, you can’t expect to ace something without putting in the hard work. Get better at preparation and manage your expectations correctly.

📍 Step 4: Reconsider your priorities.

You should look at what factors contributed to you getting a bad grade. Maybe you have been working extra hours, or you missed classes. Sometimes a bad grade can help you look retrospectively and evaluate your priorities in life.

📍 Step 5: Contemplate what to do next.

Learn about possible steps to improve your grade. The first place to go is your teacher or mentor. You can talk to your department to see if you can do anything to straighten out your GPA. There might be an opportunity for extra credit. Or you can evaluate your mistakes alone, addressing how to fix them and avoid them in the future.

📍 Step 6: Make a plan.

Now you need to apply everything you have learned and gathered to make a new plan. For instance, you may have realized that some of your practices and habits contributed to your bad results. Think about ways to change your studying practices to avoid future difficulties.

✔️ Strengthen Your Discipline 

So, you analyzed your mistakes and realized that you lack order and consistency in completing tasks? Then time management is what you need to master. In this section, you can find some tips for creating a schedule and improving your discipline. 

How to Deal with Bad Grades in College: Do's & Dont's (4)

✔️ Consult Your Professor 

One of the teacher’s duties is to guide you when learning difficulties arise. Don’t be afraid to take the initiative and contact your professor for clarifications. Ask them what mistakes you make regularly and what you should pay attention to. 

Check some tips on how to talk to your professor: 

👀 Review your mistakes yourself. Usually, teachers have a grading rubric, which is the ultimate guide for the students. Check it and evaluate your work accordingly. Highlight the parts where you failed to meet the requirements.
🕞 Choose when to have this conversation. The best way is to stop by the professor’s office during office hours. If it is impossible, make sure you arrange your meeting in advance.
🗣️ Be polite and straight to the point. Keep in mind that you came to them to get assistance and improve your performance. Ask specific questions and be thankful for the time your professor dedicates to you.
👌 Be open to criticism. Don’t get defensive since learning is a constant cycle of identifying and fixing mistakes. Accept the criticism and recognize your mistakes.
Clarify how you can do better. Once you have received feedback from your teacher, ask them for further advice. They may have some tips for you to boost your academic performance.
🙏 Thank for the advice. As your conversation comes to an end, don’t forget to express your gratitude. Even if analyzing your mistakes is not the most pleasant procedure, it is still beneficial.
(Video) Have Low Grades?

✔️ Get a Study Buddy

Students that have trouble concentrating on their tasks could benefit from finding a study buddy or joining a study group. When you work on your assignments with a partner or team, you exchange your thoughts, opinions, and knowledge. It can help you understand the material much better and produce notable results. Revising with a productive group will also make it easier to avoid distractions and prevent you from procrastinating.

The best way to find a study buddy is to ask your friends and classmates. When looking, make sure your potential partner has a set of specific qualities.

Qualities Explanation
Willingness to studyThe main goal of revising with another person is to ensure that they motivate you. Someone that keeps interrupting you to take a break and chat might not be the best partner. Make sure that studying is a priority for both of you.
Same study style Some people favor a group discussion, while others enjoy learning alongside someone in silence. Your buddy should have a study style that is complementary to yours.
AvailabilityAs you plan a study session, one of the first things to consider is the schedules. Compare calendars with your partner. Figure out if you can find a regular study period that works for you.
Positive approach A positive mindset can help you stay focused and not give in to stress and anxiety. An encouraging study buddy will boost your mood, as well as make the session much more enjoyable.
Strong disciplineStaying punctual is a vital facet of an effective study session. Ensure that your study buddy won’t add unnecessary stress by consistently arriving late and disrespecting your time.

How to Study with a Buddy

If you have managed to find the perfect candidate, you should think about organizing your study sessions. Take a look at this advice to get you started:

  1. Create a joint schedule. Consistency is the key to successful studying. Discuss what days work best for you and your buddy/group. Try not to miss your study sessions and always inform your partners if you are late.
  2. Decide how to study together. There are numerous different ways that you can connect with one another. Perhaps you want to meet up in person at the library. Or maybe it’s more convenient to call via Zoom. Choose the most appropriate communication option that will suit all of your needs.
  3. Share your notes. It is integral that you and your partners are on the same page when studying. Nowadays, you will find collaborative tools all over the Internet, such as Google Docs or OneDrive. These shared file spaces are useful for multiple people to access and edit at any time and place.
  4. Test and check each other. The great use of the study buddy system is to periodically quiz one another on your knowledge. This becomes particularly valuable during the exam season. Testing each other will further cement your understanding and improve your memory.
  5. Discuss every topic. Working side-by-side in silence can help you and your partner focus on your respective tasks. However, when you actually talk about your assignments, you get to share diverse opinions and perspectives that will enhance your understanding. Communicate your thoughts to one another to build up a multifaceted idea of your subject.
  6. Tutor each other when needed. Every person is unique. Some knowledge comes to us easily while others doesn’t. Thus, we should help each other when we struggle to comprehend something. You and your study buddy will probably have different areas of expertise, so don’t hesitate to tutor one another when necessary.

👎 What NOT to Do When You Get a Bad Grade 

Just like any hardworking student, you are likely to forget about any advice if you happen to receive a bad grade. You might feel lost and broken-hearted, which we understand entirely. This is why we have explored what to avoid if you have found yourself in such a situation. When you learn about the consequences of destructive behavior in advance, you can adjust your reactions accordingly.

How to Deal with Bad Grades in College: Do's & Dont's (5)

⛔ Ignore Your Problems 

A single bad grade isn’t the end of the world. It is not a judgment of your skills or knowledge. Instead, it is a sign of poor preparation, concentration, or understanding of the subject. However, without working on your mistakes, you risk receiving even more bad grades in the future. This will end up negatively impacting your GPA.

We have already discussed how to correct and consider your past mistakes. Now, let’s talk about the revision and preparation process. Pay close attention to these possible problems:

📋 Approaching the topic in chronological order.
As you prepare for your finals or midterms, you should prioritize certain subjects over others. Spend more time studying for the classes that you find challenging to ensure that you cover everything.
🛌 Procrastinating first, panicking later.
Sitting down to study may seem scary and even impossible. Yet, the most challenging step is always the first one. As soon as you’re in the middle of the process, you will find that you are much more motivated and eager to work.
🙅‍♂️ Avoiding help until the last minute.
Some find it difficult to ask for assistance, which can have dire consequences in an academic setting. Your professors are willing to help you go over the material. Don’t hesitate to approach them with a question or suggestion.
📲 Studying with distracting people.
If your study group constantly distracts you with idle chatter, you will not be able to focus. That’s why you should seek people that will actively learn with you. With them, you will always find help and advice when confused about a subject.
📚 Ignoring your study preferences.
Pay attention to what method makes information stick in your mind, and your revision process will become much more effective. For example, some might find it more educational to watch videos, while others prefer taking quizzes.
🤹 Multitasking.
By quickly switching between different chunks of information, you don’t give yourself enough time to absorb any of it. Make sure you plan and prioritize your study schedule in advance to avoid getting overwhelmed by the work you have to do. 
📝 Studying without a break.
Taking a break is essential for your brain to rest and process all the new information. When creating your study schedule, don’t forget to include slots for a quick breather before going back to the grind.
(Video) The Real Reason Your College Grades Don't Matter

⛔ Fixate on a Failure 

Receiving a single B, C, or even an F doesn’t make you a bad student. Don’t set yourself up for failure or think that you won’t be able to complete other assignments. It won’t help you work on your mistakes. What’s more, it will worsen your mental health and self-esteem.    

When you are already feeling down, it’s easy to get stuck in a cycle of constant negative self-talk. It can and will make you feel more anxious and depressed. As a result, you will focus on all the tiny flaws in your work instead of being happy about a job well done.

How to Deal with Bad Grades in College: Do's & Dont's (6)

To prevent yourself from falling into a pessimistic outlook, you will need to actively work on your internal thought process. Take a look at how you can transform the negative self-talk into a positive one: 

Negative ThinkingPositive Thinking
I can’t possibly accomplish this. I will give it my best shot. 
This is far too hard for me.   I’ll try a different approach. 
I’m far too lazy to actually do this. I don’t have the time for this now, but I will come back later. 
I don’t have what it takes. I know I can figure it out. 
This is new to me, and I will definitely make mistakes.  This is an excellent opportunity to enhance my knowledge. 
No one has offered to help me.  I will try asking for help myself. 
I’m scared of changes.   Nothing ventured, nothing gained! 
I’m not improving at all.I will keep trying again and again.

⛔ Get Obsessed with Studying 

Preparation and diligent revision of every subject is a worthwhile cause. However, don’t let yourself become a bookworm who only thinks about studies. Not only will it negatively impact your mental health, but it will also exhaust you physically. This is also a way to ensure you will entirely forget about your life outside of the academic institution. Instead, you should try following our advice on getting better at your studies.  

9 Tips on Becoming a Better Student 

  1. Always be organized. It is a good idea to make a structured timetable to keep track of your deadlines, meetings, exams, and classes. Even if you have never needed an organizer before, using one will prevent you from getting overwhelmed. Invest in a planner or download a dedicated app for your phone, remembering to use it consistently.  
  2. Attend all the classes. Professors usually have mandatory attendance policies that can affect your grades. Besides, listening to and participating in classroom debates is a great way to absorb new knowledge. Make sure you don’t miss out on classes unless you have a valid reason. 
  3. Listen attentively. Another good reason to attend all of your classes is to pay close attention to the professor and their insights. Try being an active listener! Ask for clarification every time you need it, and don’t be afraid to partake in the discussions.  
  4. Take notes during classes. Engaging with the professor and your classmates is educational and fun. However, you could easily forget everything being said. This is why it is vital that you take notes of all the crucial points brought up in class. Make sure to revise them afterwards, organizing and rewriting to retain your knowledge better.  
  5. Read all the required materials. Your teachers will assign you a reading list for a reason – the textbooks are essential for your studies. Try your best to go through all of the required material. Jot down and highlight the most significant parts to review them later.  
  6. Learn to edit and proofread. Whether you are going through your notes or working on a class assignment, these are the two fundamental skills to master. You cannot produce a final draft in a single sitting. So, going over your work several times is necessary for success. Not to mention, it will help you better memorize any material in the work you’re editing.  
  7. Get better at taking tests. Exams are an integral part of academia, often comprising a large portion of your final grade. You can get better at taking them by practicing with older copies and familiarizing yourself with the question format. Be sure to time yourself to get used to the examination conditions.  
  8. Master essay writing. From short essays to term papers, you will greatly benefit if you get better at written assignments. If you want to master the art of writing, you should practice creating outlines, editing, and proofreading. You can also get feedback on your drafts from your professors, so don’t hesitate to show them your work.  
  9. Improve your speaking skills. Presentations don’t appear in every class, but you will likely still encounter them. The best way to prepare yourself for one is to rehearse your speech as often as possible. You can also practice with a couple of friends and instruct them to ask you some questions in the end.  

Thank you for reading our article! We hope that it will now be easier for you to deal with a bad grade. If you know anyone who could benefit from our advice, be sure to send them this page.  

🔗 References

  1. Positive Thinking: Reduce Stress by Eliminating Negative Self-Talk – Mayo Clinic
  2. How to Talk to Your Professor about a Bad Grade – Angela Milinazzo, campusSIMS
  3. Getting It Wrong: Surprising Tips on How to Learn – Henry L. Roediger, Bridgid Finn, Scientific American
  4. Time Management: Study Skills – Bossier Parish Community College
  5. What Makes a Good Study Buddy – Charles Darwin University, Australia
  6. 6 Common Study Mistakes and How to Fix Them – Emily Morantz, Student Services, the University of British Columbia
  7. Using Effective Time Management To Improve Your Studying – Education Corner
  8. 8 Tips for Talking About Bad Grades – Cleveland Clinic
  9. How To Get Over A Bad Grade On A Test – Oxford Learning


How do you overcome bad grades in college? ›

Correcting Bad Grades In College: A Guide
  1. Regular Withdrawal From A Class. ...
  2. Past-Deadline Withdrawal. ...
  3. Individual Course Grade Appeals. ...
  4. Grade “Forgiveness” Or “Amnesty” Programs. ...
  5. Class “Re-Take” Grade Forgiveness Programs. ...
  6. Limited Correction Grade Forgiveness Programs. ...
  7. Past Student Re-Admission Amnesty Programs.

How do I get bad grades removed from my college transcript? ›

The transcript displays the official record of classes students enroll in during school, so most grades cannot be changed or removed. Courses changed before the drop/add date do not appear on the transcript, but any classes you do not drop after that date are part of the permanent record.

How do you respond to bad grades? ›

8 Tips for Talking About Bad Grades
  1. Address the importance of grades early. ...
  2. Separate the child from the grade. ...
  3. Approach the subject with concern, not anger. ...
  4. Ask questions. ...
  5. Talk to the teacher. ...
  6. Know that rewards and punishment don't work if you want your child to love learning. ...
  7. Beware of pressure. ...
  8. Take the simplest steps first.
Oct 12, 2020

Can I explain to colleges about bad grades? ›

If you have bad grades on your transcript, you may want to use your college admissions essay to explain the challenging circumstances that led to them. Make sure to avoid dwelling on the negative aspects and highlight how you overcame the situation or learned an important lesson.

How do you bounce back from failure in college? ›

Learn and Try Again. Once you know the source of your mistake, develop a plan to avoid falling into the same failure again. Reach out to your professor to get an idea of what needs to be improved, meet with your advisor to discuss a course of action, make a step-by-step plan of how to get back on track. Then try again.

How do you recover from failing college? ›

Failing College? 5 Tips for Conquering Academic Failure
  1. Learn What Resources Are Available to You.
  2. Reach Out to Family & Trusted Friends For Help.
  3. Work on Mastering the Little Things.
  4. Diversify Your Field of Study.
  5. Consider Taking Time Off.
Sep 10, 2019

What is grade forgiveness in college? ›

Grade forgiveness is the process whereby a new grade replaces a former grade when calculating GPA. The first attempt will remain on the transcript, with a footnote indicating the the course has been repeated and the grade discounted (replaced). The first attempt will not be calculated in the GPA or units earned.

How does academic forgiveness work? ›

Grade Forgiveness allows students to repeat a course for a higher grade. When Grade Forgiveness is applied to a student's record, the grade earned during the first attempt of the course is no longer factored in to the student's GPA but it will still appear on the student's transcript.

Will one C ruin my GPA in college? ›

One C in your transcript will not greatly impact your GPA and if it is a rare occurrence some colleges will just consider it a fluke. Colleges will probably look past it if that is the only class you've ever really struggled with as reflected per your grades.

Why do I get bad grades even though I study hard? ›

The problem: You procrastinate studying, not leaving yourself enough time to absorb the material before test day. The solution: Create a routine that involves reviewing your notes regularly. Each night, take a few minutes to go over your notes from class.

Can you recover from a bad GPA in college? ›

Of course, you can recover from this. You've already recovered as far as GPA is concerned or moving forward, taking more classes and doing well in them since you've learned how you need to study. That's the most important part of the situation.


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