How to Handle a Bad Grade in College

slipped cup that says "doing my best"
woman doing homework, earned bad grade in college

A Bad Grade in College isn’t the End of the World

Ever turn in an essay thinking you did great, only to check your grades and find you barely earned a D? Students new and old struggle to handle an unexpectedly bad grade in college. Indeed, many report feelings of stress, anxiety, and lower self-worth as a result of receiving low points on tests and assignments. Some students even obsess over every grade they get to the detriment of their mental health.

Realistically, one, two, or even a handful of bad grades won’t ruin your chance of earning your degree or getting a job in the future. Truly, college can be grueling and employers respect employees who took the time to enhance their knowledge and skills.

Many factors impact grades, from simply not studying enough to poor time management to disruptive life events. As a student, you should look into ways to prepare for low grades and how to improve your work ethic and research and writing skills. And you should learn how to let yourself off the hook.

When big events impact our lives, it’s not surprising that our grades and schedules are affected. We can’t be perfect all of the time and knowing that is vital for success now and in the future.

6 Tips to Deal with a Bad Grade in College

Notably, you’ll meet a few students during your studies that don’t seem to care about their grades. You may wish you were more like them, or you may be thankful that you’re and that you care more about your grades. Most students will experience some form of distress, as anyone would when faced with failure.

What matters more than the bad grade is how you respond to it and handle it. Below, we’ll go over six tips on how to deal with a bad grade in college.

relaxing after a bad grade in college

1. Relax and Recuperate

The first thing you should do after you receive a bad grade in college is relax and recuperate. Stressing out and studying now will do nothing to change what has happened. Similarly, an erratic email to your teacher probably won’t be helpful until you recognize what went wrong. Take a deep breath and relax.

Taking the time to relax will help you approach your grade with a clear head later on, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Consider what you may feel after receiving a bad grade – anger at yourself or your instructor, confusion, or maybe stress and anxiety. It’s difficult to take a look at your paper or test when you’re deep in those emotions. You may miss what caused the low score or decide that it’s unfair and your instructor is out to get you.

Instead of diving in right away, consider taking a nap, going out with friends, or rewarding yourself for the work you did, regardless of the grade.

2. Reward Yourself for Hard Work

Some students think that they should only reward themselves for good grades. Only an A or 100% means they can deserve a treat. A bad grade in college means they don’t deserve that coffee or a night out. However, that is a perfect recipe for low morale and further poor outcomes in the future.

If you’ve put good, hard work into an assignment and you get a bad grade, you should still reward yourself for that work. If you were really looking forward to your treat, don’t take it away. Punishing yourself doesn’t do any good. In fact, it can worsen your work ethic as you move forward. Why put in the work if your hard work only results in failure? Truthfully, that bad grade you earned could have been the result of any number of factors.

The feedback can also help you improve in areas that you didn’t realize needed work. For example, you may discover that your writing skills weren’t as good as you thought.

Thus, it’s important to practice self-care and reward yourself for your hard work. This practice helps you build a better work ethic and encourages you to put in the same amount of effort next time. If you don’t feel that you earned the full reward, try scaling it. For example, if you were going to buy yourself a new game, put in half the budget this time and half the budget next time.

looking over grades

3. Review the Feedback

Once you’re ready to review your grade with a clear head, it’s time to tackle your instructor’s feedback. Some professors will give you more than others, but it should all be valuable to review. If you received a point reduction, but no information, you should try reaching out and asking for clarity. You may be able to set a one-on-one meeting to discuss the grade or simply get more answers via email.

Often, when you earn a bad grade in college, any mistakes you make can hurt you again in the future. For example, knowing how to research and write will be important in more than one class.

As you view your essay, exam, or other assignment, consider what you did well in addition to what went wrong. You should look at the good and the bad, as it will give you a better idea of where you stand and how to improve. Also, if you only look at the bad, it can harm your morale.

Is Your Writing Holding You Back?

Professors across the country often dedicate part of their rubric to how well an essay is written. They’ll consider grammar, structure, and accuracy for grading. However, some students complain that getting points taken off for their poor writing skills is unfair.

The truth is writing does matter in the real world. You need to be able to express these new ideas you have, the knowledge you’ve learned, and the skills you built to succeed. If you can’t, you’ll struggle to find your place in any career.

Indeed, regardless of the job, you will need to communicate with someone, whether it’s suppliers, customers, employees, coworkers, or supervisors. In today’s world, some of it will inevitably happen over email or text. You may also be responsible for running your company’s website or social media page. New entrepreneurs often rely on themselves for marketing their businesses. Thus, writing skills help you succeed in the world. And receiving a lower grade based on poor writing skills is fair as it prepares you for the future.

If you get a bad grade in college due to your writing skills, don’t blow off the feedback because you feel it doesn’t matter. Building this ability will help you succeed in later classes and in your career. In addition, your overall communication skills will improve.

notebooks, studying after a bad grade in college

4. Plan to Improve

Next, you should make a list of what you need to improve using your feedback. Was your argument bad or did bad writing hurt your grade? Alternatively, would the grade have been better if you spent more time studying and less time partying?

You should create a success plan so you can improve your work in the future. Many colleges today have success coaches or advisors who can help you build these plans and find resources. For example, Lakewood University’s success coach will help students create weekly schedules, build goals, and figure out what studying method works best.

Ultimately, when you get a bad grade in college, you need to plan to improve or face the same situation later on.

5. Do Better Next Time

Any current or previous college student can tell you that not all bad grades come from misunderstanding an assignment or course content. Sometimes, simply too much is going on or we just weren’t focused on the work. There was a really cool party we wanted to attend, we wanted to hang out without friends instead of studying, or really anything sounded better than writing a paper. Truly, we’ve all been there.

But a lot is on the line when it comes to education. A couple of bad grades won’t ruin your academic career. However, if you never take your classes seriously, you risk losing time, money, and even your enrollment. Many of us spend thousands of dollars either out of pocket or in the form of student loans each year. No one wants to add an extra semester or two at the end of their academic career. Additionally, some colleges take their students’ success very seriously, especially in graduate school.

If your GPA drops enough in certain institutions, you will be put on academic probation. Academic probation is a status applied to students who haven’t maintained minimum enrollment expectations. Basically, if you don’t raise your grade, you may lose your financial aid or get dropped from your college.

Thus, make sure you’re taking your courses seriously. Getting a bad grade in college can be a wake-up call for many. Set yourself up for success and ensure that the reason behind your bad grades isn’t just because you didn’t want to show up.

Consider What’s Holding You Back

Of course, the reason behind procrastination or minimum effort isn’t just a matter of loafing around or being lazy. Students around the globe struggle with mental health issues. Between stress, anxiety, and depression, any number of things can stop us from reaching our potential. And many others deal with physical and chronic health issues while enrolled. Sometimes we’re stopped from “doing better” by something beyond ourselves.

Many college campuses offer mental health and health clinic services to their students. Utilize these resources if you’re struggling day to day with some sort of pain or anxiety. Notably, you should never wait until it gets too hard to get out of bed in the morning. As soon as you notice signs of burnout or mental or physical health issues, make sure you take care of yourself.

Indeed, your wellness matters more than a bad grade in college.

woman doing homework

6. Ask for Help

Finally, not all plans for self-improvement can be handled alone. You may need to learn better writing skills, but those don’t develop overnight. Similarly, students who don’t understand course content won’t suddenly get it just because they want to.

If you recognize that you need help to succeed, ask for it. Truly, asking for help isn’t the easiest. Some struggle to recognize that they even need any. But the sooner you reach out to your instructor or tutoring center, the sooner your grades will improve. And the fewer bad grades you’ll receive in the meantime.

Final Thoughts

Lakewood University is an accredited online school that offers a variety of degree and certificate programs. We have rolling enrollments and asynchronous courses. In other words, you don’t have to worry about missing a lecture or running late to class. If you plan on enrolling in college while working, Lakewood University offers the flexibility you need to earn your degree.

Don’t hesitate – reach out to our admissions department today to learn more!