Must-Have Advice for Students Repeating Courses in College

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Why Students Sometimes Need a Do-Over

Students may find themselves repeating courses in college for a number of reasons. Some students may have to take a difficult class over, because of not passing it during the first attempt. Other college students may choose to take a class again to improve their grade and their grade point average (GPA), or simply to improve their knowledge of course material. Other reasons may involve individual circumstances, such as illness, personal problems, or family difficulties. Although repeating a college course should be avoided, these reasons often make it necessary.

Colleges and universities have varied policies when students retake courses. Financial aid typically does not cover repeated classes. Students are required though to pass courses that are included on a degree plan, or are necessary for entrance into a specific undergraduate or graduate program. While most schools count the highest grade of repeated courses toward a student’s GPA, retaking a class to raise it may not always be beneficial. A new grade in a repeated class that is below a student’s GPA will actually lower the average rather than raise it. A student’s GPA will likely take several semesters to recover after a low grade is received.

Advice for Students

The first step in having to retake a college class is to accept that you will have to do it. For whatever reason you are taking a course again, you should not feel embarrassed or insulted. You are repeating the class to not only pass it (if you previously did not), but to learn more and to better prepare yourself for future courses.

When repeating courses you should let the instructor or professor know that you are indeed taking the class again. With this information he or she may offer some suggestions about what to do, or not do the second time. Your instructor or professor may work with you to make sure you are learning the material and staying on track in the course. When taking a college course again, you should also:

  • Review assignments and tests from your previous class, which you should have kept. Studying the types of questions you missed will help you concentrate on what you did not understand.
  • Join a study group with conscientious classmates. They may offer you different insights on the material or be able to further explain difficult concepts.
  • Complete more homework than is assigned, especially if you are taking a math or a foreign language course. These subjects require lots of regular practice to master the fundamentals.
  • Go for tutoring. Most college campuses have tutoring centers where instructors or experienced tutors are waiting to help you.

You should remember the ultimate goal when repeating courses in college – to learn the information you need to continue your education and earn your degree. In a few years, you probably will not remember retaking a class, but you will remember your accomplishments.


Cushman, Kathleen. (2006). “First in the Family: Advice about College from First-Generation Students.”