I am intending to purposefully try to fail a course to stay an extra semester, so I can finalize some research projects which can't be finalized otherwise. My current GPA is 3.82. How badly would that be reflected on my master's admission?

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    – ff524
    Dec 20, 2017 at 3:47
  • I would suggest applying for graduation the next semester.
    – xyz123
    Dec 20, 2017 at 7:53
  • 3
    Where are you? This was common practice at my university, failing on purpose on selected courses in order to space the exams better, or in years with exceptionally hard courses. The theory+laboratory courses were always almost twice as time consuming than their credit. It even had a name. Cont'ing (As you would have to meet on the Continuation Exam). Org Chem was a popular "cont". So was Adv. and Appl Thermodynamics. But that was in the 5 year masters program. If you failed any class, you'd get 2 attempts to pass (but in reality 4, since you could do also attempt next years regular exam)
    – Stian
    Dec 20, 2017 at 11:02
  • In my Austrian university there would be no record of your failure. In the US, there would be.
    – henning
    Dec 20, 2017 at 17:05

9 Answers 9


Explore all other options first. Seriously. Talk to professors whom you think to possess some common sense (especially your adviser and the department head if they are among them) explaining clearly what your situation is and what your objectives are and ask for the advice on how to proceed. Resort to the F option only if you see that there is no other way.

As to "masters admission", it depends. If you want to master in math., say, and your F is in "underwater basketweaving" or something else like that, I personally would not even notice, but if you fail algebra, that will be quite a red flag and your explanations that "it was intentional", etc. won't fly with me (also, are you going to include these explanations into your application letter or what?). So, if you follow this line, at the very least be sure to choose a subject people in the field you want to specialize in view with contempt.

  • 3
    I want to take master in material science and engineering and further specialize in fuel cells. The subject is a major course and it is about designing mechanical power cycles (diesel cycle, gas turbine, etc...) and HVAC.
    – xxx
    Dec 18, 2017 at 15:18
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    In Portugal students are allowed to take classes after finishing a degree. I have a friend that after the master took classes and finished the research he was doing in order to publish a paper. Here the continuation of the research just depends on the group leader decision, you can continue without a formal bond with the university. Are you sure you can't do that in your university too?
    – The Doctor
    Dec 18, 2017 at 15:26
  • 138
    Intentionally failing a course in your major is a terrible idea. Dec 18, 2017 at 19:11
  • 1
    i believe circumstances shall be taken in consideration to judge the quality of idea. i just need to know how terrible it is comparing to the merits if you have the expertise
    – xxx
    Dec 18, 2017 at 20:11
  • 2
    @xxx since failing a course in your major will undercut your claims to expertise, it is a terrible idea. You’ll be put in the position of relying on them to “take your word for it” despite evidence to the contrary on your transcript.
    – Dennis
    Dec 20, 2017 at 5:24

In short, don't take the F.

I'm making an assumption here, but it sounds like this would delay starting your masters in favor of finishing some undergraduate research. I can't think of any scenario where someone would look favorably on prioritizing undergraduate research over graduate research. Even if your undergraduate research is amazing most are going to assume that there was really a graduate student pulling most of the weight and you were along for the ride.

Another consideration is that more and more admissions boards are using algorithms to first filter candidates. Something like an F or a minimum GPA requirement might eliminate you before someone even looks at your application.

I'm also a bit curious about your timing. You are asking this in December. Your masters program probably begins next September. That seems like plenty of time to complete an undergraduate level research project that I assume you are already well into. Taking an F now to buy yourself maybe 20-30% more time seems like way too much risk.

If you really want to stay and continue your research, talk to your adviser about getting hired as an employee. After you've earned your degree, this is really very appropriate. My adviser did this all the time while I was in grad school.

  • there is no vacancy and it is financially hard to rent out uni
    – xxx
    Dec 18, 2017 at 17:02
  • @xxx - If you were hired you would be getting paid and you wouldn't have the burden of tuition.
    – noslenkwah
    Dec 18, 2017 at 17:18
  • you are right, but there are no vacancies, even if there is it would barely be sufficient for food supply. renting outside costs more than tuition.
    – xxx
    Dec 18, 2017 at 17:21
  • 8
    If housing is that bad then it just might not be possible. I'm sure the university is very aware of the housing situation and has created their rules to prevent people from taking advantage of the cheap housing.
    – noslenkwah
    Dec 18, 2017 at 17:54
  • tell me about it. we have to pay it 250USD after finishing to graduate. yet uni dorms is really cheap
    – xxx
    Dec 18, 2017 at 19:01

This is a seriously terrible idea that could tank your plans for a masters. As others have suggested, pretty nearly any other option might be preferable, including negotiating an incomplete or a withdrawal in that class, dumping your research project or petitioning to go an extra semester to finish it. Anything but a deliberate F. That's just dumb. There has to be a better option. Talk to your academic advisor.

  • i won't affect the time to which i'll apply. i don't see how it will
    – xxx
    Dec 18, 2017 at 18:57
  • i just want to know as a missing tile in the admission committe how big it will look
    – xxx
    Dec 18, 2017 at 19:05
  • 15
    @xxx It will look big. Nevermind the cost of living for a few months - a big failure in a major, advanced core course will do serious damage to the entire educational investment you've been making for years. You're talking about chopping the walls off of your house to use for firewood. You won't have a house left to keep warm.
    – J...
    Dec 19, 2017 at 13:17

Don't overestimate the importance of finalising these projects. Of course, it would be ideal to complete your undergraduate research, but it isn't worth doing it by deliberately failing a course. If the projects are valuable to your current supervisor or institution, then they will find a way for you to complete them. If they aren't valuable to your supervisor or institution, then they aren't essential for you to complete.

Having complete research from your undergraduate degree is by no means essential for Masters admission. A low GPA could see you being automatically filtered out of admissions, whereas an incomplete research project is just a good opportunity for you to explain how you would like to complete it.

  • so if i got high gpa with number of publications, good recommendations and an f. how harmful that is. because this inquiry is based on an info i took from graduate school professor that they care about final gpa only
    – xxx
    Dec 18, 2017 at 17:38
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    @xxx Most people enter their Masters degree without publications. I can't quantitatively state how harmful an F would be for admissions, but my intuition is that it could see you sifted out early on. You ought to still get good recommendations from your research supervisors even if you don't quite complete the research (bearing in mind that "completion" can be a shifting goal-post).
    – MJeffryes
    Dec 18, 2017 at 17:40
  • also i feel people overestimates F. that is why i am asking to get some exact picture which doesn't overestimate any. locally, some of my seniors couldn't get accepted until they published while they have gpa close to 3.9
    – xxx
    Dec 18, 2017 at 20:15
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    @xxx Everyone has told you this is a bad idea, and why it's a bad idea. I don't know what more you want from an answer.
    – MJeffryes
    Dec 19, 2017 at 10:27

TL;DR: this is a classic question of short term versus long term thinking.

Others have given good answers to your question at the practical level, so I won’t bother repeating that advice. Instead I will address your situation at a higher, more conceptual level. What you are thinking of doing is a strong example of short term thinking: that is, perceiving one course of action as preferable to another because it confers short term advantages - the savings in rent from living in the dorms apparently, or other things you have not explained - while not giving sufficient attention* to long term disadvantages of the same action and the overall advantages of the alternative course of action when those long term effects are properly accounted for.

Yes, I know you are concerned about the effect of the F on your master’s admissions, which is a longer term effect. But have you really considered all other effects? The F grade will appear permanently on your transcript. You will have to explain its meaning, over and over again, whenever and wherever you go, for grad school applications, job applications and who knows what else (hopefully your future boyfriend/girlfriend/fiancé/fiancée won’t care!). Some of the people you explain it to will believe your explanation, others will not. Some of those who believe it will find it satisfactory, others will not, and may even find your behavior dishonest and manipulative. You have no way of accurately predicting the future consequences of this intentional F grade, however much you would like to get an authoritative answer “no, it will not affect your master’s application” or “it will definitely be a problem”. All that we can be certain of is that you will be intentionally putting yourself at a potentially significant long term disadvantage, when your stated motivation to save money is short term in nature.

I don’t mean to suggest that the money and other short term advantages aren’t important; obviously they are. However, I urge you to do some studying on the nature of short term versus long term decision making and the pitfalls of concentrating too much either on the short term or on the long term. This is a well known subject and google should easily lead you to some interesting articles on the subject, which I hope will inform your thinking towards making a good decision. Good luck!

* as I think the universal disapproval of your idea in the other answers and comments rather convincingly shows.


We got a saying around here which loosely translates to the following:

Every year you delay entering the workforce costs you at least 10,000 bucks in the long run.

And that's a low number in my region. Basically, you'll work more years, start working on your pension earlier, etc.

I'm not a big fan of loans, but if you need one to survive half a year of housing, you can make it work. In the long run, you pay off the interest and the extra cost just by starting on time.

Since you mentioned it's quite an important subject and your overall high score otherwise, a loan is in the long run the cheaper and more professional option. Failing this test on purpose may bite you for the first years of employment, years which happen to go a lot easier if your marks are exemplary.

Clarification: the 10,000 bucks mentioned should be, translated to modern times and USD, at least 5 times more. Since the OP did not specify a region, I did not presume one and simply stated it for my region roughly 20 years ago. I was trying to say you're losing a great amount of money by every year you start later, regardless of the actual value. It's guaranteed more than the additional housing cost.

  • i didn't get accepted in any job yet. that is another reason i want to stay, to have some kind of time comfort while applying. staying on campus can help me with money since i can tutor in dorms and work part time in uni. observing our graduates, it will take time to get a job.
    – xxx
    Dec 18, 2017 at 21:37
  • 1
    Are those $10,000 US equivalent bucks? I'd expect the direct costs from a year of school + living to be at least $10,000 "in the red", and the missed income from a year's work $20,000+, so $30,000 total. Looking at working one year less before retiring maybe missing out on $100,000+ from that final year...
    – Xen2050
    Dec 18, 2017 at 21:47
  • Maybe Mast left out a zero? Dec 18, 2017 at 22:19
  • 1
    @Xen2050 No, they are in gilders assuming an economic of 20 years ago. That's when I first heard the saying.
    – Mast
    Dec 18, 2017 at 22:35
  • @xxx it would be very very damaging to both your future employment and entering a masters program. First, no one may read your reason as a lot of this is computerized and you wouldn't even be read as the F would simply kick you out of the list. There is filtering done first before anyone reads anything. Second, if I were an employer I would put you at the bottom of my list. Having hired, fired and run projects the odds of you getting a decent job or a masters will fall dramatically. An F in your freshman year can be ignored, but never in your field or as a senior. Dec 18, 2017 at 23:20

My understanding is that you are intending to do this because of your university offers dormitory accommodations to students at very affordable rates. I strongly advise you to just get a roommate and possibly a part time job to cover any possible cost differences.

A few years from now, the money you save will seem trivial to you and your transcripts (for which you have paid tuition and time) will be forever impacted.


This entirely depends on where you are and what are the policies of your school. If you were at a US institution, I’d tell you “no way,” since the consequences of failing a class, particularly in your next-to-last or last semester, are potentially severe.

On the other hand, if you were at a German university where the system allows you multiple attempts to pass, with the failed grades not recorded, I’d still advise against purposefully failing, but I could see the logic behind it much more clearly.

  • Even in Germany, it would be difficult to explain to fail a major. You fail classes in the first two or three years of university, but after that, you know how to choose courses, prepare for exams etc.
    – usr1234567
    Dec 19, 2017 at 13:05
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    After you would retake and pass the exam, at least at my university, there was no record of having failed.
    – aeismail
    Dec 19, 2017 at 13:44
  • @aeismail But needing more time to finish your studies can also be a mark against you.
    – user9482
    Dec 20, 2017 at 7:26
  • @Roland: It depends on how long it takes. Given the German system, few are going to complain about taking one extra semester over normal. If it takes seven or eight years, that’s a different matter.
    – aeismail
    Dec 20, 2017 at 17:40

(This is based purely on personal opinion, so may not apply to others.)

If I was looking at graduate applications, I would not only be concerned with whether a potential student has a strong enough academic background, but also whether they are displaying other characteristics needed to succeed. On some of these, I think your proposed action would send ambiguous/negative signals.

  • Motivation: Is your interest really in doing the research, or is it in getting cheap rent?
  • Timekeeping/forward-planning: You knew the time you had available when you started your research project. While it is not always possible to predict how long research will take, were there any points where you could have adapted your aims to fit within the available time? A masters program also requires a project to be completed within a fixed time frame.
  • Financial planning: You may think it's unreasonable for academic admissions to be influenced by non-academic issues, but the university needs to know you can reasonably expect to be in a position to completed your course. Are you going to run out of funds part way through? For me this wouldn't be a major decision factor in itself, but it might colour my judgement when comparing candidates who are equally academically qualified.
  • Integrity: I would consider arguing that this is the most important quality needed to be an academic. Can you be trusted to carry out and report your research accurately, even if it isn't in your personal best interest?
  • The hidden message is: Don't do it, right?!
    – usr1234567
    Dec 19, 2017 at 13:06
  • @usr1234567 The OP didn't seem to be listening to all the other reasons it's a bad idea. I thought this might more directly address their point of focus (the masters application process).
    – Jessica B
    Dec 20, 2017 at 11:15

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