Grades and Your GPA
It’s easy to let grades slip that first semester. There
are so many events going on and so much partying to do. And let’s not
forget how difficult some of your classes will be. Do your best
to keep up your grades. Bad grades in your first year will bring
down your total grade point average. You’ll probably be a better
student in your junior and senior year when you’re working on your
major, and you’ll be pretty mad at yourself if the only thing killing
your GPA is a bad grade or two from your first year.
Unlike high school, you can drop college classes and either pick
up new ones or take fewer than you intended. Each semester has a
“no penalty” drop/add date close to the beginning of the semester.
Be sure to drop and add classes before that date if you want a full
refund or if you want to swap classes. There will be other drop
dates, but those come with financial penalties. As the semester
goes on, you’ll be charged more for dropping a class. For example,
three weeks into the semester, the school may only refund 75 percent
of the class fee; four weeks into the semester, you might only get
50 percent back. Some colleges require the professor to sign a drop form.
There are several reasons why you might end up changing your
schedule midsemester. Keep in mind that dropping a class is serious
business. If you have to drop a class because you’re spending too
much time rushing a frat or sorority, no one is going to feel sorry
for you if your transcript has a big scarlet D for drop on it. Here
are several reasons you may want to drop a course:
- You’re doing poorly in the class and want
to save your GPA.
- You have financial concerns and want to take on a job/more
hours at work.
- You received poor advising and shouldn’t have taken the class
in the first place.
- You’re dealing with serious personal issues.
- You switch majors, forcing you to change classes or dump an
- Your professor’s expectations have become unreasonable.
- You prefer a smaller or larger class.
- You burn out from having taken on too many classes and other
- You take a leave of absence from school.
- You are partying overtime: too much fun, not enough studying.
One way to avoid killing your GPA is to drop a class you’re doing
terribly in, even if that means losing the money you spent on it.
There’s a deadline to do this as well, and once the drop deadline
has passed, you’re stuck with the grade. Your transcript will show
every drop/add, and you don’t want a future graduate school or employer
to see too much of that. Some colleges have a “repeat” option that
you can use a certain number of times in case you fail a class.
You can retake the class and replace the failing grade with a passing
one. The failing class will still show up on your transcript, but
the F will not factor into your overall GPA.
If you’re doing poorly in a class or have to quit a class
because of some other factor out of your control (like illness or work),
you can take an incomplete. You won’t get a grade for the class,
nor will your transcript reflect a dropped class. Your transcript
will show a place holder (like an I) instead of a grade. You have
to make arrangements with a professor to make up the work or tests
in the class, usually by the next term. You’ll fill out an “incomplete
form” and have your professor sign it before the semester ends.
Whether or not you can take an incomplete is totally up
to your professor. Generally, explaining that you’ve been ill or have
taken on too much that term is good enough for most profs. Check
out your school’s policy at the registrar’s office. If you stop
going to class, your professor will not withdraw you automatically.
Instead, you will get a failing grade. In some cases, a professor
is allowed to give a “no grade” place holder if you don’t show up
for something important, like the final exam. This placeholder will
turn into an F if you don’t contact the professor and remedy the
Reasons for taking an incomplete:
- You get sick at the end of the semester.
- You have a family emergency.
- You have too many work obligations.
- You’re in a theater production during finals week.
- You’re playing in the “big game” the same day as the final.
- You haven’t finished your coursework.
- You can’t drop the class because you need it for your
- You have two finals scheduled for the same day.
- You need the semester break to study up for the final.
- You have a research project that needs extra attention.