We have just about wrapped up this semester. Your Deacs have departed. The residence halls are closed. The parking lots are very much empty. There is still a bit of business to be done: final grades for fall semester classes are due on the 19th.
Getting the final semester grade can be a great relief – phew! I did it! – and sometimes it is a not-so-great feeling. My hope is always that students get the grade they wished for. But there are times when students feel like their grade falls short of what they hoped they’d get, and when that happens I get this question: “can you retake a class and how does that impact my GPA?”
The short answer is yes, you can retake a class. Students can retake a class at Wake Forest if they got a C- or below. Both grades will show up on their transcript but only the higher of the two grades is factored into the GPA (unless they got an irreplaceable F for an honor violation). The Academic Bulletin outlines grading and repetition of courses.
The longer answer to “should I retake it?” is “It depends.”
If students ask my advice about retaking a class, I encourage them to ask themselves the following:
Did I give the course my very best effort, or did I not take it seriously enough?
Did I give myself enough time to work on assignments/papers, or did I procrastinate?
Did I seek help from the professor during office hours, or did I never make a connection with them?
Did I spend more time working hard this semester or playing hard?
Did I get a tutor from one of our many centers who offer tutoring, or did I go it alone?
Did I do what the syllabus asked (class attendance, turning things in on time) or not?
Did I study in a place conducive to doing my best work, or was I distracted?
If most of the answers above were Yes and the student everything they could to succeed, it might not significantly move the needle on their grade if they take the class again. I typically ask “Do you really think you are going to have a better chance understanding the material a second time?” Sometimes there are subjects that are just a struggle no matter how hard you work. In those cases, will it be worth struggling through it again? Put another way, if you retake it and move it from a D- to a D, is that really worth it?
But if most of the answers to the questions above were No, perhaps retaking the class is worthwhile. If a student can see concrete steps they should have taken that might have given them a better outcome, they may well get a better grade the next time around.
And a final word about grades. Most of our students feel a great deal of pressure – real or imagined – that their parents and families will be upset about their grades, or that getting a low grade in something will permanently close doors for the rest of their lives. If you can help ease some of that pressure, do it. We all want our kids to apply themselves and give their best effort of course, but help give them the perspective that one C, or D, or F (or even a B!) is not a tragedy.