Should you repeat a class if you didn't do so well in it the first time? Read through our helpful tips and considerations before making your choice.
When you don't perform as well as you'd like in a course, we know it's tempting to seek a do-over. But repeating a course isn't a decision to make lightly. Make sure to consider your motivations and understand the rules and repercussions before deciding to take a course for the second time.
For the university's official policy statement on repeat courses, consult the Registar's website linked below. On this page, your Academic Advisors offer their explanation of the repeat course policy and some important things to keep in mind before deciding whether to repeat a course or not.
Know the Rules
Most classes at Stanford are not repeatable for credit, meaning you can only earn the units for them once. You may choose to repeat the course a second time. But if you technically passed the class the first time around (i.e. earned either a Credit grade or a D- or better Letter Grade), you will not gain any additional units for taking the class again.
If you choose to repeat a non-repeatable-for-credit class, the second grade will replace the first grade in your GPA calculation. The course will still show up on your transcript twice, but the first grade will be overwritten by the notation "RP," meaning "repeated." Note that this process is not instantaneous. Rather, the Registrar does a recurring check for repeat grades each quarter and updates each repeat grade manually. If you have a time-sensitive issue with repeat grades on your transcript, you may submit a Service Now ticket to the Registrar.
If you have a 'W' notation for a course (meaning you Withdrew after the add/drop deadline), this is not considered a completed course grade. Therefore, a 'W' cannot be overwritten on your transcript by repeating the course.
Generally, you cannot enroll in a non-repeatable-for-credit class for a third time. In most cases, this is only allowed when the class was failed the second time or if a specific grade is needed to meet major requirements. If you are considering taking a class for a third time, you will need to consult with your Academic Advisor on how to proceed. Be aware that if your request is granted, the grade you received the second time around will remain on your record. It will NOT be overwritten by an "RP," and the grades you received for the second and third time will both factor into your GPA calculation as separate grades.
Keep in mind that certain classes are designed to be repeated for credit, such as physical education classes, many creative writing classes, certain speaker series classes, and so forth. These special courses will be labeled “Repeatable for Credit” in ExploreCourses, and you can earn additional units each time you take the course again. Repeating one of these courses will not replace an earlier grade with a 'RP'. Note that individual repeatable-for-credit courses may set a limit on the maximum number of times that you can repeat them.
What's Your Reason for Repeating?
If you want to increase your GPA, think carefully about why you need the GPA boost and what the best way might be to achieve it. We encourage you to talk with your major advisor and your Academic Advisor about how much GPA matters for your field and for your career plans. And do the math to see how much difference it will really make. Keep in mind, too, that the GPA impact of any single class diminishes the more classes you take, and that you can increase your GPA just by taking additional classes and doing well in them. If you are repeating to increase your GPA for med school or law school, be aware that these schools may calculate your GPA differently and may take even repeated grades into account. You may want to consult with a pre-med or pre-law advisor on how helpful repeating a class might actually be.
If you need to fulfill a major requirement, check that you are acting on accurate information. Review policies in writing and ask your department if you’ve interpreted them correctly. Ask if the department allows for exceptions (for example, whether a required class you took for CR can count if the instructor passes along the letter grade you would have received). Departments have the last word on what fulfills their requirements, so it's always worth asking about your case!
If you need to strengthen your knowledge of a particular area and your future classes or activities will build on that knowledge, then generally, yes, that’s a strong reason to repeat the course. To help create the best conditions for learning, we encourage you to retake the course in a quarter when you aren't overwhelmed with other difficult classes, and to take advantage of tutoring resources if they are available.
Things to Consider
Academic Progress Requirements and Graduation
Remember that when you repeat a class where you have already earned the units once, you will not earn those units for a second time. (Technically speaking, the units get subtracted from your first course enrollment instance and added to your second course enrollment instance, so that there is no net gain in units.) This may put you at risk of not meeting your minimum requirements for satisfactory academic progress. Even if you remain in good academic standing, remember that you need to earn 180 units to graduate, and that repeating courses often means you are treading water rather than moving closer towards that goal.
Classes Aren't Easier the Second Time Around
Don’t assume that just because a class is a repeat, it’s going to be easier. And definitely don’t assume you’ll automatically get a higher grade! Maybe the class has changed-- professors regularly refresh their material even when teaching the same class, and if the instructor isn’t the same one you had before, the class may be even more different. Or maybe you understood the earlier material in the course, but then lost track. In this case, the course might feel easy at first, but will suddenly start taking more time and energy after the first few weeks. Keep in mind that when you repeat a class, the second grade will overwrite the first grade in your GPA calculation regardless of whether you do better or worse.
Maximize Your Chances For Success
If you are set on repeating a course, make strategic choices about when to repeat the class and what else you'll be taking on that quarter. You want to give yourself the best possible chance of doing well, so avoid repeating a class during a heavy quarter or during a time when you know you'll be tackling several very difficult classes!