April 25, 2013

To Fail or Not to Fail?!

Final exam season is just around the corner. Students are planning where to study, how to learn all of the material in time, exactly how long is too long to procrastinate before writing that last paper, and whether or not to fail a class on purpose.

Wait, fail a class on purpose?

Yes, that’s right. Some students out there believe that failing a course is a good idea. This is due, in large part, to a misunderstanding of the repeated course policies at SAS. This is so rampant that all 18 SAS advising deans have talked with students who have explained that they want a professor to intentionally fail them so they can take the class again and boost their GPA. I ask you, does this sound at all like it makes sense?

You're right; it doesn't. So let's explore the real deal on repeating courses
  1. The full repeated course policy can be found here but here are the important highlights:
  2. If a student fails a course and repeats it, the F is removed from the GPA calculation. This policy can be applied only once for a particular course, and can be applied to up to 4 courses.
  3. If a student earns a D in a course and repeats it, the D and the new grade are factored into the GPA calculation.
  4. If a student earns a C or better in a course and repeats it, the second grade is not factored into the GPA.
  5. ALL original grades, including Fs, remain on the official transcript.
If you only look at 1 and 2 above, it sounds like taking the F is preferable to a D: the F comes out of the GPA calculation, but the D stays in.

But, think about this for a second more: does failing a course really sound like it makes sense? How are you going to explain that to an employer? A graduate program? Your parents? All of these people are likely to look at the full transcript, not just the cumulative GPA.

And every transcript tells a story. You can explain your transcript’s story, but do you really think someone will hear you say “Well, I failed the class on purpose” and be impressed? Even if you explain the Rutgers policy, the person you’re talking to is likely to only hear the part where you chose to fail a class!
Remember, too, that if you intentionally fail the course in order to repeat it, then you must actually repeat it to help your GPA. In many cases, this means another semester sitting in a class in which you may have no real interest. A grade of D, while not stellar work, is sufficient to add to your graduation credits and satisfy SAS Core Learning Goals. Departments may require a C or better for majors or minors, but if the course is convincing you NOT to continue studying that material, planning to take it again may not be the best option.

The repeated course policy that removes the F from the GPA calculation was written to give a student who has struggled an opportunity to take the class again and demonstrate their ability to succeed in the course. Unfortunately, students now interpret the policy to make an F seem like something to strive for! In all of your years of school, have you ever heard of someone wanting an F? Why would it be any different now?

If you’re not doing well in a course and you’re trying to decide if you should fail a class or work for a passing grade, PLEASE come talk to an adviser now! An adviser can help you put the situation in perspective and figure out what to do. And they are more knowledgeable about policies and options than your roommate or the guy down the hall.
A few important facts:
  1. Medical schools, law schools, and most graduate programs do not apply the repeated course policy when evaluating a student’s transcript or recalculating their GPA. That means that if you fail a course and the F is removed from your GPA calculation on your Rutgers transcript, it will likely be RE-calculated into the GPA at the graduate school.
  2. If you fail a course and want to apply the repeated course policy, the course MUST be repeated at Rutgers-New Brunswick.
  3. If you receive financial aid or a scholarship, an F could seriously impact your continued eligibility. And your plan to repeat the course in the future does not help the GPA now.
As always, we encourage you to talk to an adviser about any questions or concerns you may have about your courses. You can call 848-932-8888 to set up an appointment, or stop in to an Advising Center to see the reference dean.