What Should You Do? Trying To Get Into A Closed Course

One of the biggest bummers at the start of the semester is realizing that you need a course, but finding out that the course is closed. You might think that if you need the course, you will find someone (Dean, Professor, Advisor) who will simply let you into the course (i.e., give you an override). However, as the expression goes Think Again! It is not a lost cause when you need a closed course, but getting an override into the course will require a certain way of approaching your dilemma.

Here are some pieces of advice:

1) Keep in mind that in most cases the only person who can let you into a class is the faculty member teaching the course. That means, at some point you are going to have to have some communication with this person. It is very rare that the faculty member will let you in to a closed course simply based on the recommendation of another person (e.g., an Advisor). For the rest of this post I will assume a faculty member must give an override into a class, but it may be another person (e.g., chairperson, advisor) who makes this decision.

override1-university-105709_12802) I feel that you should talk to a faculty member in person. Contacting them initially via email is OK, but for something like this I feel a face-to-face meeting will work to your advantage. For one thing, I believe a faculty member will be more impressed with your desire to get into the course when you show up in person to talk compared to reading an email from you. I’ll be honest, in my close to 30 years of teaching it is doubtful I ever gave or would give an override to a student I did not talk to in person.

3) Be persistent. Getting an override for a course can be hard work that takes some time. Don’t try once and then just give up. In my view, you should try several times. You need to realize that ultimately you may not be successful, but I feel that if you really want the course you need to keep going for it.

4) Have clear in your mind why you need the course. This is critical for when you talk to the person teaching the course. Don’t just say to the faculty member that you need the course to graduate. Lay out in a very systematic manner why you need this particular course at this particular time. For example, maybe you need the course right now because your plan to graduate does not allow you to take this course during a later semester. Or, you need the course now because it serves as a pre-requisite for other courses that you need to graduate on time.

There are two quick things to keep in mind when you talk about why you need to take the course. First, needing to take a course immediately versus needing to take the course at some point in your college career are of course two very different things. Be prepared to answer why you need the course right now. If you do not have a good answer to why you need to let into the course right the Instructor may not be swayed to give you an override. They will simply say you can take the course later. Second, a faculty member may ask you why you did not pre-register for the course. Again, you need to have a good answer. Just saying you forgot or were not really sure you needed the course are sure ways to have a faculty member say no to your request.

override-school-book-1560339_12805) Be civil. The worst thing you can do is to approach your discussion with a faculty member in a combative manner. If a student did this with me I would tell them to come back when they have calmed down or simply deny the request for an override on the spot. Before you talk to a faculty member it is important to calm down and be prepared to talk about your request in a mature manner. Getting angry will not help your cause at all.

6) Don’t beg. In my opinion, having talked to hundreds of students needing an override, I do not feel any student should be begging (cajoling or whatever you want to call it) to get into a class. You need to approach your situation in a mature manner and be prepared for the outcome—good or bad. I just do not see any place for begging, and quite frankly I can see it work against you in most situations.

My hope is that all of the advice I have just given you will get you the override you want. However, if there is just no way to get a faculty member to budge, keep in mind that you might need to (a) take another course at your school, (b) consider taking a summer course (c) try to take the course at another school (including online), (d) find out if there is any way to have another course substitute for the course you want, (e) keep checking to see if a slot opens up for the course—during the first week of the semester there is usually a drop-add period and someone may simply drop the course, leaving a slot open for you, and (f) put your name on a wait list if your school uses one. With regard to the wait list, that can work. However, I feel you should still see the person teaching the course regardless of whether you are on the wait list.

As always, good luck as you continue to navigate the ins and outs of college life!

Please note that the comments of Dr. Golding and the others who post on this blog express their own opinion and not that of the University of Kentucky.

What To Do With Your Cellphone In Class?

         Sometimes I think back to the old days. I started teaching in graduate school way back in 1984 and have been a college professor teaching classes since 1988. In those early days, of course, there were no cell phones, ipads, notebooks, or laptops. Students came to class and did not have the potential distraction of an electronic device. Oh how things have changed! Now students come to class, often with multiple electronic devices, and they are ready and willing to use these devices in class. However, there is a question about how you should think about these devices, specifically your cell phone, in class.

cellphoneblogger-336371_1280         In answering this question, I want to begin by saying that myself and most other faculty use our cellphones a lot. We are heavily into them, using them all of the time to call people, text, check out the Internet, play games, etc. Thus, what I will say isn’t the case of an old faculty member who refuses to accept the innovations of the 21st century. With this in mind, just hear me out on what I think you should do with your cellphone in class.

1) In thinking about what to do with your cell phone in class, you need to first change the way you think about your attachment to your cellphone. I am sure that in certain ways you and your cellphone are “one”. However, in the classroom you just can’t be thinking about things in this way. Part of the issue is that you need to pay attention to what is being said in class, take notes, and participate in class. You are going to be limited in these activities if you are checking your cellphone every few seconds to see if you have a new text. Let me add two things about this change of thinking. First, the size of the class should not matter here, because even large classes will require you to be attentive and complete your work. Second research has shown that students understand that a classroom is an inappropriate place to use a cellphone (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/229862354_Cellular_phone_etiquette_among_college_students)

 2) Figure out a strategy that will keep you from constantly looking at your phone. For example, it might be best to put your cellphone in your backpack or in your pocket with the ringer turned off. You will be able to hear it buzz or feel the vibration (especially in your pocket) if an emergency call or text is coming through, but you are not looking at your cellphone all of the time. You might want to check, however, if having the buzzer on is OK, or if your Instructor expects your cellphone to be on silent. To me it is only reasonable to allow for a buzzer in case of an emergency (see #5 below). Will it be tough to follow this type of strategy? Of course! But, you need to stop yourself in some way, and having your cellphone out of view is very important. One other thing to point out here is that I know some people look at their cellphone a lot to check out the time; their cellphone serves as a watch. Still, you need to try and stop looking at your cellphone so much. Looking at the time will typically lead to checking phone calls, texts, and the Internet. Therefore, get used to checking the time by looking at the classroom clock.

3) Understand the rules for cellphone use that are presented in each course syllabus. It is likely the case that your Instructor will frown upon cellphone use unless it is used in conjunction with an educational app, and will state in the syllabus that you should not use it during class. This may even include telling you that you cannot use your cellphone to take pictures of material presented on the board/screen. In some cases (so I have heard) things may be much stricter, and the Instructor may include penalizing points for using your cellphone. Finally, it is possible that your Instructor will allow you to have your cellphone out, although the ringer must be off. The key is that there is almost surely going to be something in the syllabus for each of your classes about cellphones, and you need to know this information.

cellphonetexting-593321_12804) Don’t try to play games with your Instructor. By this I mean that over the years I have encountered students who either think they can “pull one on the old guy” or that I am simply “out of it”. This includes students who text with their phones on their lap. Do they think I really cannot see them? I guess not, but even in a room with 500 students you can see students texting—a student moving their hands in their lap with their head down when I am not lecturing is a dead giveaway! When your Instructor says no cellphones can be out they mean it. One caveat to all of this is that I have talked to students who make an interesting point about cellphone use. They tell me that sometimes students who pull out their cellphones are not being intentionally rude, but are doing so automatically (i.e., “texting unconsciously”)—they are not really aware that they are being rude. As a psychologist, I understand what they are saying but this can still turn into a big problem, and to me indicates all the more reason why that these students need to put their cellphone in their backpacks during class.

5) Think about the best way to use your cellphone in case of an emergency. Of course, emergencies happen and having a cellphone is just what we all need to be able to deal with the unexpected. Because of the importance of cellphones in these situations, check to be sure you can have your phone on buzzer so you can hear if an unexpected text or phone call is coming through. If your Instructor expects you to have your phone on silent, you might want to approach them and see if there is any flexibility on this rule. I am betting your Instructor will see your point of view, especially because it is likely the case that your Instructor has their phone on buzzer. On a related point, if an emergency call or text comes through, my advice is to get up quietly from your seat and go into the hallway to talk or text. You might even want to later explain to your Instructor why you had to leave the classroom.

In the end, like many other issues dealing with being in class, it is important that your cellphone use allows you to be courteous and respectful to your Instructor and your classmates. This behavior will make for a more positive classroom experience.

Please note that the comments of Dr. Golding and the others who post on this blog express their own opinion and not that of the University of Kentucky.

Pointers For Selecting College Classes

With summer orientation going on for a lot of rising freshmen and transfer students I wanted to discuss an issue that is important when you choose your first classes, and that will remain critical as you continue in your college career. This is the idea of how best to select classes. As I present my thoughts on selecting classes, keep in mind (as is always the case with blog posts) that I am offering my opinion on this issue. There are bound to be others (e.g., professional advisors) who do not agree with me. But, my opinion on selecting classes is based on almost 30 years of dealing with undergraduates, including helping countless students select classes.

selectclass-computers-377117_1280To begin, I believe very strongly that the ultimate decision for which class to take or not take rests with you. This is very important, because it goes along with the idea that when you are in college you must take responsibility for your college career. Of course, there are those around you (e.g., parents, friends, professional advisors) who will be giving you advice. In the end, however, it rests with you. You can’t just sit there and have others give you a copy of a schedule while saying “Here’s a nice schedule” or “This will work best for you.” Make sure you understand what is on the schedule, and that you agree that the classes you are going to take are the ones you want and need to take.

This brings me to another critical point–there is an art to selecting classes. Each class you select must lead (as close as possible) to a perfect fit. This includes making sure you know who is teaching the class, when and where the class is taught, and finally what is the “value” of the class. Let me discuss each of these in some detail.

1) Who is teaching a class? Over and over again I hear stories from students where an advisor suggested a course, but never says anything about who is teaching the course. This is done despite the fact that the person who teaches a course is critical not only to whether you will enjoy the class, but if you will learn anything. For example, do you want a faculty member who is going to interact with the class, use various types of media, and generally be a nice person? Or, do you want someone who stand in one place in the front of the classroom, reads their lecture, and seems like teaching your class is the last thing they would like to be doing. Of course, you want the first instructor. It is that first instructor who will get you motivated to attend class and complete all work; higher grades will usually follow!

So when you select a class, check out who is teaching the class. If the course schedule says “TBD” that is not a good sign–it stands for “To Be Determined”. Often when this occurs a department may still be trying to find a part-time faculty or graduate student to teach the class. These people can turn out to be good instructors, but compared to a full-time faculty member with a stellar reputation there is no comparison. If you can find out who is teaching a class you want to take, check them out in three ways. First, ask advisors or fellow students if they know anything about the instructor. Second, many schools allow you to search faculty evaluation scores. There are scores based on surveys that students complete each semester. If you can look at these, make sure you are not signed up with someone who has low scores. Finally, there are online reviews of faculty (e.g., Ratemyprofessor.com). These websites are controversial and people complain that they are not valid. Nonetheless, I feel you have every right to give them a look and decide for yourself if a comment is just that of an angry student who is upset about their grade or that the comment has some value to you. The bottom line to me is that you should never take a class where you don’t know something about the person in the front of the room.

selectclass-auditorium-572776_12802) When and where is the course is taught? Now the two parts of this question get very tricky. Let’s start with the “when” part. As you can imagine, a school cannot have all of their class on certain days at ideal times. For many students this would be Tuesday and Thursday (TR) between 11 AM and 2 PM. Students often like a TR schedule because it allows for a 4-day weekend. The 11-1 slot means you don’t have to get up too early or stay on campus too late. The problem is that most students take 4 or 5 classes so there is really no way you can fit in everything on this TR time frame.

So now the decision-making begins. Here are two critical questions: (1) Are you willing to take classes on any day; and (2) Are you willing to take classes that start at any time of day? These are questions only you can answer, but I want to make an important point: Don’t let anyone tell you to take a class on a certain schedule that you really are not happy about. For example, if you just do not think you can get up for an 8 AM class, I believe you should not take this class. Let me add that I understand that you may have to take a class that early if it is a required course or there is simply no other time you can take a particular class. Also, there are those who argue that letting students determine when they want to take classes will lead to scheduling nightmares, again because students want to take classes at “prime” times. Finally, it is argued that when students get a job they will have very little say over their work schedule so they need to get used to taking classes at all times, early or late. Still, I believe that forcing a student to take classes at times they do not prefer decreases a student’s responsibility for their college career, and will likely lead to lower motivation and less learning.

Sorry, but I must add one last point about when you take your classes. Don’t forget to leave time in your schedule for lunch—you gotta eat!

As for the “where” part of selecting classes, this is also an important consideration. The main issue here is that you want to try and select classes in buildings close enough together that you are not scrambling to get to class. In general, there is a 10-minute break between classes. Most schools are relatively compact as far as the location of buildings. However, if you attend a large university it is quite possible that your classes will be far away. Getting to your next class may require you to leave one class a little early. If you have to do this, make sure you talk to your instructor about this. This is made tougher when the weather is lousy—think Chicago in the winter! Again, you may have no choice over where a class is located, but if you can be selective try and make sure that the buildings are kind of close. One thing you can do in this regard is to check out how long it will take you to walk between your classes.

selectclass-classroom-824120_12803) What is the “value” of the class? One could argue that every class has equal value—they are all important. However, I feel you need to be pragmatic about this point, and realize that some courses have more value than others. For example, I feel that required courses are more valuable than electives. The value of required courses is even higher for those required courses that are only offered once a year or once every other year. You need these courses to graduate so make sure you select these to take as soon as possible As far as electives, taking these is much more flexible. I realize electives may be really interesting and may not be offered on a regular basis, but it is best to take electives to fill in slots in your schedule when required courses just will not fit in.

I want to add three caveats to my position on required courses. First, don’t take a required course if it will lead to taking more credit hours than you had planned. The additional time and stress that the additional course will probably cause is really not worth it–just plan on taking the class another semester. Second, there will be a number of required courses you must take that are typically called “General Education” courses. One view about these courses is that they should be taken as soon as possible (e.g., freshman and sophomore years) so that you do not have a big delay between what you learned in high school and taking the class in college—think Math. Also, if you take General Education courses early on you can concentrate on courses in your major in your final years of college. However, others feel that there is no problem interspersing General Education courses with those of your major as you move through your college career. It’s your call on this, but I tend to side with the General Education courses throughout one’s college career viewpoint. Finally, sometimes when students select classes they use a strategy of selecting one more required course than they need. They then attend all their classes and drop the class that seems least appealing. In general, I am not supportive of this strategy, because before you drop a class you are holding the slot that another student needed.

I know this is a lot of information to think about, However, because selecting classes is so important to your college success I wanted you to have a faculty member’s perspective on this process. Good luck as you select your classes!

Please note that the comments of Dr. Golding and the others who post on this blog express their own opinion and not that of the University of Kentucky.

Smart Move—Take a Summer Class!

I know what you’re thinking. The semester has just ended and the last thing you want to hear about is taking a summer class. But, hear me out on this one. I want to make the case that taking one or more summer classes may be a great move if this option is available to you.

teacher-702998_1280In making my arguments I realize that some of you will be unable to take summer classes due to financial considerations. Also, your summer schedule may be really busy and you just do not feel you are able to commit to taking a class. Keep in mind however that you might be able squeeze in a summer class with a busy schedule if you take an online summer class. Finally, a summer class may not be ideal for you if you go away to school and you would have to take a class at a different school near your home. For example, say you go to the University of Kentucky, but live in Chicago. You could take a summer class at the University of Chicago. Taking this class at Chicago would be great, and you can usually earn credit hours toward your degree as long as Kentucky has a similar existing course. However, the actual grade you earn at Chicago will not be included into your Kentucky grade point average. A related situation occurs if you go to a smaller school that does not offer summer classes. You can take a class at a school that does offer summer classes—you earn the credit hours, but the grade does not get worked into your grade point average at your smaller school.

I also want to state that, in general, my thoughts about summer class hold true for face-to-face and online class. Although I typically favor the former, if you can motivate yourself to do the work in an online course that’s great. In fact, taking an online course may be a real advantage if you have other things going on this summer (e.g., work) and need greater flexibility.

 Now to what I see as four big advantages to taking summer classes:

1) Summer classes are usually much smaller than classes during a regular semester. This means you will typically have more contact with the Instructor and your classmates. For example, when I teach Introduction to Psychology I have 500 students in my class. That same class in the summer may have between 25 and 40 students.

2) The logistics of summer classes allows you to focus more attention on your classwork. In general, summer classes usually last only 4 to 8 weeks. What this means is that you can only take a small number of courses. For example, at the university where I teach students can only take one course during a 4-week session and two courses during an eight-week session. Of course, this is way less than the number of courses taken during a typical semester. It is true that you get the same amount of information in a shorter time frame, but you are able to focus so much more on this information. I will add that because the courses are short, they seem to fly by.

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3) Summer courses allow you to play catch-up with your courses and credit hours. Although everyone would like to move through college taking the exact number of credit hours each semester in order to graduate in 4 years, this doesn’t happen that often. Things take place during college that may set you back. For example, you may have stumbled with a course and now have to repeat it. Whether you repeat it in the summer or during a regular semester, repeating the course means you will get a new grade but you do not get the additional credit hours. Just to clear about this, when you take the same course two times, you only earn credit hours one time. That means you essentially “owe” credit hours, and need to earn back these credit hours somehow. Taking a summer course allows you to earn back these hours, and get right back on track as far as completing your credit hours.

4) It is my experience (probably 25 years of teaching summer class) and that of colleagues and students I have spoken to that summer class have a more laid-back atmosphere compared to a typical semester. It is the summer, and everybody seems just a bit calmer about things. I can’t say this is always true and clearly my “study” is unscientific, but this is my impression of summer classes.

These big advantages will work in your favor as you navigate your way through your college career. I hope you will consider taking a summer class–there’s a good chance it will benefit you!

Please note that the comments of Dr. Golding and the others who post on this blog express their own opinion and not that of the University of Kentucky.

 

College Summer Break: Use It Wisely!

With the school year coming to a close I thought it would be useful to discuss how best to think about summer break. In talking about this, it is important to keep in mind that my advice is for both those who will still be in college next academic year and incoming students.

I feel that the end of the academic year is a time to recharge. All those weeks of hard work have probably left you tired and in need of some much needed downtime. There is nothing wrong with just hanging out and getting yourself back to normal, at least during a part of the summer. For some of you, those initial days home will bring some much-needed sleep and a lot of good times with family and friends. Think of this aspect of summer break as a reward for a job well done. You made it through the school year and you are to be rewarded for all your efforts. Hopefully, your grades will reflect how hard you worked.

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I hope your time relaxing will include a few good books. As always, there is nothing like reading to calm you down and get your mind thinking about the world in new and exciting ways. In addition, all that reading will have residual benefits of improving your vocabulary, writing and thinking. In addition, what you read may even be related to what you are studying in school. The way I think about it, a good book goes a long way to a more relaxed person.

I understand that the summer is a time to refresh, but summer break is also a time to get things accomplished and to think ahead. One thing you might want to do is get a job during the summer months. It is likely that you can use the cash not only to do things during the summer or buy something you need, but it can also help you out with things you will need when school starts (e.g., textbooks). Also, if you can get a job related to your ultimate career plans that would be great–there is nothing like gaining experience in the workplace.

As far as thinking ahead, you might wonder what there is to prepare for, but it doesn’t take long to think of a list of things you probably need to do during the summer to ready for the next school year. I am not saying you should do all of these things right away, but at some point during the summer there are various tasks that you should try your best to get done. Here are a few:

1) visit your doctor and dentist

2) volunteer with some group, organization, or research lab—it will be great if this is related to your ultimate career goals

3) make contact with faculty who you might want to work with doing research when school begins

4) get your head together about career planning by checking out websites that offer information on various careers (e.g., careersinpsych.com if you are a Psychology major)—if you are a student getting ready to apply to graduate or professional school, start pulling application material together

5) continue to work on your resume

6) get an internship—these are great when they pay, but even if unpaid an internship gives you important practical experience

7) although it may cause you some “mental pain”, take some time to go over certain subject material that you will need to deal with when school starts

8) carefully read anything sent to you from your school, and respond immediately to any requests for information

hot-air-1373167_1280Students who are ready to start college for the first time have other things they need to consider doing during the summer. These include:

1) learn about the college town where you will be living if it will be new to you

2) start buying the things you will need for school—you don’t have to buy everything, because some things you will only learn that you need once you are on campus

3) create a LinkedIn account to help your professional career and to keep in connect with professors and other students

4) attend your college orientation, where you will register for classes and here more about life at your new school

5) if you are going to live away from home: (a) generate a packing list; (b) contact your roommate; and (c) investigate job opportunities if you need to work

6) consider attending a pre-orientation event where you can meet other incoming freshmen and faculty

7) check with the Financial Aid Office to confirm any aid you expect to receive

8) find out about the computer situation at your new school (e.g., what computer resources are available)

9) plan a budget

10) make your travel plans for arriving on campus, including how you will get all your things to campus

In closing, just remember that the summer should be a time for you to enjoy. The school year will be here before you know it. Take full advantage of this time off and be ready to go once school begins!

The Benefits of Volunteering in College

When I step back and look at what types of activities help lead to success for students in college, I am struck by how many of the most successful students have done volunteer (community service) work while they were in college. This volunteering is quite varied and includes disaster relief, working in a church daycare center, helping on a cancer ward, being a server in a soup kitchen, tutoring, working at a rape crisis center, being involved in a political campaign, etc. Before getting into the benefits of volunteering I need to be clear that volunteering, by definition, is doing work for free. Thus, if you are unable to work for free or feel that your time is too valuable to not get paid, then you will have to think of other activities that can help you succeed in college and beyond. I also want to add that it is great if you can volunteer with some organization that is related to your ultimate career goal, but any kind of volunteering has its benefits.

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As far as numbers, Google reported that “In 2010, 26.1 percent of college students around the United States volunteered, about on par with the overall percentage of Americans who volunteered that year. College student volunteerism peaked at 31.2 percent in 2004, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service.”

It would be great if more students volunteered, and I hope this post gets more students to see that volunteering can be beneficial in so many ways. So, here goes:

1) Volunteer work stands out in your resume. Given that only about a quarter of college students volunteer your resume will likely increase your standing relative to your peers. It indicates a certain type of motivation that many other students will not be able to show.

2) When you volunteer, you are doing work that benefits the community and will make you feel good. Whether it is working at a food bank or picking up trash in a park you are improving your community. There is a great deal of self-satisfaction knowing you have helped others in your community.

3) Volunteering shows that you have good time-management skills. You are able to show that you could take on an unpaid position at the same time you are taking classes and participating in other activities.

4) Often, volunteering shows that you can be part of a team. This quality can be very important, especially to employers who expect their workers to be able to interact with others in the workplace. I should note that there are a number of companies that do volunteer work in the community. If you already have volunteer experience, you will likely stand out compared to other applicants.

5) Certain scholarships require community service to apply. Thus, volunteering may boost your ability to get financial aid.

6) When you volunteer you are almost certain to build networks among the people you meet. As you might imagine, these contacts can be an excellent resource when you are looking for a job or need a letter of recommendation. In addition, wherever you volunteer you will form social networks with people who have similar interests.

7) You are able to build on existing skills and develop new skills in a volunteer situation. For example, you might have some computer skills, but in your volunteer position you might learn new ways of using computers. In addition, there are often times when you volunteer when you need to think in new ways. You may have a meager budget but big obstacles to overcome. This can get you to think in creative ways to solve problems.

8) Volunteering offers you the opportunity to explore career options. You are able to check out different activities to give you an idea of what career path might be best for you. In addition, volunteering may let you know that a certain path is really not what you thought it would be.

9) When you are in a volunteer situation you often learn to lead. Although you might not think about this when you start volunteering, many organizations rely on volunteers to get things accomplished. Given the large number of volunteers, it is pretty common for someone (it could be you!) to be made the leader of a group. This may not be what you wanted when you first decided to volunteer, but keep in mind that gaining this leadership experience is a real positive.

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To find out where you can volunteer you just need to:

  • Talk to others
  • Check out http://www.volunteer.gov
  • Contact the Career Center on campus
  • Contact any non-profit organization or charity
  • Contact the Red Cross if there is a natural disaster (e.g., tornado)
  • Ask a religious leader

Also, you might consider volunteering with a friend so that you can make a difference together. In the end, I am confident that you will feel great about volunteering. Not only will it lead to a stronger resume, but more important it will lead to a stronger you!

Is Repeating a Course a Good Idea? Definitely!

In thinking about writing this post I had to do something that I had not done in a long time—think back 35 years to when I was an undergraduate at Temple University in Philadelphia. Overall, I had a really positive undergraduate career, but I remember one time period when there was a course issue that left me totally clueless and stressed to the max. The short version is that I done relatively poorly in my statistics course in my major of Psychology and was in a frenzy about what to do. I probably should have dropped the course soon after the semester started—I think I was a freshman, the size of the class was relatively large (over 50) and the Instructor’s teaching style (don’t worry, I still remember the Instructor’s name!) was just not best for me. I thought I could just plow ahead and get an A or B, but in the end that wasn’t going to happen. In the end I got a C, and spent a number of sleepless nights trying to figure out what I should do top deal with this grade. Luckily, I started doing some reading about university rules and realized that I could repeat the course.

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Repeating a course is just what it means—you take a course a second time—and there are some real advantages to using this option. Keep in mind that almost all schools have some type of repeat option. Of course, some options are better than others, but the fact that you can deal with a grade you were not happy with in a positive manner is a real plus. With this in mind, it is critical that you read through the official policy of your school to make sure you understand exactly what the policy allows. In addition, make sure you understand what steps you need to take in order to use a repeat option (e.g., filling out a repeat-option form).

Also, if you are going to use a repeat option, take it very seriously and make sure you are prepared to put maximum time and effort into improving your grade from the first time you took the course. My point here is that if you are just going through the motions and do not think you can improve your grade it might not be worth using a repeat option.

With all of the above in mind, here are 4 primary advantages to a repeat option:

1) Not only do schools have repeat-option policies, most schools allow you to repeat more than one course. But you have to repeat a course that had a letter grade for the same course with a letter grade. That it is typically not the case that you can initially take a course for a grade, do poorly (e.g., get a D) and then you can repeat the course on a Pass/Fail basis. The repeat option is designed to keep things equal with regard to the re-taking of the course.

2) At many schools only the grade and credit hours for the second completion is used in computing your GPA and credit hours. This is HUGE! It means that the first low grade you earned is wiped from the calculation of your GPA. When you are talking about going from, for example, an initial grade of D to a new grade of A the impact on your GPA can be significant. It is important to keep in mind, however, that not every school follows this rule. Some schools will calculate your GPA based on BOTH grades. Of course, this is not great, but it beats the alternative of having only that first grade worked into your GPA calculation.

repeatcourse23) A repeat option offers you the chance to overcome any obstacles that you encountered when you originally took a course. This might have included medical issues, personal problems, difficulty managing your classes, difficulty managing work and school, not being mentally prepared to take the course, not realizing you should have dropped the course, etc. Regardless of your past situation, a repeat option allows you to show that the problem(s) that may have been present when you originally took a course will not impact you now, and you can be free to do really well in the course this second time. I will add that in my 28 years of teaching I am pretty sure that every one of my students who did a repeat option improved their grade. This likely the result of students having already had some experience with the course material (even if their grade was not great), but also due to students being highly motivated to prove that they could do better.

4) Repeating a course makes a positive point to those who may evaluate your record that you are a highly motivated individual. You make clear that there were problems with a course in the past but you were committed to earning a higher grade by taking the course again. I personally do not believe repeating a course makes you look “weak” in any fashion.

I am sure you can tell that I am very big on repeat options, but I want to close by discussing a few points that should think about before moving in this direction. First, if you take a course over you must decide whether to take the course over with same Instructor or someone different. The same instructor gives you maximum overlap but you again dealing with someone who you likely did not mesh well with. A different instructor gives you less overlap, but their style may work better for you. My advice is to find out something about the different instructor before you make your choice. Second, it is almost always the case that when you repeat a course that the original grade still appears on your transcript. It will show the original course and note that it has been repeated. Your transcript will typically make some mention of how the original grade is not calculated as part of your GPA. Then the repeated course will appear with your new grade. Third, when you repeat a course you end up paying for these additional credit hours. It is not as though your school is going to let you repeat a course for free. Fourth, if you repeat a course someone could argue that you wasted time the first time you took the course. I disagree with this position, but you will have to decide exactly what value the original course had for you. Finally, keep in mind that you must repeat course at the same school to have it count toward GPA–if your school allows for the repeated course to be calculated in some manner into your GPA.

In the end, I feel it is well worth using a repeat option if you need it. I think you will find it is an option that has a greater benefit than cost.