Answers to All Your Questions About Retaking College Classes

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Many people are interested in retaking college classes if they fail a course, want to improve their grade for grad school, or are trying to raise their GPA.  Luckily, most colleges have a policy that allows retaking classes if students meet specific criteria. 

Since there seems to be a lot of confusion and questions about how to go about retaking college classes, let’s look at the most common questions.

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Is it possible to retake college classes for better grades?

Each college has its own grade forgiveness policy (sometimes referred to as grade replacement) for retaking college courses. In general, grade forgiveness allows students to retake a certain number of courses that they got a low grade in, and the new grade replaces the former grade when calculating GPA.

Some areas where schools differ on their policy include: 

  • What grade you have to receive to retake the class: Most schools require the student’s grade to be a C- or below
  • How many times you can retake the class: Many schools only allow you to retake a class 3 times. 
  • How many classes can be retaken for grade replacement: Some schools limit the number of times students can use this policy to between 2-5 times.
  • How they include retaken classes when calculating your GPA: Normally, the most recent grade is included in your GPA. 
  • How the attempts appear on your transcript: Most schools show each attempt and mark which ones were included in your GPA.
  • If the repeated course can be used for credit each time: Normally, the course can only be included in credit hours one time. However, for courses that have topics that change each semester (such as some music classes or a sociology course that focuses on something different each term), you may be able to retake the course for additional credit hours.

Below, we will go over some of the most common rules on these points, but you must check your school’s website, handbook, or talk to your academic advisor to find out the specifics of your school’s policy for retaking courses.

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Can you retake a course even if you passed?

As a general rule, most colleges only allow students who earned an unsatisfactory grade (C- or below) to retake a class. However, some colleges allow students to retake classes regardless of their grade, and others only allow students that failed to retake the class. 

Can you retake classes after you graduate college to raise your GPA?

Students cannot retake classes after they graduate college to raise their GPA. A student’s college GPA and final transcript are recorded after their final semester when their degree has been granted, and this transcript cannot be changed.

If you really want to retake classes to raise your GPA, you should consider delaying graduation. 

If you still want to retake the class to show grad schools that you understand the material and have improved, then you can reapply as a non-degree student and take the course either at the same school or at a different school. The course won’t be eligible for grade forgiveness and will be on a separate transcript, but it will show progress and that you are capable.  

Additionally, grad schools often add up all your courses when calculating your cumulative GPA—in this case, getting a good grade in any course (whether new or retaken) will improve your GPA.

However, this is not always the case. Some grad schools only look at your GPA upon graduation, others focus on your last credits, and some only look at classes related to the major.

You should reach out to grad schools you are interested in to find how they calculate your GPA. 

For help with how to get into grad school with a low GPA or how to talk about your low GPA, check out our guide on What to Do if You Graduate With a Bad GPA (Your Next Steps)Opens in a new tab..

Does retaking a course replace the grade?

Each college has its own policy on retaking courses. The most common policy is to use the most recent grade, but some schools average the grades, other schools keep both grades, and occasionally a school will keep the higher grade.

If you retake a course for a third time, usually the second and third attempts are both used to calculate your GPA.

What happens if you retake a class and get a lower grade the second time?

In general, schools use the most recent grade to calculate the student’s GPA, even if the student gets a lower grade when they retake a class.

Most schools, such as The University of MemphisOpens in a new tab., follow this policy of using the most recent grade. However, some colleges have even more severe consequences if you do worse the second time you take a course:

  • If you retake a course at the University of IllinoisOpens in a new tab. and fail it the second time, they use both grades when calculating your GPA. 
  • The University of ColoradoOpens in a new tab. is even stricter. If you get a lower grade the second time (even if you pass), they factor both grades into your GPA.

While it is rare, some schools, such as Manhattan CollegeOpens in a new tab., will only count the highest grade in your GPA. 

You will need to check your school’s policy.

Will retaking a class raise your gpa?

Retaking classes can improve a student’s GPA, but how much it raises their GPA depends on how much higher their grade is and how the school factors the retake attempts into the student’s GPA. Overall, retaking a class only slightly raises a student’s GPA.

If the college uses the most recent grade (or the higher grade), and the retake grade is significantly higher (such as an A instead of an F), it will improve the student’s GPA. If the college averages the grades to calculate GPA, retaking a class will not significantly raise a student’s GPA. 

To learn more about how your GPA is calculated, check out our post: “How to Find Out Your GPA During College and After You GraduateOpens in a new tab.“.

Do retaken classes appear on transcripts?

At most colleges in the United States, the grades from all classes (including each retake) will appear on the student’s transcript. 

Colleges have different ways of denoting that the course was retaken. Some of the most common methods are: 

  • Change your initial grade to an “NP” (not passing) and then show your grade for when you retook the class. 
  • Change your initial grade to “NC” (No Credit), which shows that you did not pass and that it is not factored into your GPA. 
  • An “R” is next to each listing of the class on your transcript to indicate that you repeated the course. 
  • Show the original grade on your transcript with an E next to it. This shows that it is excluded from your GPA and credit hours. The repeated listing has an R next to it to show the repeat counts towards your credit and GPA.
  • Show the original grade on your transcript with an E next to it. This shows that it is excluded from your GPA and credit hours. The repeated listing has an I next to it to show that it is included in your credit hours and GPA.

An extremely rare school may allow you to appeal to have the first bad grade removed from your transcript. 

Does retaking classes look bad on transcripts? 

It looks bad on transcripts if students get the same or a lower grade upon retaking a course. This shows that the student didn’t learn from their first mistakes and does not understand the material. 

If the student gets a significantly higher grade, retaking classes looks good on transcripts because it shows that they were able to master the material, learn from their mistakes, and are determined to improve. This confirms to grad schools that they understand the concepts that will be built upon. 

However, if retaking courses is done repeatedly, it does not look good. It looks like the student is abusing the grade forgiveness policy. Grad schools want to see a progression of classes, not students retaking the same classes again and again. 

Do you have to pay to retake a college course?

For credit hour tuition, students have to pay for each credit hour they take, even if they are retaking a course. For flat-rate tuition, students pay a set rate and can take between 12-20 credit hours. In this case, students could retake the course with their other semester courses, and there would be no additional cost to them. 

Even though with flat-rate tuitionOpens in a new tab., you may not have additional costs, you still have to factor the opportunity cost since you have spend the time to take the course, which could be used to take a new course. 

In general, each time you take a course, you have to pay for the course since you take a spot in that class that requires your professor to grade your assignments and exams.

If the course requires a newer version of the textbook or changes textbooks, you may have to pay for books again when you retake a college class. 

Some financial aid does not pay for a retake or may require your full-time status to be met by being enrolled in at least 12 new credit hours (meaning you would need to take 12 credits plus the retake course). 

Additionally, some grants, loans, or scholarships may have GPA requirements, so if you fail a course, you may lose future financial aid or even have to pay the money for that term back. This is not always the case, so check with your financial aid office before you panic.

Now that you know what retaking college classes entails and how it affects your GPA and appears on your transcript, check out Part 2 of this guide: 5 Reasons You Should Retake Classes (& 6 Reasons You Shouldn’t)Opens in a new tab..

2 thoughts on “Answers to All Your Questions About Retaking College Classes

  1. Hi Grace,
    Thank you so much for your information! I have a question. When do I have to retake a class after the failed class. For example, I failed class A, do I have to retake the class A right after I finish it, say the next semester?

    1. Unless the course is a prerequisite for another course, you normally are not required to retake it right away. However, if you know that you will retake the course, I would strongly recommend retaking it right away so that the material is still fresh in your mind. This can help you to do better in the course the second time.

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