To drop a class or not to drop a class, that is the question.
September 26, 2012 11:38 AM   Subscribe

To be optimistic or realistic - should I drop this class or not?

Well, I'm a senior biology major at a reasonably well-reknowned university. This year, I have to take four advanced bio classes total to finish the major requirements. (If I were starting again, I probably would have majored in something else - but that's a story for another day.) I should note that I receive support/accommodations for learning needs.

Two of those classes are this semester.

One of them ("Class A") appears to be harder, with more regular assignments, but the professor actually explains the concepts very well. The professor and TA's are very accessible in this class, and I in fact meet regularly with a TA.

The other ("Class B") - well, I chose it because I knew the professor personally. This class had specific pre-requisites, but the professor told me it wouldn't be a big deal if I hadn't taken those courses. There isn't a tremendous amount of homework - or so it seems. Problem is, the professor doesn't get to everything in his lectures, covers material at an even faster rate than the other professor, and the TA's aren't as accessible outside of class.

Now here is the dilemma - I had exams in both classes in the past few days. The "withdraw without a W" deadline is next Monday. I don't know either exam grade yet, but I found the Class B exam harder than the Class A exam. I don't know WHEN the exam grades will be available - will I know before Monday at all? I'd rather not get a W.

Class A has a "grade forgiveness" policy, so I have a chance to redeem myself even if the first grade was lousy; Class B does not. Granted, Class B has several more exams/papers where I can redeem myself.

Here's where things get interesting: my learning needs allow for the school to pay for up to two summer classes. Advanced bio classes are generally not offered in the summer, though, at least not at this institution. That means if I dropped one of the biology classes now, I'd have to take three bio classes next semester! Yikes!

I've generally taken FOUR classes per semester, but both semesters this year, I'll need FIVE if I want to graduate on time. (At my school, everyone must take 38 classes total to graduate, regardless of major requirements. Labs do not count for some reason, even though I have to take one this semester - so I've basically got six classes under my belt.)

So, should I stick out both classes and just try to graduate - or take it more cautiously and drop Class B?

(And by the way, I can't exactly afford extra semesters here.)
posted by Seeking Direction to Education (24 answers total)
If you can't hack this class now, how will you hack it next semester when you have even more bio classes?

I say stick with it. Some classes will be more challenging in the beginning. Now that you have an idea of what's up in this class, you can adjust your approach accordingly.

Also, if you know the professor personally, reach out to them for guidance if you need to.
posted by inturnaround at 11:47 AM on September 26, 2012

A "W" isn't really all that horrible, IMO. I had a "W" on an otherwise solid transcript and it didn't seem to matter with regard to future prospects. (I had to drop a class because the timing conflicted with work I had to do for another class.) You can always give a plausible explanation for a W after the fact, unless perhaps if you already have a ton of them.

I'd stick with both, at least until you get some feedback returned. You never know, maybe everyone thought the exams were brutal.
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 11:48 AM on September 26, 2012

If you have to take four advanced bio classes in one year, do not do one/three. If you intend to take an extra semester, you can drop one later. No one will care if you have a single W.
posted by jeather at 11:52 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I say stick with both. Three advanced bio classes sounds like a nightmare, and it doesn't sound like you can count on the summer classes to graduate. Do what you need to do to get some time with a TA or the professor.
posted by freshwater at 11:54 AM on September 26, 2012

I'd hang in there. Do you care what your grade is? If you can pull a C out of this, that would be awesome!

If the professor likes you and is friendly, do a check in with him periodically and let him know what issues you're having. I find that when you do that, they're pretty lenient in their grading. I had one say, "You're here, you're engaged, you take notes, I'm not sure why the test scores aren't where they should be, but you've earned a C." Thank you, and good night.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:01 PM on September 26, 2012

"Do you care what your grade is? If you can pull a C out of this, that would be awesome!"

I wish I didn't have to care, but I do want to go into a graduate or professional program.
posted by Seeking Direction at 12:18 PM on September 26, 2012

For me, W>C. I've had enough "C's" in the past, and would rather avoid them if at all possible.
posted by Seeking Direction at 12:18 PM on September 26, 2012

But that doesn't mean I can't redeem myself. The question is, is it worth it?
posted by Seeking Direction at 12:19 PM on September 26, 2012

I think you should talk seriously with your [program advisor|Office for Disabled Students|other on-campus department] about what it would mean realistically for you to extend your time of completion to nine semesters (in terms of financial aid, housing, adequate progress to degree, everything). If you are getting Cs even with accommodations, you might be taking on too much and need to spread things out more, maybe as 1-2-1 (fall-spring-fall).

There's nothing wrong with graduating in December.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:25 PM on September 26, 2012

Right; spread the classes out and go an extra semester.

I don't know anyone who graduates in four years these days when they are getting a major to land them a real job. (No intent to offend.)
posted by TinWhistle at 12:28 PM on September 26, 2012

Your question frames dropping the class as the 'realistic' and 'cautious' option, but then you describe your options for making up the class later as alarming, unaffordable, and/or unlikely. This makes your question hard to answer.

Can you drop a non-bio class, freeing up more time for A & B, and then make up the non-bio class over the summer?

Will the school pay for you to take advanced bio summer classes elsewhere, and allow you to transfer the credit?
posted by feral_goldfish at 12:33 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

"Can you drop a non-bio class, freeing up more time for A & B, and then make up the non-bio class over the summer?"

No, because the other classes are two-semester-sequence "core" courses.
posted by Seeking Direction at 12:35 PM on September 26, 2012

Can you take one of the labs this summer, or offer to make up the lab with 'independent research' in a lab this summer?
posted by suedehead at 12:42 PM on September 26, 2012

I wish I didn't have to care, but I do want to go into a graduate or professional program.

If I were starting again, I probably would have majored in something else...

Are you really sure you want to go into a graduate program for a subject that you are not particularly passionate about? I promise you, things only get worse from here on out. I would seriously weight the financial costs of staying another semester and graduating next December (lots of money! probably lots of debt!) with the hypothetical cost of eeking out at least a C. I would take the C, myself.

I didn't have the same challenges you do, but I took an extremely insane course load my last semester of college to avoid a December graduation the next year, and it sucked a little, but I'll never regret not being in an extra couple thousand dollars of debt.

Another option is to see if you can do research with a professor over the summer and have that count as an advanced biology credit - this is an option at many schools and could save you some headache.
posted by fermezporte at 1:19 PM on September 26, 2012

The only answer is: Go talk to the prof.

Ask them how you are doing, what they would recommend, will you need to really step up your studying/etc to get a good grade? Consider whether you are willing/able to step it up, what that would look like - extra hours with a TA or tutor? Extra homework?
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:20 PM on September 26, 2012

Why don't you talk to each of the professors in their office hours, or send an email to set up a particular appointment? Explain your sitution: "I was wondering if I could come by and talk with you about the class. I'm nervous about my performance on the exam, and uncertain whether I'm getting a good enough grasp on the material to continue in the class. Unless you were planning to hand back our papers this week, we won't know our exam grades until after the withdrawal deadline. Would you be willing to give me any feedback to help me make this decision? I can come by [your Thursday office hours / any time Friday / etc]"

From your description, it sounds like the graduation requirements will take you longer than two semesters to finish. Four required (nonsequential) bio classes, two required two-semester core classes (for a total of 8 classes) plus, apparently, 2 more and a lab since you say you're taking five classes per semester.
If you cannot take these 5 classes right now, you are not going to take them next semester; postponing doesn't make them any easier, especially since it looks like you're equally busy both semesters this year.
Thus, either you take them now, or you graduate late.
I'd give it a shot, risk the W. But talk to the professors first.
posted by aimedwander at 1:23 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Talk to your Class B professor. Actually, if you want to go into a grad or professional program, you're gonna need recs, and you should be talking to both profs about your post-graduation prospects. They should have some advice re: scheduling and grades. You can also try your major advisor and/or any general advising person your department has as you decide whether you need another semester.

Do you know students who have taken Class B already? Classes have different rhythms, it may be that the first test's worth of material is more difficult than later stuff. I also TA-ed a class where the first exam was intentionally difficult to scare students into working harder. I don't think it's great pedagogy, personally, but it happens.
posted by momus_window at 1:42 PM on September 26, 2012

My classes, currently, are, by the way:

Physics I, non-calculus
Physics Lab I
Intro to Psych ("general credit")
Philosophy I
Bio 300-level ("Class A")
Bio 300-level ("Class B")
posted by Seeking Direction at 2:50 PM on September 26, 2012

In Class B, there are four or so BIG exams/assignments remaining, anyway...which is complicating the decision. (Chances to do better, yet of course, lots of work...)
posted by Seeking Direction at 2:52 PM on September 26, 2012

Are any of your other not advanced Bio classes offered during the summer? They look introductory, and often times those courses are part of summer classes. Drop the Psych or philosophy, or you take Physics I/Physics Lab I first summer session, then Physics II/Phys Lab II the second summer session. I guess this depends on whether the labs are something you sign up for with your lecture class or separately. Then again, if they're only a one-credit separate coursed you could either pay out of pocket during the summer if your school won't or take them now.
posted by schroedinger at 7:22 PM on September 26, 2012

Is there any way you can drop psych, philosophy or physics and make up the credits next summer? You said that they're two semester courses, but I imagine you can find one semester "general credit" classes to fill the empty spot next semester. You have a pretty inflexible schedule for the year already; why fill it up more than you need to?
posted by MadamM at 7:27 PM on September 26, 2012

"Do you care what your grade is? If you can pull a C out of this, that would be awesome!"

I wish I didn't have to care, but I do want to go into a graduate or professional program.

Are you contemplating doing three advanced biology classes your final semester of school (not counting summer)? Plus two more required classes? That sounds insane. Putting one off until just before graduation does not sound likely to minimize your stress or make it easier to complete the class with decent grades. When it's spring and your a senior, you're going to be so ready to GTFO that you are not going to appreciate your former self giving you more work to do. Talk to your professor and buckle down and do whatever it takes to do as well as you need to in this class now, because putting it off will not make it easier. I guarantee that.

If you drop anything, do as schroedinger suggests and drop the intro classes and take them later.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:27 PM on September 26, 2012

you're a senior. grr.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:28 PM on September 26, 2012

It looks like you are carrying 17 semester credits (3 physics + 2 p. lab + 3 intro to psych + 3 intro to philosophy + 3 bio "A" + 3 bio "B"). This also can be broken down as 3 subjects that are intros and therefore probably new to you (physics, philosophy, psych), OR 2 courses in your major at the majors level (300s) OR 3 science courses (physics w/ lab, bio A, bio B).

It really looks like a lot to an outsider. Physics I is no joke, even without calculus, and the lab can be a lot of work. I will join the chorus and recommend extending by a semester. If you actually are taking more than 17 credits, you should really think seriously about extending.
posted by artdesk at 10:13 PM on September 27, 2012

« Older Shakin my pirate booty! (Trader Joe's soundtrack...   |   Cheap Airline Tix? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.