Options if you are struggling in your courses

Academic Challenges and Getting Support

Many students face an academic setback at some point during their college career. UC Berkeley provides various academic support services and resources to help you get back on track. 

If you are experiencing difficulty in your coursework, we encourage you to contact your instructor to discuss the challenges you are facing and attempt to identify some strategies or resources you may utilize. We also encourage you to make an appointment with an L&S College Adviser, especially if you identify with any of the following scenarios:

  • Challenges or difficulty have been recurring issues this semester or for multiple semesters
  • You have struggled in courses that are similar to each other, especially ones related to your major direction
  • You are not declared in a major and have more than 75 units earned or in progress
  • You are currently on Academic Probation

Academic Options for Difficulty in a Course (or Courses)

This section will give you an overview of academic policies that may be options if you are encountering difficulty in a course or in your semester as a whole. 

Note that these policies have specific procedures and deadlines, so read the full information on each policy page, linked to at the bottom of the each option below. We encourage you to discuss your options with L&S Advising if you have any questions or would like advice. 

Drop a Course (Prior to Add/Drop Deadline)

Most undergraduate courses have an add/drop deadline of Wednesday of the fourth week of the semester. However, some courses have an early drop deadline during the second week of the semester. Review the current semester’s deadlines here if your are considering making changes to your schedule.

This may be a good option if:

  • You will still be enrolled in a full time (minimum 13 unit) course load after dropping the course
  • You can easily add another course to your schedule by the add/drop deadline and are confident you can catch up if dropping the course will cause you to drop below 13 units
  • You have not taken the prerequisites for course or feel certain that you do not have sufficient knowledge of the foundational concepts required for the course
  • You are concerned that you have enrolled in a combination of courses that will be too demanding or that you will be overcommitted

This may NOT be a good option if:

  • Dropping the course will place you below 13 units.
  • Dropping the course will place you in violation of a SAP appeal, or the minimum required units for your student visa status, financial aid, or student athlete standing.

Read full information about Adding/Dropping a Course here.

Change the Grading Option for a Course (prior to the deadline)

Undergraduate students have the option to change their grading option for a course until the tenth week of the semester. Taking a course letter graded means that you will receive a grade on the A through F scale and the grade you earn will be calculated into your cumulative UC Berkeley GPA. Taking a course pass/no pass means that you will either receive a grade of a P (pass) or NP (not pass). Pass grades will earn units but the course will not be calculated into your cumulative UC Berkeley GPA.

Commonly when students encounter academic difficulty, they might consider changing their grade option to P/NP so that if a non-passing grade is earned, it will not impact their GPA. The guidance below assumes you are considering changing your grading option from a letter grade to P/NP.

This may be a good option if:

  • You are earning passing letter grades in your other courses
  • The requirement you are taking the course for does not require a letter grade.
  • You have determined that you no longer need the course for your intended major, or plan to take a different class to fulfill the requirement in the future.

This may NOT be a good option if:

  • You are taking all of your other courses for P/NP grade or a combination of incompletes and P/NP grades.
  • A passing letter grade is required in order to fulfill the particular requirement you are taking the course for, like a major prerequisite.
  • You are on academic probation and are restricted from changing grading options to P/NP.

Read full information here about Grading Options here.

Request a Late Change of Class Schedule (Late drop a course or late change of grading option)

Please review the sections above about dropping a course and changing the grading option for a course prior to the deadline, as the considerations for late dropping a course or making a late change of grading option are similar.

L&S students are allowed two late changes to their class schedule during their time at UC Berkeley, so you will want to carefully consider whether to use these, especially if you are early in your undergrad career. 

This may be a good option if:

  • You are later in your undergraduate career and are comfortable with using up your allowed late changes. 
  • A single class is causing you difficulty but your other courses are going well. 
  • You are pursuing a major that restricts course repeats for admission and are struggling in a prerequisite course (see your intended major department's website for admissions requirements).

This may NOT be a good option if:

  • Late dropping a course will place you in violation of a SAP appeal, or the minimum required units for your student visa status, financial aid, or student athlete standing. 
  • You are on academic probation and attempting to late change your grade option to P/NP.
  • You are planning to withdraw from the semester. 
  • You can repeat the course, or the course has a small impact on your GPA, and you wish to save your Late Change options for the future.

Read full information about Late Changes to your Class Schedule here.


Withdrawing from the semester will drop all of your courses for the current semester. Withdrawal of a Fall or Spring semester will also cancel any enrollment in future semesters and you will need to apply for readmission in order to attend a future semester. Withdrawal has implications on financial aid, housing, student visa status, and access to resources such as SHIP health insurance and UHS Tang Center. Be sure to speak with an L&S College Adviser and review information on withdrawal before submitting a withdrawal request.

This may be a good option if:

  • You have experienced difficult or unforeseen circumstances this semester and are failing all or most of your courses.
  • You are on academic probation and failing all or most of your courses.
  • You have consulted with the relevant campus offices and understand the implications that withdrawal will have to your financial aid, housing, visa status, etc. and still feel that this is the right choice given your personal situation.

You may want to consider other options if:

  • Your instructor(s) are willing to grant you an incomplete and you may be able to pass your other courses.
  • There is a reasonable likelihood that you may pass all or most of your courses.

Read full information about Withdrawal here.

Request an Incomplete

An incomplete grade may be requested when a student has completed and passed a majority of the work required for a course but, for reasons beyond the student's control, cannot complete the entire course. Incomplete grades can only be granted by instructors and instructors are under no obligation to grant students an incomplete grade.

This may be a good option if:

  • You were completing and passing the majority of the assignments in your course, but for reasons beyond your control, you are now unable to finish your remaining assignments and/or the final exam.
  • You just need additional time to finish your remaining assignments
  • You are earning passing letter grade in your other courses this semester.

This may NOT be a good option if:

  • You have not earned passing grades on many of the course assignments or things have been bad since the beginning of the semester.
  • You will take several incompletes this semester, or a combination of incomplete and P/NP grades
  • Have concerns about the timeframe for completion outlined by your instructor

Read the full information about Incomplete Grades here.

Repeat a Course

Students may repeat courses in which a grade of D+, D, D-, F, or a NP was earned in the first attempt of the course. If you have repeated fewer than 12 units, the grade from the second attempt of the course will go into your GPA and the grade from first attempt will come out, regardless of which grade is higher. Please be mindful that repeating a course does not remove the original grade from your transcript; all attempts of a course will appear on your official transcript.

This may be a good option if:

  • You need a passing letter grade in the course for a particular requirement and you are confident that you will earn a passing grade on the second attempt.
  • Your major (or intended major) will accept the grade from the repeat attempt.
  • The course is required for graduation and there are limited or no other alternative course options to fulfill the requirement.

This may NOT be a good option if:

  • You are not confident that you will earn a higher grade on the second attempt.
  • You do not need the course to fulfill any requirements.
  • There are other courses you could take to fulfill the requirement.
  • Your major (or intended major) will not accept the grade from the repeat attempt.
  • The combination of courses you are enrolled in will be overly demanding with the addition of the repeat course.
  • You earned a passing grade (C- or higher) on your first attempt of the course. No units or grade points will be granted for repeats of passing grades.

Read full information about Course Repeats here.

Academic Support and Resources

Looking to improve your experience at UC Berkeley? Many resources exist on campus that, together, can support you holistically. Below are some highlights, but to explore even more resources across campus, check out Berkeley Recalibrate

Student Learning Center (SLC)

The SLC is the premier undergraduate academic support unit at UC Berkeley. The SLC has grown to serve more than 10,000 undergraduates annually - with a wide range of classes, programs, and events, the SLC seeks to push the boundaries of traditional learning models, while advancing our mission of undergraduate empowerment. The SLC can help students in Math and Statistics, Economics, Writing, and in many other things. They also provide holistic academic support through their Strategic Learning Program. 

To learn more, visit the Student Learning Center website.

Residence Hall Academic Centers

The Academic Centers in the Residence Halls provides a one-stop-shop for academic support, services, and resources for students living in the residence halls. One of the benefits of living in-residence is that you don’t have to go outside your home to find technical support, peer advising, tutoring, flexible study spaces, even a computer resource center. Whether you would like extra help with coursework, need to talk to someone about choosing a major, or just want a place to study with your friends, the Academic Centers located in the residence halls are the place to go.

To learn more, visit the Academic Centers website.

Career Counseling Assessment and Library

The Career Counseling Library provides comprehensive counseling services to help you select a major and make career decisions. Many students find the process of selecting a major at UC Berkeley to be challenging. Some students with many interests may feel anxious narrowing their choices for the purpose of declaring a major, while others may feel their family wants them to choose a specific major that is not well-suited to their interests and abilities. The Career Counseling Library offers a variety of services that can be helpful if you are trying to choose a major and/or make decisions about your career.

To learn more, visit the Career Counseling Library website.

Centers for Educational Equity and Excellence (CE3)

CE3 ensures non-traditional students excel at the top public University in the world. By respecting every undergraduate as a unique individual, CE3 programs empower UC Berkeley students to achieve and lead. CE3 is comprised of several programs and centers, including the Educational Opportunities Program (EOP), Transfer Student Center, and the Undocumented Student Program (USP).

To learn more, visit the CE3 website.

Disabled Students’ Program (DSP)

DSP supports students with disabilities in achieving academic success at the world’s top-ranked public higher education institution. Staff includes disability specialists, professional development counselors, and accessibility experts that work with students with disabilities throughout their educational career. DSP Specialists can help you obtain academic accommodations, such as note-taking, proctoring exams via DSP, class accessibility, etc.

To learn more, visit the DSP website.

Departmental Resources

Some UC Berkeley departments may provide tutoring or have advice on resources to use for their classes. If you are hoping to prepare for a specific course, try contacting the department to ask if they have resources for academic success to suggest or visit the major department website to see if they have a list of resources online.

General Tips for Academic Success

Here are some useful, general, tips for academic success to consider as you are on your academic journey at UC Berkeley:

  • Know the specific deadlines for adjusting and finalizing your schedule. Plan your semester accordingly.
  • Prioritize and organize your study and personal time into effective daily and weekly patterns.
  • Keep regular study hours and find the right kind of study environment for you.
  • Maintain a personal academic calendar to keep track of exam dates and deadlines for assignments. Plan and prepare for exams and papers in advance.
  • Engage fully in your courses. Attend all lectures, seek out your instructors, take advantage of office hours, and ask questions.
  • Review comments and grades you receive on exams and papers. If you have questions, discuss them with your instructors or GSIs.
  • Create your own resource network. Make a list of phone numbers and email addresses of faculty, GSIs, advisers, tutors and at least one other student from each class.
  • Find at least one mentor each semester (a faculty member, GSI, staff member, or experienced peer) to help you establish, nurture, and execute your plan for success.