to not retake: mistake?
January 6, 2006 9:02 AM   Subscribe

FailingCollegeFilter: I mostly didn't attend my math class last semester and consequently failed. How bad is this, for the purpose of transferring to a better school?

I have every intention of not being a student at this school next year; I'm hoping to transfer to UNC-Asheville or another UNC school. Therefore, the F would still be on my transcript; I'd just note on my transfer-student application that I'm retaking the math class and am expecting to receive grade such-and-such. Is that important, or am I just as well off taking more interesting classes?
posted by bpt to Education (12 answers total)
This could vary a lot, depending on the school. Best to call a admissions counselor at the school you want to attend and ask them.
posted by LarryC at 9:15 AM on January 6, 2006

It depends on how strict the admissions of the better school are. You'd have to check with the admissions department of each, they would be able to tell you. If it was a single course and your other grades are fine I doubt it'd be an issue, but if it significantly brought down your GPA or this was during your first semester in college, it might cause more issues.

I'd check to see how grades from your current school will transfer. Some universities will accept the grades and it'll count toward your GPA while others will simply take it as pass/fail -- which may or may not count.
posted by mikeh at 9:16 AM on January 6, 2006

Admissions offices want honest explanations of bad grades or other academic anomalies. You need to explain the F in the best possible light (i.e., something other than "didn't show up to class.")

If you are transferring within the UNC system, this may or may not be relevant.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 9:26 AM on January 6, 2006

I would imagine it depends on your performance in other areas. Naturally if you're majoring in math, you might have some problems, but overall one bad grade shouldn't do you in. Additionally, essays and/or personal statements will come into play (assuming there are essays required for transfer), and one of them might specifically ask you to address a bad grade. If that's the case, it's my experience that you should address it straightforwardly and refrain from sounding 'desperate' (e.g. "please please let me in, i'll promise i'll do better").

For what it's worth, I totally failed out of a college that many consider to be very accepting (i.e. not a lot of people are turned away). I was a Resident Advisor for a freshman dorm that forced me to handle situations that were outside the realm of what I expected to experience as an RA (frequent meetings off-campus with undercover SWAT team members to address a huge drug problem with a couple residents, attempted suicides, violence, and well, a freshman dorm with 3 floors of guys and 1 of girls!). I was a fantastic RA, imho, but that prevented me from being a fantastic student. Hell, I didn't even go to any classes after the first meetings the second semester.

Anyway - I felt I had experienced conditions that were outside normal expectations, and thought that the administration would be lenient in granting me readmission because at the very least, my grades were terrible because I was helping the University community. I was wrong. They denied my petition, teaching me that sometimes you have to take care of your own interests before consuming yourself with others (e.g. put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping your children to put theirs on). At the same time, however, I wouldn't have changed a thing.

Eventually, I managed to transfer to the University of Virginia, which is far superior to my previous school. They took a chance on me for which I'm enormously indebted, and I hope that my performance has comforted whatever hesitations they may have had. Make sure you don't half-ass a great opportunity if you get in.

Nutshell: all is not lost. If the school you wish to get into doesn't work out, keep trying. And keep in mind that the school you'd like to go to might not be the best for what you're interested in. Chapel Hill will always look good on a resume, but other schools that are more devoted to your particular field very easily might look better to those within your anticipated field.
posted by Hankins at 9:35 AM on January 6, 2006

I'd think that acknowledging the blemish on your transcript in a non-defensive way along with mentioning that you are retaking the course would not cause too much trouble.

When I was in college I stopped going to a math class during my first semester (when I showed up after a few weeks and they were handing back copies of an exam I never took, I stopped going for good). I didn't fully understand how to withdraw from a class after the drop/add period ended, and just let it sit on my transcript the rest of my college years. When I applied to grad school, I had one throwaway sentence in my personal statement pointing out that I'd "found my focus" in later years in college. I had no problems getting into grad school.

Years later as an college instructor, my colleagues and I had students applying to participate in programs that had some prerequisite requirements. A number of them fell just short (having a B instead of a B+ in a course). Those who asked for consideration, giving a good reason (not defensive or overly detailed) had very little trouble being accepted.
posted by i love cheese at 10:17 AM on January 6, 2006

I flunked out of my first year of college, but, by getting an associate's degree at a community college, transferred back to the original school, and the first year grades were ignored for purposes of computing my GPA. I have no idea how the UNC system does things, but it's worth checking whether an intermediate stint at a community college could help in transferring to the new school.

I'd also suggest looking into and addressing whatever led you to skip classes and flunk so that you don't repeat it at the new school.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:31 AM on January 6, 2006

at my school, if it was >200 level class then any failing grade would turn up on your college transcript. If it was <=200 then you could take the class over and if your grade is better it would replace the previous grade. So any college you applied to afterwords wouldn't even see the failing grade because it was removed from your transcript.
posted by nickerbocker at 10:41 AM on January 6, 2006

I flunked out my freshman year at UNC, 1.1 GPA. I tried to transfer to UNC Charlotte, but they wouldn't let me in, even with stellar SATs and good high school grades. However, I met with an admissions counselor at UNCC, and we worked out a deal whereby I would go to Central Peidmont Community College for two semesters. If I brought my cumulative GPA up to 2.5, they'd let me in to UNCC. I had to take some required classes over, but I did not have to take the same classes I'd flunked (I changed majors, so the requirements were different).

My overall GPA for college did include the disastrous fresman year, and I think that did affect my grad school admissions. Retaking classes did not erase the previous grade. I got in to most places I applied, but not to my first choices.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:14 AM on January 6, 2006

If it is not too late, it may be possible to go to the professor and plea for an "incomplete" or a "fail" (as in "pass/fail" not as in "F"). Some may be sympathetic, so definitely will not be - but it's worth a shot. With an incomplete or a "fail", it would at least keep the F out of your GPA.
posted by sixdifferentways at 11:40 AM on January 6, 2006

I failed a course my Junior year and still managed to graduate with honors. I did have to take a class that summer to get the credits though, but my school was pretty good about that.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:55 AM on January 6, 2006

I had to take calculus 4 friggin times to pass at two different schools [of a total of 3 universities in my undergraduate career].

For me and the schools I went to, it was all about my overall GPA. All three of my schools had a policy that the F would always be on the transcript but if I repeated the course, that my GPA would only count the second grade. I actually took the calculus the 4th time just to undo the F.

Mr. MoonPie's advice on talking to the counselor at the school you want to go to and working out a deal is something I had to do for other grade-related issues. Taking classes at a community college can help get your overall GPA up and back to your choice school. If I had it do all over again, I'd take a lot of the general studies courses at CC. It is cheaper, and depending on the school, a quality way to learn the material with smaller class sizes and good instructors.

Good luck. Don't do like I did and not take full advantage of the advisors at your new school to work out the best plan for you.
posted by birdherder at 12:58 PM on January 6, 2006

I'm with sixdifferentways: see if you can make it an incomplete rather than an F. If you didn't attend the classes, that's basically the truth.
posted by alms at 12:58 PM on January 6, 2006

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