Options if you are struggling in your courses

Overview

Many students face an academic setback at some point during their college career. We understand that it can be difficult to ask for help if you are struggling in your courses. It is normal to feel frustrated, confused, embarrassed and/or worried if you are struggling to keep up or to earn the grades you are used to earning in your courses.

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 connect with an L&S College Adviser, especially if you identify with any of the following scenarios:

  • The challenge or difficulty has been a recurring issue this semester, or for multiple semesters
  • You have had a pattern of academic difficulty in courses that are similar to each other
  • You are not declared in a major and have more than 75 units earned or in progress
  • You are currently on Academic Probation

Making changes to your course enrollments, grading options, or even withdrawing should be considered carefully. Review information about academic policies and deadlines, consider potential outcomes, and if needed, discuss your options with an L&S College Adviser before making a decision. While this page will focus on academic options and policies you may utilize, it is worth noting that sustained academic success over the long run sometimes requires making changes to how you manage your time or approach studying, or addressing other factors in your life that are impacting your ability to focus on academics. Review these pages to learn more about common causes of academic difficulty and academic support and resources that are available to you.

Academic Options

Requesting 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.

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.

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.

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.

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 option for a future semester.

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

Withdrawal

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.