To purposely make myself below-average to avoid being average?
June 4, 2008 9:39 PM   Subscribe

What looks, uh, the least bad on a transcript - a C or a D w/ an A or B as a repeat grade?

Basically, I want to know from a school or employer's point of view, is the better to have received a grade of a 'C' or to have gotten a non-passing grade 'D' or similar with a higher grade the next quarter when I'd retake the course? The original grade will not factor into my GPA, however it would still appear on the transcript. I'm confident I'd do much better the second time around, but is it even worth it or should I just try to finish off the course strong and most likely, end up with a C or C+. It should be noted I have to achieve a C- or worse to be eligible to repeat the course, so getting a D would be on purpose.
posted by anonymous to Education (12 answers total)
I really don't know how the difference between these two situations will look to an employer. But, at the end of the day, your GPA will be the one summary statistic that everybody looks at and considers the most important.

At my school, A=4.0, C+ = 2.33, D = 1.0

If you get a D, and follow up with the best possible case of an A, you have an average GPA over two classes of a 2.5

With a C+, you get a 2.33, which is barely lower, and the advantage is that it is in only one class, and its drag on your GPA will be averaged out twice as quickly as (2 classes * 2.5). I'd pull hard for the C+.

Besides, it is a really good practice for the future to learn how to turn a bad situation around as best you can, in the face of an uncertain payoff, rather than walking away. So, hit the books, show up at office hours, and finish strong!
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 9:58 PM on June 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Definitely the C. The fact that you got an A the second time around (which may or may not happen), does not remove the fact that you still got a D the first time around. There are worse things in life than getting a C, in fact many of the college classes I took were graded on a curve and the majority of the students did get C's. You are trying to find an excuse to justify not working as hard as you should in the class, and that's fine, but it isn't going to look better on your transcript.

To the above poster: When you repeat classes, they remain on your transcript but are not factored into your GPA.
posted by sophist at 10:04 PM on June 4, 2008

If you were, for example, applying to law school, then your GPA would play a huge role. And while you would get a negative reaction to a "D" then an "A," the GPA is more important than that negative reaction (second in importance only to your LSAT score). Not sure if other professional schools are the same, but I would do what I could do to save the GPA.

If you had a 4.0 average otherwise (hypothetically) on 125 credits, and this was a 3 credit class, you'd go from a 4.0 to a 3.93. That's a meaningful difference. It may be worth the retake.
posted by JakeWalker at 10:24 PM on June 4, 2008

I'm confident I'd do much better the second time around, but is it even worth it or should I just try to finish off the course strong and most likely, end up with a C or C+.

I have to warn you that this is a risky assumption. Any number of things may change -- your level of caring may actually decrease (taking an easy class again, even one you only showed up for half of last time, is really boring), the instructor may be different and teach an entirely different and much harder course, you may not be able to retake it until a semester when you are really busy, etc. That you will be able to purposefully get a D (as opposed to an F) is also a risky assumption. Having retaken a number of classes in my time, sometimes more than once, I think in terms of risk management you would be better off getting the best grade you can now and seeing what happens.

Basically, I want to know from a school or employer's point of view, is the better to have received a grade of a 'C' or to have gotten a non-passing grade 'D' or similar with a higher grade the next quarter when I'd retake the course?

It's hard to assess the importance to grad schools or employers without knowing both the field and how important the course is in the major. I had some early blemishes in my transcript and did very well in the grad school market, but none of them were in classes related to the field I am in (they were gen-eds). If they were, I do not know that I would have been so successful. (Also, for grad schools, letters are a much more important factor anyways.)

Also, you may be interested to know that at some point that is actually not too distant from now, it is highly likely that your undergrad transcript will never ever matter again in your life. Even if you go to grad school and continue in academia, after a few early fellowship applications, no one will ever want to see it again.
posted by advil at 10:36 PM on June 4, 2008

Employers will not give a crap about the grades on your transcript.
posted by gnutron at 11:28 PM on June 4, 2008

Employers will not give a crap about the grades on your transcript.

That was mostly true when there were more jobs than people to fill them. Employers are getting pickier as economic times worsen, and things like grades can come into play. As to the original question, speaking as someone who has made decisions about graduate school admits, I would avoid getting a D if I were you. Almost everyone has a couple Cs on their record. The distance between a C and a D is far greater, IMO, than the distance between a C and a B.
posted by Crotalus at 11:49 PM on June 4, 2008

In my experience, and in the experience of all my friends, grades matter for two things: What schools you will get into in the future (such as grad school) and the very first job your get out of school. But you're not past the first job threshhold, I gather, and you probably don't know at this point whether further schooling is in the cards. So suck it up and get a decent grade if you can.

As for the averaging, though, you should really spend 5 minutes reading your student handbook. Schools all do this differently. My school, for instance, has a mandatory retake policy for classes below a C (it's law school and we're trying to bring up bar passage rates, horray for dumb policies.) When the class is retaken, the two grades are averaged but only given half weight each so they don't throw off the gpa on your other classes. So yeah, read your student handbook. It's designed for questions like this.
posted by Happydaz at 12:03 AM on June 5, 2008

Yeah, why "throw" the course and get a D? Why not try to pull out of the spiral and get a C+ (or even a B-). Then if you need to, for GPA purposes, retake the course, you can do so. Unless your school has a "no retakes unless you fail" policy, this seems like a much better option.

Off topic but hopefully still helpful: Study (hard) for the final. Go see the professor and the TA. Tell him that you really want to do well on the final exam and that you need help. Get interested in the course at the last second -- every TA and professor has seen this pattern but, in my opinion (as a TA), it's better to be a grade-grubbing C student who's "magically" interested in the topic than not be interested at all. Cement yourself in the professor's memory (and the TA's memory) and ask lots of questions. Ask around about a study group. Even if you don't say anything, you'll at least figure out what questions to go as the TA about what will (and won't) be on the final exam. This might get you some extra "oomph" on the final grading and calculation. The professor might take pity on you and throw you a bone (or .3 of a point) to get you into the next grade.

Good luck!
posted by zpousman at 5:21 AM on June 5, 2008

Have you talked to the professor about this? Don't go begging for a higher grade — it won't work — but please do go and ask his advice. You may have options you don't know about, like withdrawing from the class, taking an incomplete, or switching to pass-fail grading. The situation may be less hopeless than you realize: maybe there'll be a grading curve; maybe he'll offer you a shot at extra credit. And, hell, if you're doing badly in his class, you should be going to him for help on the material anyway. A few good study tips could make the difference between a C+ and a C-, and from where you're standing that's a pretty crucial difference.

Frankly, he probably wants you to ask his advice. Students never seem to believe it, but as a teaching assistant I assure you it's true — your professors really do hate it when you struggle in silence, and they'd much rather you showed up in office hours for some extra guidance.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:16 AM on June 5, 2008

I agree with nebula, when I was in this situation in a college class (sidetrack, they had an insanely stupid rule that you could only miss 3 classes and even if you had an A otherwise they'd fail you, because apparently we were really in kindergarten) I was able to take an incomplete and retake it.

Go talk to your prof.
posted by jesirose at 8:51 AM on June 5, 2008

Professor here. A retake is better, both for your GPA (assuming you get the A the second time) and for being able to say to a grad school or employer "I matured over the years, and proof is when I got serious about my studies and did much better the second time around". But I would take the C and move on.

Why? Because almost no one who gets the D the first time gets an A the second. Normally it is more like a C. I don't know anything about you, but most students I have seen who retake classes don't do much better the second time. It is easy to think "If only I had done X", where X is what you think would have earned you an A. The reality is that maybe X would not have earned you the A, so if you wait and do X the next time around you still might not get a much better grade. Instead, do X right now and see if it helps with your final grade.

The other trap is that when you retake the class, you come at the start of the semester and think "I know all this basic stuff, since I did it all before. I'll pay more attention when we get to stuff I don't know". Then you slack off for a while, and next thing you know you are behind the curve again. I think this tendency is exacerbated by the fact that you will recognize things the second time around and feel that you know more than you do, since you at least heard it the first time around. It is harder to stay alert, attentive, and open to new ideas the second time around.
posted by procrastination at 10:54 AM on June 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

From a GPA standpoint, if you are planning to go to grad school, I'd retake the class. If you do not intend to further your education don't bother retaking the class.

I agree you should talk to your professor. I wish I had. I didn't think there was any way I'd pass a Medieval Latin class because I felt that I had fallen too far behind so I skipped the final figuring I'd just retake the class. Well I found out the next year that had I taken the final and even done badly on it I would have gotten a C, but since I skipped I ended up with a D+. It was a stupid decision. And to make it worse, the class was never offered again during my time at school so I have to live with that stupid D+ on my transcript and the regret of not having enough courage to speak to my condescending, egomaniac professor before deciding to skip the final. This was 14 years ago and it still pisses me off. Argh!
posted by wherever, whatever at 4:26 PM on June 5, 2008

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