Should I retake classes this summer?
April 3, 2014 6:35 AM   Subscribe

I am planning to submit applications to professional programs (and maybe, just to see, a couple of graduate programs) next fall. It looks like I might wind up with a couple of Bs or B+s this semester, breaking a two-year streak of A+s and As. Should I retake those Bs this summer? How would this be interpreted?

The programs I'm looking at are very competitive. Most will be looking at grades for the last two academic years (as well as overall GPA, but this is mostly relevant to grad school vs program requirements - min 3 overall required on a 4 pt scale).

I'm anxious about it, because I have a previous degree with a poor GPA (C average, highly bimodal distribution :/).

To bring the overall GPA up to a 3.0/4.0, I need As all through, or else I'll have to petition some of those old grades (I have been advised to try this anyway by university advisors, although chances are very slim a petition would be successful).

The Bs wouldn't be tragic in the context of an otherwise normal transcript, but I'm worried about how they'll look here. And of course I'll be that much less competitive.

I'm disappointed with this term, for a few reasons besides the grade outcomes. I wanted to engage more deeply with the material than I have, and my participation has suffered a bit. I'm not thrilled with the papers I've written so far - I've wound up doing them to mostly to get them done, vs really exploring ideas.

My professors like me and have been very understanding around the reasons for my dip in performance, but I am also worried about whether they'd feel comfortable offering references.

I had been looking forward to a break this summer, because I could do with one, but if I had to retake those grades over the fall/winter terms, the whole thing would be delayed. I'm very keen to just move on to the next step.

(I won't be able to answer questions today, but will be able to do so this evening.)
posted by cotton dress sock to Education (11 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's request -- taz

Generally, no one *really* cares about grades. But they're a filter that can be quickly applied during a competitive admissions process.

Without knowing your field, it's hard to say whether it's worth the effort to superficially improve your application so that you can get past the filter. Generally speaking, I would think no. If things are that competitive where the difference between a B and an A in two classes will break your career, then you have a very tough road ahead even if you retake the classes.
posted by leopard at 6:48 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm going to say no.

It sounds like you want to make being in a program or school a full-time profession. Go ahead and graduate, and take your chances with the grades you've earned.

If push comes to shove, leave school and professional programs and get out into the world of work.

I doubt you'll even be allowed to re-take the classes for credit. Let alone have the grades changed by doing so.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:17 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I tried this in college- retaking classes to improve my grades (I had Cs). Guess what? I didn't really do all that much better the second time around! Even with another professor, the material was just as boring for me as it was before. Plus, having taken summer courses, I've never found them a great place to "engage with material more deeply", just because they tend to be more compressed into a shorter time frame, plus everyone has the beach on their mind. If you're going to do anything this summer, take new classes you'll do well in that you can get As in.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:19 AM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

In my experience taking summer semester classes it is shorter and much more concentrated. Your institution might vary as to length of semesters of course. If you have written the papers that you can revise and resubmit then maybe, but if you didn't get the "leg up" from the last time you took the class then summer semester classes might be a bit daunting.

I got creamed, badly, in summer semester.

Maybe one class?
posted by vapidave at 7:34 AM on April 3, 2014

If I'm reading correctly, the Bs might keep you out of consideration for grad school due to the overall GPA requirements for those programs (min. 3.0 overall GPA), but you would still be eligible (though perhaps slightly less attractive) to the professional programs?

A couple observations/considerations:

The grad school thing sounds like an afterthought at this point ("maybe, just to see"). Do you really, really want to go to grad school/get the kind of job that you need to go to grad school to get? Does going to grad school make sense for you (in terms of job prospects in your particular field and your competitiveness not only to get in but to get fully funded)? Frankly, if you're that borderline about being able to meet the minimum GPA requirements to even apply and are worried about whether you'll get solid references from your professors, grad school may not be for you. Being an underfunded, back-of-the-pack grad student at a mediocre school is a recipe for misery.

If the professional programs, on the other hand, are focusing on only the last couple years of transcripts, then mostly As/a couple Bs vs. all-As seems like it may not be a big enough deal to merit retaking the classes.
posted by drlith at 7:35 AM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ruthless Bunny: my university's policies mean I can retake these courses for credit and replace those grades. Also, i'm retraining because I was unable to find work. Goal is entry to an allied health program.

Prior to disruption in my personal life this year (increase in caregiving responsibilities re ailing parent), two of my profs had, in fact, spontaneously offered to provide references without my asking, and expressed optimism about my academic future. My current suckage isn't due to lack of interest or raw ability, it's related to burnout. Can't link from here but my previous questions may offer context.

I actually prefer the intensity of summer courses.

Sorry just wanted to clarify those things.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:08 AM on April 3, 2014

If you can repeat classes to raise your GPA, wouldn't it make more sense to retake the classes that you did your absolute worst on? Instead of retaking a class that you made a B on, perhaps you should go back and retake, for instance, an English class you nearly failed.

I wouldn't worry so much about the 'story line' per se of your improvement, I doubt very seriously that they're going to take the effort to work out you GPA on a semester-by-semester basis.
posted by Trifling at 9:22 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

You don't say what profession, but I do premedical advising and get asked this question a LOT. One thing to realize for medical schools, and I assume other professions, is that they're going to see your full transcript including repeated courses. So while retaking a course may replace it in calculating your official GPA it doesn't remove it from your records. What they will see is that you got a B in a course, which is pretty good, and then spent a whole semester mostly reviewing the same information. You're much better taking a more advanced course in the same field. That shows you can handle the subject matter at an even more advanced level, that you have a larger base of knowledge overall, and (most importantly) that you're more concerned with learning as much as you can in fields relevant to your prospective career than in maximizing your GPA to the nth decimal place.
posted by wps98 at 11:55 AM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Thanks for the advice, much appreciated. Small update based on new information: looks like one will be a C+. I feel sick. Any additional thoughts based on this?
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:57 PM on April 3, 2014

I'm a little confused. Are you on the quarter system or some other sort of odd schedule? You mention semesters in your question, so I'm not sure why you are already so sure of your final grades at the beginning of April. If this is based only on midterm grades, I would put your effort into bringing your grades up now, for this semester. In many classes, the final paper/exam is the biggest portion of your grade, and it's also possible you could talk to your professors about re-writing a paper or doing an extra assignment to bring your grades up.
posted by rainbowbrite at 3:11 PM on April 3, 2014

Sorry for the lack of clarity, wigging out. The C+ is for a class I'd deferred from last semester. I just got the grade.

For this term's classes, I anticipate two As, and a B+ based on work returned so far. I thought this C+ was going to be a B.
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:32 PM on April 3, 2014

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