How to Handle an F on a Report Card

F on report card - how to handle an F - disappointed student photo

An F on a report card is disappointing, but there are healthy and unhealthy ways to handle that disappointment.

You can also check out this article to learn more about what an F means, how F grades impact GPA, and how to expunge an F from your academic records.

Communicating with your parents (or your child) is often the hardest part of getting an F on a report card. While we can’t take away the pain, we can give you some tips for how to avoid making a bad situation worse.

How do I tell my mom or dad about an F on a report card?

Further below, we’ll share advice for how parents can deal with the news of an F, but we’ll start from the student’s perspective.

Often the hardest part of a bad grade is communicating that to your parents. First, if you expect to be harmed physically when you share the news, then you need to bring another adult you trust into the situation.

This trusted adult can be a counselor, teacher, principal, or someone else. The rest of our advice will assume you are not in a situation of physical danger.

1. Think About What To Say

Even if your explanation is short and sweet, it’s worth thinking through the phrasing of how you want to bring it up, and what you want to say.

2. Choose the Right Time

If your parents are stressed, busy, or distracted, it’s good to look for a time when they’re in a better mood and might handle the news better. However, there’s never a perfect time, which brings us to our next point.

3. Don’t Delay

The longer you delay talking with your parents, the worse it’s going to get. First, you’ll spend more time dreading the conversation (which might not be so bad).

Second, there will be less time to potentially work with the teacher and rectify the situation together.

Third, if you wait long enough for your parents to hear the news from your school or teacher, it’s going to be a much worse situation than just telling them yourself.

4. Accept Responsibility

Parents are disappointed by poor grades, but they also (hopefully) care about you as a human being. If they see you being mature and being honest about the reasons for the F, the conversation is going to go a lot better.

Blaming the teacher or ranting is likely to make your parents feel like you’re immature, leading to a worse response from them, and a worse outcome for you.

5. Show Motivation

In the end, your parents want to see that you have an inner desire to change. You might consider saying something like, “I know this is disappointing for all of us and I want to work to change things.”

Even something simple like this can show them that you are motivated to change.

6. Present a Plan

Showing motivation gives some hope, but giving a specific plan is even more impressive. If you put together steps like talking to the teacher and setting homework and study times, those should impress your parents that things are actually going to change.

7. Listen

Just as you want to be heard and not talked over, your parents want to feel like you’re listening to their advice. It can be hard not to interject, but it will likely go over better if you try to listen to your parents’ response without interrupting a lot.

Talking with your parents is only one part of dealing with a disappointing grade, but it’s a hard part! We hope these tips help and we wish you the best—you can do it.

How Should I Handle an F on a Report Card?

Discussing the report card with your parents is just one step of handling an F. Assuming the F is primarily due to your performance in the class and not something else, what is the underlying cause?

For example, if there are relational or emotional things you’re working through, consider talking those out with a trusted friend, adult, or counselor.

If your schedule is just too packed with activities, consider which ones are most valuable and important to you, and think about cutting down on the others.

If you’re lacking motivation, think about what things your future self is really going to value, and how your grades relate to your life goals.

Narrowing in on a career you’re interested in can help with that, and there are some great free tools online to help you think about your future career.

When you get a disappointing report card, it’s good to try to pinpoint the real reasons for it. Change is only going to happen if you want it, so keeping an incentive in mind can be powerful.

How to Handle It When Your Teen or Child Gets an F

On the other side of the coin, you may be a mom or dad wondering how to handle it when your child gets an F.

Obviously this varies by age—are they in grade school, high school, or college? There are also two facets to your response—how you think about that F on the report card, and what you say about it.

While your feelings can be private, they often come through in how you communicate with your child. If you do feel anxious about not being able to control or shape your child’s actions, it’s good to work through that by talking with a partner, friend, or counselor.

One of the hardest aspects of parenting is the balance of how to guide your child without stifling them, providing an appropriate level of support and input.

While sorting out your own emotions is an important step, some tips for conversations with your student are also useful. For that, we’d recommend these tips from Cleveland Clinic pediatrician Courtney Nolan, DO:

  1. Address the importance of grades early
  2. Separate the child from the grade
  3. Approach the subject with concern, not anger
  4. Ask questions
  5. Talk to the teacher
  6. Know that rewards and punishment don’t work if you want your child to love learning
  7. Beware of pressure
  8. Take the simplest steps first

How to Read Report Card Comments

Comments on a disappointing report card can also give insights on what students need to change.

While no substitute for a conversation with the teacher, the comments are a good start in understanding what the teacher or school administration sees as the core problem.

How to Appeal Grades

Teachers are humans, and humans make mistakes. Occasionally, humans treat certain students unfairly. Even if the teacher was correct in giving an F, it’s worth seeing what can be done to pass the course.

Schools should have a published policy on grade appeals, and you’ll want to follow that closely. Succinctly outlining your reasons for the appeal will give you the best chance of success.

At the college level, grade appeals will usually go to the professor’s supervisor, such as a chair or dean. There may be a committee that appeals these grade appeals.

More straightforward appeals just dealing with a student’s situation will likely be handled faster. If there is an accusation of faculty misconduct, expect the investigation to take longer.

In this case, you’ll want to document as much evidence as you can, and ask classmates to assist you in providing documentation or sharing what they have witnessed.

What To Do After an F

First, remember that an F on your report card isn’t the end of the world. Many people have done things that are much worse, and recovered from them.

In high school, you can always retake classes and graduate. If you don’t get into your target school, you can always take community college courses and transfer in.

We share more facts about F grades and how to potentially expunge an F in this article.

Keeping a positive outlook can be hard, but things can always get better, and we believe in you. Now go out there and accomplish your dreams!