9 days ago
Admissions Advice

I have one F on my HS transcript in Honors Precalculus, am I hopeless for college?

Hi! I'm currently a Junior in highschool and I recently received a 59% in my math course for Honors Precalc. The first semester I had a high C in the class as it was very new and difficult for me especially as a math course since math isn't my best skill but I did my best to push through this new challenge. The teacher is very nice and is an amazing person, but even though this class was labeled Honors Precalc, it was taught at an AP level so the curriculum was very fast and highly demanding.

I recently found out near the beginning of this semester I have severe anemia after fainting in my 3rd period biotech class so I had to miss school for multiple doctors visits as I constantly would get very sick to the point where I could barely stand up and would constantly vomit every morning after I tried eating something. Two of my very close family members also have passed away this semester so home life wasn't very great for me at this time either.

Though I really didn't want to use my situation as an excuse, I still really tried my best in all my classes but in the end I still wasn't able get a good grade in precalculus which made me really disappointed in myself. My counselor had mentioned that I could take the course online over the summer and if I get an A it will also be added into my transcript next to the F. I still want to try hard and get an A on this class over the summer so I can understand the material that I didn't get during the school year too. Mainly I have been feeling down because of my grade and I also did some research and a lot of people mentioned that when a college sees an F on your transcript they won't even look at your application and it will be discarded so that really scared me.

(I also wasn't able to stay for tutoring due to my circumstances and my home was also very far from school so it would be around 9:00 by the time I get home from tutoring. The trigonometry unit & graphings was a topic I had really struggled with which I didn't do the best in and my grade dropped from there on) My overall grades over the years aren't the best I'd say, to me they are moderate I would get a few C's here and there but mostly A's and B's.

Junior year I'm currently taking Honors Precalc, AP Lang, AP Chem, Biotech (STARR & EHA Prog Also part of one of my extracurriculars), Honors U.S. History, Theatre, & Counseling 1 (College Course dual enrollment)

College Courses I have taken: (Alg 2 over the summer so I can move up in math) Intermediate Alg 125, grade: A, (for art credit req. got it done over the summer) Intro to ART, grade: A, (Seemed like an interesting class so I took it in the mornings during spring sem) Counseling 1, grade: A

Overall gpa: 3.62

UC Gpa: 3.4

Extracurriculars over the years: (Added lengthy explanations for each sorry for the overwriting)

1. Cross Country 9-10th --> After school practices weekly from 6th period - 5:30 & running everyday. Every Thursday’s compete with other high school 3 mile races & sometimes invitationals and Saturday practices at Griffith Park 8am-12pm Long Run.        

2. International PEN PAL school club 11-12th --> Founder of an international pen pals club at school with 30 current official members and we connect with students their age internationally ex. Estonia, Morocco, France, Italy, Turkey, Korea, Japan etc. & we do paper letter sending and online letters and we also are planning on a partnership ongoing starting a summer + yearlong program for connecting to students in Spain & Japan for committed students that sign up, we will connect that with Let’s Talk.

3. Let’s Talk -- Pen Pal Partner Org. 11-12th --> (Founded too) This part of our club is a partner non profit org where its an online organization that focuses on aspects on mental health we will soon launch this as we are taking preparations. Here we have weekly blogs, padlets, and discussion sessions, interviews with multiple people from different schools, podcasts and also plan small in person events with potential guest speakers or have club events/activities like counseling and meeting others just like you creating a safe place to talk about yourself and situations that you can't normally talk about easily so you can share your stories to a supportive non-judgemental groups. (The launch for this will be mid summer possibly if everything works out well). 

4. LAPL Library volunteering summer session - 10th --> Computer work (deleting books/answering calls)Book Shelving/ Book ordering/ Book reviewsHelping out in children's events & General Errands, 50+ hours

5. HOSA & STARR EHA Biotechnology Program - 11th-12th --> HOSA is a healthcare organization for students to participate in (Our School only open to students in the biotech program to learn more about being a healthcare professional and professions in that field. I got a certificate for active continuous participation in the club and also a certificate for competing in a speech competition and winning regionals going to compete in state. The STARR & EHA Biotechnology Program is a two year program that I'm currently part of in which we have to take the course "Biotech" mentioned above which is a rigorous course where we train for second year in which we will be working in a lab at USC helping with real current research. Three years of training is pushed into a single year of the Biotech course to get us prepared to see if we will be selected to move onto second year. We learned a variety of topics and had modules on them in which we earned certificates if we did well such as Stem Cell CIRM Module from Pasadena city college (earned certificate), Data Science (USC Viterbi), CTSI Clinical Health module etc. so we constantly did work, certifications, projects and more. Recently, I have also been selected to continue onto second year to work in the labs at USC with current researchers (Will also earn a stipend for that to ~$1,000 - $1,200) so I'm really exited for that.

6. USC Viterbi Neuroscience summer Research Program 10th --> Has one session every week for about one month, Guest Speakers, Lessons, Project Prep. Teaches about neuroscience and has us do a research project and present in front of professors, USC students etc. (Online at that time due to covid restrictions) Earned Certificate of Completion and full participation

7. Theater--Hall of Horrors & Spring Play 11th --> Play a character - Tom Snout and help with preparation stage design in the Midsummer nights dream play by Shakespeare and will be the first official school wide play at Bravo will be April 25, 2024. Participated in hall of horrors as an actor plus preparation plus hall design. (Used this opportunity to challenge my social anxiety and stage fright and also be part of stage design so I could draw backgrounds and make props along with being part of a live play which has always been a childhood dream of mine even though it sounds silly)

8. BMP@USC - Student to Student Mentorship Program 11th --> In this program we had to apply through an application and after getting in we are put in groups and assigned to 2-3 mentors that you will meet with every month for sessions regarding medical professions and the healthcare field. We get to meet doctors, professors, and even have guest speakers as well along with hands on practice using medical equipment such as a blood pressure machine, stethoscope, and how to properly give vaccines!

9. PUENTE Summer Career Academy 11th --> Explored career interests by learning about the ever-shifting workforce, seized opportunities, and cultivate a supportive network, propelling towards success in my next college and career goals. Incentives: At the end of the program, students will receive a $200 stipend for their participation and commitment (Have to prepare a project in those five weeks and present at the end).Four week long summer program in which students learn about various career fields, connect with industry professionals, and begin to prepare for their future.

10. Summer Bridge Leader 11th --> Student Bridge Leaders (SBLs) are students who undergo training to facilitate team-building activities for our incoming students. They operate under the guidance of a certified staff member. As mentors, student leaders provide support for group projects throughout the program. SBLs can earn volunteer-service hours for their leadership contributions. Applications are open to current 11th-grade students interested in serving as either volunteers or student workers. Both roles carry equal responsibilities as Summer Bridge Leaders. Was recently accepted for being one of the summer bridge leader from a large applicant pool, will start in summer.

11. Chemistry Olympiad 10th grade --> Spent a lot of time aside schoolwork studying for this official chemistry exam competition. I scored the highest among all first year chemistry students in regionals on that exam so I won a certificate for it.

12. Part Time Job (Not enough info yet since I'm recently starting but will add)

13. Pfizer High School Student Hospital Volunteer (Not enough info yet since I'm recently starting but will add)

--> These are some of my main extracurriculars, there were a few more but they were not as important and pretty much only hobbies.

--> I really wanted to give a sort of an idea of my whole academic and extracurricular profile to see what other people would think about this. I feel like from my position currently, even if I don't get into the best college or even any college at all I wouldn't regret anything I did in high school because it really helped me learn and grow as a person and all my extracurriculars I did and am doing are purely only from my own self interests. I will accept any harsh criticism since I'm very aware these days the competition for colleges are very high and there are many bright students out there who do so much more and are more accomplished. I just wanted to have an idea of where I would lie in terms of college apps and if I stand a chance?

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Accepted Answer
8 days ago

Hi! I'm a junior (rising senior) as well!

Fun fact, CollegeVine already has an in-depth blog post about this which will certainly help you and will explain better since my answer can't be too long: blog.collegevine.com/will-failing-a-class-impact-my-application

My answer will just simply be a summary of that if you don't want to reach too much.

1. Will a Failing Grade Impact My Application?

Short answer: Yes. However, 1 failing grade is not the end of the world. If you frame it right, it shouldn't completely ruin your chances.

2. What are Some Factors That Impact How Colleges Perceive Your Failing Grade?

Short answer:

1. Failing a class related to your major (e.g., failing Honors Pre-calc but your pursued major is in the STEM field) is worse than failing an unrelated class (e.g., failing music but your pursued major is in the STEM field).

2. Failing a core class (English/language arts, math, science, history/social studies/humanities, and foreign language) is worse than non-core classes (e.g., woodshop, media design, PE, and architecture).

3. What Should You Do When You Failed the Class (and Overall Grade Trends)?

Short answer:

1. While every grade matters, your freshman grades are worth less than your sophomore year grades, your sophomore grades are worth less than your junior grades, and so on. This is because colleges want to see upward grade progression. So in your cases, having high grades (e.g., all As in senior year) would help.

2. The latter the failed class is in your high school career, the more questions admission officers will have.

4. How Will It Impact Within the Overall Context Within Your Application?

Short answer:

1. Colleges understand people aren't perfect robots. If you have one slip up on a very difficult class (e.g., AP Physics C class), but demonstrate high performance overall, they will still be understanding.

2. However, contrary to point 1, the more competitive the school is, the most likely it will not be as understanding. So be sure to keep that in mind.

3. Do not fail classes multiple times.

5. Will Colleges Look at My Extenuating Circumstances? / How Do You Compensate For Having Failed a Class?

Short Answer:

1. Let colleges know about your situation.

2. Be honest and include that in the "Additional Information Section" on Common App. You have 650 words to explain various things if you need.

3. Strengthen other parts of your application. E.g., SAT, ACT, AP scores, ECs, essays, letter of recommendation, etc.

Final Personal Thoughts (not in the blog):

Personally, I do think that it is not the end just because you failed that class. However, make sure you do your best from now on and you should be fine. Just keep in mind that your ECs are strong, so emphasize that throughout your essays, resume, etc. I'm sure colleges will recognize those efforts if you frame and highlight the good parts and be honest about that poor grade you just received. Finally, don't worry, we all have worried about whether or not we will get into college. It's a worry all high schoolers have. (Sorry this is long, haha.)

I hope this will shed some insight into your college admission process.


SilverDragon (11th/rising 12th, Class of 2025, from Japan, recovered GPA from 2.9 (last in my grade) to 3.8 in 2 years (average in my grade))

What are your chances of acceptance?
Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
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Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

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