Should I drop this class?
June 27, 2010 1:28 PM   Subscribe

A desperate college student needs your advice, and also needs his homework checked.

Back story: So I've made a horrible, horrible mistake, I decided to take economics as a six week summer school course at my local community college, in California. I took the class at the last minute because all other classes were full. I genuinely believed it would consist of logistics and word problems, which I have a knack for. Little did I realize it would revolve around acronyms consisting of Total Variable Costs, Marginal Costs, etc, etc. I've since learned my lesson in taking classes I have not previously researched.

As I mentioned, the course is six weeks, class occurs twice a week. Tomorrow will mark my fourth week. I have failed two exams. Tuesday is the last day to withdraw from the class and receive a W rather than an F. Tuesday also happens to be the day of our next exam. My first question is, should I cut my losses and withdraw from the class? Or, should I tough it out and shoot for a passing grade? Is it even feasible at this point?

Column F has me completely stumped, I need to compute Total Cost, but to do so, I need to know both total fixed costs and total variable costs, of which I do not have total variable cost. To calculate total variable cost, I would need to multiply average variable cost by output, but average variable cost is marked as minimum, which is indicated at the bottom as "ATC and AVC equal Marginal Cost when they (ATC and AVC) are at their minimums." What does this mean? Will I need to find marginal cost? Will I need to create a graph?

Thanks in advance to anyone who even bothers to glance at this. Seriously, thank you.
posted by andrewsa to Education (24 answers total)
How many exams do you have, total? How is your grade calculated? Is it at all possible for you to pass this class at this point? Figure that out, then make your decision. That's what I'd do.

As for the "fill out these tables" sort of homework, I highly recommend using Excel. I don't have the time to go over your table right now--I have my own final in statistics, tomorrow--but Excel was really, really useful for that sort of thing. You shouldn't need a graph to find your marginal cost, but I cannot remember the formulas right now. I don't know about your class, but in my class we had tables that we went through in class, and for each column we went over all of the possible ways to get each cell filled--and there was usually more than one way. Google is your friend. Search "how to find marginal cost."

Sorry, this comment is only marginally helpful.
posted by hought20 at 1:35 PM on June 27, 2010

Do you need this class for your degree? If not, and if you think you'll fail the next test, I would drop if you can just get a W instead of "withdrew failing." If you need the class for your degree and you think there might be a chance to pass the next exam then I would talk to your professor. He/She can be a valuable source of advice since they can tell you if grades normally improve on the 3rd test etc.
posted by GlowWyrm at 1:36 PM on June 27, 2010

P. S. There is no shame in dropping a class when you're in over your head.
posted by hought20 at 1:36 PM on June 27, 2010 [7 favorites]

What are you taking the class for? General credit towards your undergraduate degree? If you don't have any other Ws on your record, and the class isn't for your major or minor, I think you should withdraw.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:38 PM on June 27, 2010

I just finished economics, basically the same class as yours. I did OK on the first exam, but bombed the 2nd exam and the final. I would think the answer to your question depends on how the class is graded - in my case, there were also three small papers, about 10 quizzes, and a few other things. I did well on all those, so I got a B for the class.

If it would help, and you decide to finish the course, I have lots of powerpoints and examples provided by the professor that I could send to you. I also googled the hell out of anything I was confused by.

"Will I need to create a graph?"

I would think so - we created graphs for just about everything, and had to know how to interpret them as well.
posted by HopperFan at 1:38 PM on June 27, 2010

ATC and AVC equal Marginal Cost when they (ATC and AVC) are at their minimums

This means that ATC + AVC = marginal cost when ATC and AVC are at their minimum values. When the sum of the average and variable cost is at its minimum value it follows that each of ATC and AVC are at their minimums.

When this sum is at its minimum value it equals the marginal cost of producing one more unit.

Hought20 is correct that Excel is your friend here.

I suggest that you google all the terms in your table, write out their definitions, and understand the mathematical relationships between them.

The mathematical relationships we're talking about here are multiplication; if you're in college, you've learned multiplication over a decade ago. Don't let yourself get overwhelmed.
posted by dfriedman at 1:46 PM on June 27, 2010

Your question is going to get deleted. We're not allowed to answer homework questions.

My advice is to withdraw from the class. W's don't matter in the long run. (OK. You signed up for something and changed your mind. Big Deal.) F's and bad grades do matter. You're pretty obviously not a business major and don't care about it. Just drop it.
posted by nangar at 1:49 PM on June 27, 2010

If you're taking the class for learning, withdraw because it is failing to teach you, and because it has already taught you not to take a class without researching it first in the future.

If you're taking it for grades, withdraw because you're likely to fail at it.

So yeah, cut your losses - that would be economical. In any case, a class shouldn't be making you desperate, despairing or guilty of a horrible, horrible mistake!
posted by mondaygreens at 1:50 PM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just so you know, the mods have a pretty strong policy of not letting people post questions that are clearly "do my homework for me." I'm not sure if this will fall under that rule, but you might want to email them, ask if it's ok, and if not, ask them to delete that part of the question instead of the whole post.

That said, econ can really suck if you've never taken it before, didn't know what you were getting into, and don't have a very good professor.

Have you gone to office hours? Consulted a TA? How are you doing on the problem sets? Do you have a study group? I basically lived at the review sessions when I was taking my first semester of microeconomics, did all my problem sets twice (once with my study group, once alone), and still barely eked out a B. Don't even talk to me about macro. It's likely completely different from anything else you've ever studied, and there are a lot of concepts to grasp, as you know.

Anyway, whether or not you withdraw has a lot to do with your future plans. Do you want to go to grad school? Have you withdrawn from other classes? One "W" on your transcript is probably not a big deal, but a bunch could be a red flag. OTOH, if you have absolutely no plans for grad school and/or you think this is likely to be your only W, it's probably your best bet.

If you do decide to stay, really commit to utilizing all the resources at your disposal. Go to all the review sessions, seek out individual help if necessary. Do all the problem sets 2 or 3 times.

Good luck!
posted by lunasol at 1:51 PM on June 27, 2010

Trying to type this quickly before the question gets deleted.

Last semester, I nearly flunked out of college. After a sit-down with the academic counselors and talking to all my professors, I managed to barely pass. I received A's in all my summer courses since.

It's a thin line and you never think it's going to happen to you. Don't head down that path. You're not "taking the easy way out" or any of that nonsense. Drop the course, save your sanity, and please be smart. Nobody's going to listen to you when you say "But I was being ambitious and it was stressful." The system can be very unsympathetic to folks who aren't getting good grades.

Good luck.
posted by anonymuk at 1:54 PM on June 27, 2010

I just passed macroeconomics, barely. I read the entire book, did every problem set, Googled the hell out of every topic I didn't understand, and I still flunked the final. Economics makes no sense to me, and if it weren't required, I would have dropped it after the midterm.

So: Is this class required? Can you take it later, or perhaps use a different class to fulfill the requirements? If you don't have to take this class right now I would drop it, assuming it won't negatively affect your transcript. In my experience, some people just don't get economics. I am one of those people. It's not something to be ashamed about — and neither is dropping a class.
posted by good day merlock at 1:57 PM on June 27, 2010

[comment removed - we're not psyched with the "do my homework" angle of this but there's a lot more to the question than just that. Feel free to answer other parts of the question and don't assume we're deleting this, thanks.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:58 PM on June 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Take the W. If this is a class you need to transfer to a 4 year school, you don't want it to pull down your GPA. Summer classes are tough - especially in topics like Econ and Math. You're better off with a longer class where you can get more help and more time to learn the material. If you decide to go with it, be sure to contact your instructor and let them know the trouble you are having, they have no interest in seeing you fail the class.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:10 PM on June 27, 2010

Take the W. Trust me - much, much better than the F. Not only will you avoid the F, you will also avoid a lot of anguish and stress over the next two weeks, and a lifetime of second-guessing should you wind up with a final F.

Also, I'm pretty certain that if you were to apply to law school, the LSAC would ignore the W in calculating your GPA, but would count an F against you as a zero. I know you didn't say anything about law school, but if you are interested in pursuing it, this is a consideration. And other graduate areas of study may treat Ws similarly.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 2:15 PM on June 27, 2010

Well, I would calculate how many points you would need to get on the remaining assignments/tests/quizzes/etc in order to get a passing grade (or whatever grade you're comfortable with -- some people are not ok with a C- even if it is passing). If the number of points is something that you don't think you could attain, drop the class. It's not worth it. It doesn't mean you're a failure. You took a class you weren't prepared for; it happens to everyone; nobody is good at everything.

If you're not sure if you could get that number of points, go talk to the teacher. He/she should be able to tell you what your chances are of passing the course. Again, you should not feel bad for this. That is (partly) what the teacher is there for, to assess the students. If you stay in the course, or if you drop it, but plan on attempting it again in the future, ask the professor, TAs, or other students, if there are any additional study aids, websites, textbooks, study tips, etc that they recommend. If you do take it again, you can always study up before the semester even starts.
posted by bluefly at 2:16 PM on June 27, 2010

posted by Ouisch at 2:23 PM on June 27, 2010

I've been in your shoes before; those summer classes are tough. I took freshman English one summer, also at a California community college, and it was some of the worst weeks of my life. I was sleep deprived, I started losing weight, I was stressed out and burnt out on English. In the end I wished I had just withdrew, but as the deadline passed, I really thought I could grind out a C. I didn't.

Those 6 week classes are tough, especially if it's not a subject you have an affinity for. Take the W and get out of there. You would learn more and do better by taking a full-semester Econ class anyway.
posted by malapropist at 2:31 PM on June 27, 2010

My first question is, should I cut my losses and withdraw from the class? Or, should I tough it out and shoot for a passing grade?

Withraw! Discretion is the better part of valor...I only wished more of my own students listened when I gave this type of advice.
posted by MidsizeBlowfish at 3:05 PM on June 27, 2010

If you are receiving financial aid, think very carefully how to calculate your percentage of course completion which for financial qualification at US institutions floats between 66.67% and 67%. You could, depending on school policy, be on academic probation with a high GPA. In previous years, "W" would not be held against a student as long as the student had a decent GPA. But now, you have to carefully navigate between your GPA AND your Satisfactory Academic Progress. I assume that your home university has a scenario GPA SAP planner to figure all this out.

Also, do these junior college credits, transfer to your university or can they be stand alone credits best not mentioned? In any case, like all economics questions there are caveats, limitations and nuances that cannot be easily quantified and unfortunately, I do not know how to footnote in HTML for more effective help.
posted by jadepearl at 3:15 PM on June 27, 2010

Can you switch to a Pass/No Pass grading option? A NP doesn't harm your GPA, but you'd still get a shot at the credit if you pass.
posted by Menthol at 3:18 PM on June 27, 2010

Withdraw, withdraw, withdraw.

No one will ask you about the W on your transcript, and if they do, just say the class wasn't what you thought it would be.

posted by BusyBusyBusy at 3:55 PM on June 27, 2010

You should talk to your professor and ask him or her to be brutally honest with you about what it will take to pass. If the prof says "well, you can pass if you get 80% on the exam" you should ask, "do you think that's something I'm likely to be able to do, given my confusion so far?" And if the professor says "if you study a lot" you need to think honestly about how much you are going to study.

Maybe you just need to really ramp up your studying. You should certainly be taking full advantage of office hours/TA/tutor and any other study help the college gives. Ask if the prof has advice about how to study - obviously you should be doing the problem sets, but what else? What do you do when you run into something you don't understand? etc

But maybe you are too far behind to recover. If so, there is no shame in withdrawing. Ask your prof for an honest evaluation.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:58 PM on June 27, 2010

Withdraw. Honestly, your homework question is pretty simple and so I don't have much confidence that you have enough time left before Tuesday to triumph over whatever combination of issues got you to this desperate point (lack of aptitude for economics, poor course choice, crummy teacher, etc.). As others have said, there's no shame at all in withdrawing and--insert economics joke relating to your homework here--the cost of a W is vastly less than the cost of an F.

As an aside, economics is a subject where misery or mastery depends greatly on the teacher's ability to explain things many different ways... and to use numbers to tell a story.
posted by carmicha at 4:23 PM on June 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seriously, talk to your professor. S/he will be able to give you a good idea of whether you are going to be successful, and probably also help you out with your confusion. Absolutely, 100% talk to your professor.
posted by stoneweaver at 12:47 PM on June 28, 2010

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