Posted on 12-03-2010
Filed Under (Conflicts over grades) by Anita Kelly

Every semester some students miss the mark on my first exam. Sadly, they do far worse than they expect and are left wondering what do to. Since there are only 3 exams (and no final) that make up the whole grade for the semester, they are in a tough spot.

Some will email me and tell me how bad they feel. They will ask what I think they should do. They seem surprised when I respond, “What prevents you from dropping my class?” It’s as if students believe that we professors think that you should stick it out no matter what. They think that things somehow will get better by the end of the semester if  they simply stick it out.

Here’s my advice: If your university gives you the opportunity to drop classes well into the semester, do it. Dump those classes that will hurt your GPA. There is no reason to feel guilty for dropping.

(2) Comments   


Jake on 13 March, 2010 at 9:25 am #

For me personally it is not the guilt that keeps me from dropping a class, but the added strain it places on me to take another class further down the road. Enough drops on your record can add an extra semester or two to your college experience, which at a place like Notre Dame does not come cheaply. It is the economic factor that keeps me from dropping a class, and for this reason that I will find myself asking a teacher for advice on how to do better in their class (if I do not know what I need to do) rather than just simply tossing in the towel, which would be much easier.

Michael Nadorff on 14 March, 2010 at 2:32 pm #

Hi Dr. Kelly, long time no speak! When I was an undergraduate I always found it to be the sunk cost effect. You think about how much time and effort you have invested in the course and it makes dropping the course nearly impossible, even if it is the right decision to make. I have found a related problem in graduate school. I like overloading on coursework so that I can take fewer courses later on, and I overloaded once again this semester. However, doing so has put me in a bind where I don’t have enough time for my classes, research, and clinical work, so I have had to sacrifice my time and effort spent on classes. One of my courses is an elective class that I could easily drop without penalty (it is the hardest class as well) but I just can’t bring myself to do so even though I am sure that my research productivity is hurting because of it.

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