It’s that time of the year again. Midterm exams and midterm papers have been graded and returned.
What do you do if your result is not stellar? And by not stellar I mean poor. In some cases really poor. Like you are seriously questioning if you are going to make it through the course with a passing grade poor.
Every year I speak to several students who share this same question. It doesn’t have to be the end of the world. And dropping a course can actually be a positive decision.
All institutions have an official “drop date” (check your institution’s academic calendar for details) for quarter, half and full term courses. In most instances, if a student drops the course before said date, the course grade and attempt will not show on the student’s official transcript. On the other hand, if a student continues in a course and ends up failing, this attempt (sometimes shown as “F” or sometimes with the actual number grade) will appear on the transcript.
Before you make your final decision, consider your honest answers to these six questions:
- How much effort did you put into the required coursework? Did you attend class? Do the readings? Prepare the review questions? Participate in the class seminars and discussions? Seek clarity if you didn’t understand the content? Etc.
- How well do you understand the content? Do you actually get it but for some reason weren’t able to showcase your understanding through the testing vehicle or assigned paper? Or do you really have no idea what is going on?
- What strategy were you using to learn the content? Did you keep up with the weekly readings or did you try to cram eight weeks of reading into a 48 hour period? Did you do the readings before class or after class or never? Did you think about and document your personal responses to the assignment questions, review problems, cases, discussion questions, whatever, before class or did you just hope to absorb the content by osmosis?
- Is this a mandatory or optional course for you? If it is a mandatory course for your program it is likely a prerequisite for future courses. How will dropping this course impact the rest of your academic plan? Will a poor grade impact your performance in future courses? Should you retake the course at a time when you are ready to give it your all? On the other hand, if it is an optional or elective course when will you be able to make up this course? Will that be easy or difficult given your schedule?
- What is your grade potential in the course? By grade potential, I mean what is your projected final grade? Work out the math using the evaluation breakdown in your course syllabus. Will it be enough? Most programs require a minimum average to stay in the program and sometimes a minimum grade for core courses in the program. Do you risk being removed from the program?
- Were there extraordinary circumstances that affected your performance? For example, were you extremely sick with the flu the day before the exam? Perhaps you really understood the content but your performance suffered because you were dehydrated, weak and perhaps a little nauseas. Did you experience a substantial loss that would impact your mental state and therefore your performance? Will these circumstances continue to affect your ability to perform or are they one-time events that you do not expect to impact you in the future?
Before you make your final decision I highly recommend making an appointment with an academic counsellor to get some answers to the questions above. If you feel comfortable or if your professor has made it clear that she is willing to talk to students about this issue then by all means, make an appointment and discuss your concerns with her as well.
Dropping a course can free up valuable time for you to put more effort into other courses or to manage other issues in your life. At the end of the day the decision to stay or go is personal and yours to make.
Do you have enough information to make your decision now?
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