What Are Passing Grades in College?

  • A passing grade in college is typically 65% or higher – that’s a midrange D or better.
  • Passing grades may vary by college, class, and instructor, so it’s important to understand scaling in each case.
  • Your GPA can affect grants and scholarships, so while 65% may be a passing grade, it may not be enough to maintain scholarships.

In general, 65% or higher is considered a passing grade in college.

Although you’ve been familiar with grades from the time you were in elementary school, it may feel as though they carry a different weight in college. Most colleges use letter grades (A, B, C, D, F) to signify how well you are doing in your class, which then translates into a number for your grade point average (GPA). But figuring out what makes a passing grade can be tricky. Let’s take a look at the grading system and what qualifies as passing.

Why Passing Grades are Important

Grades aren’t just about getting through the school year; they shape your future opportunities and achievements. Even though passing a class with a 65 might be “enough,” aiming higher can offer numerous benefits and prevent expensive consequences. Here’s why it matters to work hard for good and high grades:

  • You want to go to graduate school: A lot of graduate programs have rules about how high your grades need to be to get in, and having better than “just passing” grades can make it easier for you to get accepted.
  • You want a specific job: Some employers look at how well you did in school when you apply for a job. Grades affect your GPA and a low GPA can limit your opportunities for a competitive job.
  • You want to graduate on time: Focusing on your grades and overall GPA ensures that you stay on track to graduate on time. Failing to pass required courses can result in you having to retake the class to earn the credits you need to graduate. This delays your graduation and prolongs your time in college. That means both additional expenses and missed opportunities.
  • You want to maintain aid. If you are receiving merit aid or other earned scholarships and grants, a “D” grade may not be enough. It’s important to understand GPA requirements for all of you aid so you can earn the grades you need to keep that free money for college. If you loose scholarships and merit aid, you could have to apply for more loans resulting in a more expensive education.

Is a D a Passing Grade?

In most colleges, a “D” (65%) is considered the minimum passing grade, but it is just barely passing. However, this could differ depending on the college you’re in. Sometimes, colleges want you to get at least a “C” to pass a class. This can also change depending on the teacher. Some professors have varying cutoff grades and may require a higher minimum grade for passing.

This makes it really important to understand the grading scale that your college and/or professor uses. If you’re worried about failing or getting a “D”, it might be a good idea to get some extra help, like tutoring or going to see your professor during their office hours.

What if I Know I Won’t Pass?

There may come a time when you know you might not pass a class. Maybe you are juggling too much, or distracting things are going on in your personal life. But before you stress about failing—hang in there! There may be alternatives to help you.

  • Drop the class: Check to see if you can drop the class. If you drop before the deadline, it won’t show up on your transcript.
  • Ask for extra credit: If you can’t drop the class, don’t be afraid to talk to your professor and ask for ways to help boost your grade.
  • Find a tutor: Someone who specializes in the subject you are studying may be just the resource you need to pass this class.

Pass/Fail Classes

Pass/fail classes are a bit different from regular classes. Instead of getting a letter grade, you either “pass” or “fail” a class. These classes can be a good option if you want to explore a subject without worrying too much about your grade. As long as you pass, these courses won’t impact your GPA. However, if you fail, that means you did not meet the class requirements and your GPA may be lowered.

How To Get Good Grades

Getting good grades requires more than just showing up for class and completing your coursework. Whether you’re just starting college, or you’re in your last year, there are always strategies you can use to improve your grades.

Read Your Syllabus

Your professor created this to be a helpful resource for you! Reading the course syllabus carefully helps you know what’s expected in the course, including assignments, how you’ll be graded, and important deadlines. This makes it easier to plan your study schedule and stay on track.

Actively Participate in Class

Participating in class by asking questions and taking notes can help you better understand and retain the course material. Get to know your professor as well. They may be an extra help for you if needed throughout the semester.

Manage Your Time Wisely

Not only will managing your schedule give you the time to complete your assignments, but it also allows you to not stress as much. Try to find balance in your schedule. Set aside time for studying, attending classes, completing assignments, and for things you enjoy, like hanging out with friends or binge-watching your favorite shows.

Find a planner to help you manage your time and assignments.

Create Good Study Habits

What works for one person might not work for everyone. Take the time to find the study habits that work for you. Here are some that you can try when studying:

  • Set goals
  • Take breaks
  • Find a comfortable place to study on or off campus
  • Reward yourself
  • Join a study group
  • Find online resources
  • Quiz yourself with practice tests
  • Turn off your phone
  • Avoid cramming
  • Go to office hours
  • Find a tutor
  • Create study guides

Embrace Learning (Not Just Passing)

When you prioritize the process of learning, you’ll likely begin to notice improvements in your academic performance. Not every class may capture your interest but try shifting your perspective. Instead of just trying to pass, try to enjoy learning. You never know, you might discover a passion for something unexpected. It’s not just about getting passing grades; it’s about preparing for life after college. Learning doesn’t stop when you graduate, so take time to appreciate it.

Have you been receiving good grades lately? Check out the scholarships you could get for FREE. Use College Raptor’s Scholarship Search tool to find them easily.

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