Failing not the end for students

By Gretchen Andersen

Seeing an F on a transcript isn’t the best situation to be in, but it’s not the end of the… Seeing an F on a transcript isn’t the best situation to be in, but it’s not the end of the world for Pitt students.

With finals week underway and tensions running high about tests, grade averages and maybe even how much weight participation really carries, there are a number of options available to students who don’t receive satisfactory grades.

In the event that Arts & Sciences students do fail a course, students may opt to take a course repeat, in which they retake the same course to salvage their grade, said Patrick Mullen, assistant director of the Arts & Sciences Advising Center.

“Retaking a course is an effective way to boost your GPA,” Mullen said, though there are limits to the number and types of courses students can repeat. The various schools determine how repeating particular courses works.

Mullen advised students to first take some minor steps before choosing to repeat a class.

“Students should speak with an instructor and adviser, discussing their experiences in the course, and decide where to go from there, whether it is a course repeat or change in direction,” Mullen said.

In the event that he retakes a course, Arts & Sciences will recalculate the “new” grade into a student’s GPA, even if that grade is lower than the original. The original grade therefore will not be calculated into the GPA, but will remain on the transcript.

This process only works, however, if the student hands in a Course Repeat form, which Mullen advises students to do “as soon as possible.” Course Repeat forms for Arts & Sciences students can be found in 140 Thackeray Hall.

Mullen said he hasn’t seen any evidence that students tend to do better in a class the second time around, but he also added that the outcome depends a lot upon the individual student.

For engineering students, the process is similar, said Cheryl Paul, the director of Engineering Student Services. Engineering students can repeat a class, and the new grade will be recalculated into the GPA though the original grade will remain on the transcript.

Paul said engineering students often repeat a class in the summer because the workload is lighter.

Like Mullen, Paul said students should immediately pick up a Course Repeat form from their adviser because “your new grade will be recalculated sooner and you will not forget.”

Paul said repeating a class is a “smart thing to do.”

“Generally speaking, yes, there are those who retake because they aren’t very invested and might not do as well, but for students who are motivated, I’ve seen them keep scholarships, some who go from a low 2 to a high 3,” Paul said. “Sometimes students may just have a bad semester.”

“Students should reach out to theiradviser and discuss options in depth,” Paul said. “They shouldn’t feel that they are doing this by themselves, there are a lot of people in engineering who want to help them.”

Business students who fail a course also have a similar option. Elizabeth Adams, director of the College of Business Administration’s Advising Center, said in an e-mail that “if the course was an elective, the student could opt to let the F grade stand and just take another course. If the course is a requirement — or if the student wanted to take steps to ‘undo’ the F — the student would enroll to repeat the course.”

Adams said a business student’s adviser completes the Course Repeat form. At the end of the semester, the Registrar’s office updates the student’s record so that the old grade is no longer factored into the student’s GPA.

Although there is course repeat to fix a student’s original grade, the best option, Mullen said, “is proactively doing everything a student can to not get in a failing position.”

He said students should understand there are resources available to help them do well in a course — like the Academic Resource Center, for example.

“They should  . . . be willing to meet with an instructor outside of class,” Mullen said. “They should also take advantage of TAs; they have office hours and drop-in hours also.”