Title: I'm strongly thinking about dropping a class...
Posted: January 25, 2010 (11:01 PM)
but I really need to consider all the options before deciding.
The class I'm considering is this Topics in World History class, which is a 300 level course. The professor I signed with decided to focus on Indian history because that's his specialty (I assume; I haven't taken him before, but he does seem very knowledgeable of the subject).
The thing is, it's only been a week taking basically 6 300-level classes, and I already want to rip my hair out. I say "basically" because one of them is a 200-level (299) course, but the way it's being taught is like a 300-level course, so it may as well be.
Anyway, the biggest problem I'm having now is with the insane amount of reading I have to do. And since they're all 300 level classes, I can't just blow it off like I did with some of my 100-level classes last semester. I've recently calculated that I'm reading about 100-250 pages a night for all my classes, and since I only read an average of 20 pages an hour, this is just something I can' handle. Yes, my reading speed is dreadfully slow, but I can't skim read or anything like that and retain the necessary information. I have enough trouble retaining information reading at my pace. I'm not sure why I'm so slow - maybe it has to do with my vision issues - but there's really nothing I can do about it.
To break down the insane level of reading, I'll give a summary of what I had to read for my three-most reading heavy classes:
For tomorrow, I read two chapters in a book about social revolutions. Each of these was about 60 pages for a total of 120 pages. I read them over the course of yesterday and today. Each one took about 5 hours. I'm not lying.
For Wednesday, in this India class, I have to read two chapters in two different books that he wants us to buy despite the fact that he didn't order them at the bookstore. Each of these is between 30-40 pages. I also have to read a chapter in yet another book, which I already have, that's about another 30 pages. Fortunately, I read this already. And yes, that's like 80-90 pages right there.
For this weekly class on Wednesday, I had to read about 100 pages of material. Thankfully, this is a weekly class and I can spread it out over the course of the week, which I succesfully managed to do. However, on top of these other two classes, it becomes a grave annoyance, since all I want to focus on are these two classes.
My Vikings class will probably have a lot more reading down the road, but so far it's been manageable. It's also actually interesting, so I don't mind too much.
The rest of my classes are thankfully much lighter. And in the case of my Latin American politics one, I've stopped reading altogether because that's the only class I think I can afford to blow off.
So anyway, as you can see, I'm essentially stuck reading an inordinate volume of material that I can't sensibly manage throughout the course of the semester. I mean, I have no idea how I'll be able to fit papers in there on top of everything else...
So, the point, I need to weigh the pros and cons of dropping this India class.
1) If I drop the class, I will have a manageable course load and therefore won't die of a brain aneurysm halfway through the semester. Seriously; if I'm complaining about my schedule this early in the semester, then I know I won't be able to handle all this without going insane.
2) The sheer volume of material I'm trying to absorb is seriously affecting my ability to absorb that material. There's just so much that I can't retain it all, and I'm very liable to get things mixed up between classes, especially if I can easily find myself making connections between them. Because of this inability to learn everything I should from the reading, not only does it make reading effectively pointless, but come test time, it'll seriously affect my grade. Not just in the India class, but in my other classes as well, since trying to focus on one class will severely limit my capabilities in the others.
3) In the case of the India class, I literally know almost nothing about the region in question. So in reading the material, I'm finding that I not only need to understand the general history of the region, but I also need to understand all the conceptual aspects such as tying all the social, political and economic contexts together. If at least had a basic knowledge of the region, I'd have a much easier time with the higher standards expected of me in a 300-level class that isn't necessarily going to focus on general background knowledge.
4) Before any of you (not that any of you would...) say, "Stop whining! It's just reading!", let me add that this "just reading" is taking up most, if not all, of my time. This means that when I have to write six papers and study for six midterms at the same time halfway through hte semester, all this reading will be pushed back or completely ignored all together. And catching up will be extremely difficult, if not impossible.
1) If I drop the class now, I'm not sure how it'll look on my transcript, especially since I think the period for swapping into a new class is over. And even if it isn't, it's been a week, so catching up in a new class would be difficult (if there even is one).
2) I've already bought most of the books for this class, which rounded out to about $170 for that class alone. Furthermore, the bookstore's full refund policy has passed since that only applies to the first week of school.
3) This is the first class I've seen where I have to write an academic book review for one of the texts we have to read. This assignment is part of the history portfolio required for graduation. I'm not sure whether any future history courses I take will have me write a book review. I suppose I could theoretically get it done if I could get back into this class next year, but this is only a possibility as the course listings change each semester. Besides, I'll likely be very busy next year as well, so I might not be any better off handling it then either. Now, I've heard that as far as the portfolio goes, the department only really uses it to determine whether any improvements need to be made in the program, so if I don't have one of the required assignments in there, then I can go without and explain I'd never been given a book review as an assignment in a course. However, I don't know if this really works if I willingly withdraw from a course that actually has the assignment. I'll ask about this later.
4) If I drop this course and can't find (or handle) a substitute, I'm going to have to take 6 courses next semester / year anyway, and might just wind up in the same boat anyhow, especially if I'm planning on interning in the fall or something.
5) I still have to take one more writing intensive class for the College of Arts and Sciences next year. If I'm forced to take 6 classes during one of my senior semesters, and/or if one of my classes is that India class again, then I'm either going to have to struggle to find a writing intensive course in the "lighter" semester, or else just deal with yet another oppressive workload. If I'm faced with the latter, there'll be almost no point in dropping this course now.
6) If I withdraw, I'm going to have to live with the shame of having withdrawn from a course. Not only will I feel my own guilt, but others might think poorly of me as well for this choice. But really, if I do make this choice, it's for my own best interests, specifically my mental health and grades. And when I say "grades", I mean in the sense that I don't want them suffering because my course load is so heavy that I can't do everything required to keep them up. However, I'm a bit concerned that withdrawing will make me appear as if I'd rather just avoid the challenge. But I assure you, this isn't the case at all. I'd gladly tackle this class if I were only taking 4 or 5 classes with REASONABLE reading assignments, but 6 courses and 250 pages a night is just too much.
*sigh* Well, I realize this is obtrusively long, but I need to lay it out. But to anyone patient enough to read through all this, I'd greatly appreciate your advice. It should be noted, though, that while there are more cons than pros, and therefore I should "logically" keep the course, I do value my mental health and grades more than money and reputation (which grades are a part of anyway). Therefore, the most important negative to dropping the course is the fact that I'll be stuck with six down the road anyway and might possibly end up here again.
Anyway, thanks for any advice you all can give me. I feel really bad even talking about this, or even seriously considering it. I've never had to drop before, even when I thought I couldn't handle things. I mean, I feel like I whine like this every semester, but I've always been fine. But even so, it's never been this bad before, and it's never been so soon before, either. Usually when I whine about school, it's a result of wondering how I did on a test or something, not over my ability to handle the coursework.
Anyway, thanks again.
Posted: January 25, 2010 (11:34 PM)
I have only this thought: Does the bookstore buy back books at a preferable rate towards the end of the semester?
Posted: January 25, 2010 (11:48 PM)
If I withdraw, I'm going to have to live with the shame of having withdrawn from a course.
Wait what? The shame of withdrawing from a course? I'm at a swanky private school for jerks and we have plenty of people who withdraw from classes just because they blow off the first exam and fail horribly. Isn't it early enough in your semester that you wouldn't get a W on your transcript anyway? Ask someone at your school about this because if you withdraw early generally it just looks like you never took the class I believe. Additionally your future employers aren't going to care about individual grades for courses or the fact you withdrew from one class. If you're considering Graduate School (lol don't do it), generally a lot of Ws on your transcript looks bad. If you're concerned about credit overload, is it possible to take any summer courses? The other thing to remember is if you drop a course and are only taking 12 credits, you must make sure you pass all three courses or you may be in danger of losing your financial aid (generally schools expect you to earn at least 12 credits a semester).
I think what you need to do is get all the facts from a adviser first and maybe ask about the potential courseload for next year? Then ask yourself whether you think you can get your desired grades with your current course-load while leading a balanced life (i.e. sitting in the library reading all day is not really healthy and could negatively affect your occupational performance in multiple contexts). You may also want try to take your syllabuses and your calendar/planner and see if you could schedule each of your readings ahead of time for more manageable chunks if possible. I would not be too concerned about the "stigma" of dropping a class because I doubt many will care (other than your parents - "We're paying all that money etc"). If you think dropping the class is what will truly facilitate your optimal performance this semester then it may be the best course of action assuming it will not hurt you later on.
I wish I could offer better advice but I'm in rehab therapy so there's far less reading and I blow off even graduate level reading and do alright.
Posted: January 25, 2010 (11:49 PM)
As a graduate student in the field of education and in a very highly ranked program, I'm going to tell you a little secret:
Grad Schools don't really look at your transcript that closely. Most important coming out of undergraduate college are going to be your letters of recommendation. If you are feeling like a course is making things so that you can't absorb the information from other classes, it is imperative that you drop it.
Now that I'm studying the way that the brain takes in information, I'm learning how important it is to not overwhelm ourselves with information that we are having trouble connecting to other information we're receiving. It's a major complaint garnered against undergraduate colleges right now and one that has much merit.
Also, you shouldn't be afraid of withdrawing. It is a failure of a sort, but failing is the most important thing we do in our lives. We learn more through failure than success. Merriam et al. (2007) write in Learning in Adulthood that “people need to work through any negative feelings that have arisen... if the negative feelings are not addressed, what commonly happens is that learning becomes blocked (emphasis mine)” (p. 165). This correlates directly with Roy Schwartzman’s (1999) report entitled Educational consumerism: Etiology and antidotes: “classrooms need to be ‘safe zones’ where students can experiment and fail without becoming failures (emphasis mine)” (p. 13).
Let me tell you a story about my own undergraduate experience. One term I got in a bad biking accident and was faced with the need to withdraw from several courses. Ashamed, I chose not to withdraw and as consequence took three F's, which dragged my cumulative down to below 3.0, which was far more embarrassing on my transcript than a few W's would've been. Even then I was accepted into the great program I'm now a part of, with full financial aid and benefits and I'm now a 4.0 student and being offered jobs).
That was a failure and an important learning experience, but maybe it's one that I can share the results of with you so that you can make a better decision than I did.
Good luck with your decision, whatever you choose to do, WQ.
Posted: January 26, 2010 (02:15 AM)
My college experience tells me that you need to be able to perform well at as many classes as possible. If this one class is putting so much strain on you that you'd be likely to do worse in several other classes, that's not something that you can afford to allow to continue. Absolutely you should be against casually dropping classes, but you need to factor in your mental health (as you noted) and any impact on your ability to perform well in those other classes. It's a tough choice to make, but I recommend talking to an advisor (if available).
Posted: January 26, 2010 (08:50 AM)
I've added another pro and con, as they were points I forgot to mention when I wrote this last night. These deal with writing-oriented things in general. I'd like to add that the semi-presumptuous nature of pro 4 isn't addressed to anyone who posted here, although the issue it addresses is something I'm concerned with.
Anyway, thanks to those of you who posted so far (and thanks to anyone else who posts later). Your thought-out responses are greatly appreciated. I'll read and address each of these when I get out of class today.
However, I can address Will's now. No, the sell-back rate for books here is at most 25%. I think I got lucky once with a stats book and got half the cost back, but that was a rare occurrence, and the book was in high demand. Usually I find myself getting maybe 10% back for what I sell.
Posted: January 26, 2010 (02:58 PM)
Ok. I've read through these in more detail now, and have given it some thought. I've also discussed this with one of my professors from last semester, who also has an important position in the department.
genj: Firstly, only people who don't give a damn about their education don't care if they drop a class. In the cases you describe, especially, this appears to be the case because if they had applied themselves properly, they wouldn't have needed to drop. In my case, I'm facing an oppressive workload and may have to drop because it's affecting other things besides this one class. Even though this reason is justifiable and therefore should not make me feel ashamed, I might still be liable to feel that way just because of my own sense of academic pride. I have friends who feel (or would feel) the same way in my position.
Anyway, as to your other points, I fond out that the add/drop week ended yesterday. It normally would've ended last Friday, but since we had MLK Day off, they gave us an extra day, apparently. So it will count as a W. That being said, what you, Zipp and my professor have told me make me feel better about taking a W if that's the case.
Summer courses are technically an option, but the most I'd want to do in the summer is an internship. The problem with that, though, is if I do it in the summer, I'll be paying $1,300 for tuition and I may also be stuck with a non-history related internship. I was hoping to intern with the department so it'd count towards my major as well as to do something that I think would be interesting and potentially something I'd want to do as a career. That being said, I'll still look into it as an option should I drop this course.
Further, I'm taking 18 credits, so dropping the course won't affect my tuition or anything like that. The worst it'll do, if I don't intern in the summer, is make me have to take 18 at some point during my senior year, so, as I said earlier, my concern there is winding up in the same boat I am now anyway. Fortunately, while talking with my professor, he suggested somehow balancing the classes I take so that the history classes, which offer the most work, are taken during the 15 hour block as opposed to the 18 hour one. Of course, if I intern in the fall as opposed to the summer (which is preferred anyway), I'm going to have to reconsider this balance somewhat.
I've glanced through my syllabuses when I got them... but could only make basic generalizations as I haven't planned things out fully yet. However, I do know that some classes become heavier in reading later in the semester while others stay the same. I highly doubt that any actually get lighter. That being said, as far as my reading goes, I do try to read ahead, as you suggested, but with so much stuff to read, I can only do that to a limited degree.
On that note, I discovered earlier that what I read for my HIST 299 class today was really meant for reading for both classes. I forgot that he organized the syllabus and readings by week as opposed to day, which is great because for me, now it means only 60 pages of reading per class instead of 120. Of course, it's still a lot, but it definitely feels better. heh
My parents may be an issue... but my mom wouldn't be upset about money - in fact, they're not helping me at all with my finances except to give me some spending money now and then (for books and things). But she would be upset that I'd have to drop a class just on principle, for similar reasons as I would be upset about it (as explained above).
Zipp: That's some interesting insight. I have to agree with you about the whole education thing. I've heard debates about this elsewhere, too, and I'm really starting to think that the expectations laid on us (undergraduates at least) are just too high sometimes. I don't know why this is or why it can't be programmed to be more manageable... Really, I'm inclined to think it's a capitalist ploy to keep us in school for as long as possible so they can milk as much money from us as possible. By demanding that we have so many hours to gradate (128), regardless of whether we complete the core requirements and or major(s) before then, they're effectively make us choose between overload and staying over a year. I mean, like I said earlier, the coursework in the classes themselves would be entirely manageable if I were taking 12-15 credits as opposed to 18 like I am now.
An interesting point about your experience, too. Better to drop with something that won't affect your GPA than to wait too long and wind up failing, or at least doing worse, in a class than you would otherwise.
Haha - I like how I get the impression you took that bit about failure from a paper you wrote or something. It makes an interesting point, though. And I am considerably less worried about the "failure" of having to drop than the failure of actually failing.
Jason: Yeah. If the work really is too much, I'll probably make the decision to drop a finality. However, right now, I'm actually thinking about waiting to see how things really do square up. Particularly, I'm concerned with the mid-semester point and all these papers. I think I've tentatively decided to see how I can handle writing all these papers and studying for the midterms. If I do well on these without getting atrociously behind in anything, then I might be OK for the rest of the semester and might not have to drop. Fortunately for me, I can afford to wait this long since the "penalty-free" add/drop period is over, and the final day to withdraw with a W is like March 29, which is more than halfway through the semester, I think.
Thanks again to all of you. You've all provided some interesting and useful advice that I'll remember as I continue to think about this decision. Of course, if anyone else feels like weighing in as well, I'm still open to advice and would be extremely grateful for it.
Posted: January 26, 2010 (03:04 PM)
Ha ha, yeah, it's from a paper I wrote this week on failure and how being afraid of it blocks our further education. Apt timing!
I would've just referenced myself, but I figured it might be difficult for you to get a hold of my paper ^_^
Posted: January 26, 2010 (09:55 PM)
Zipp is kind of wrong when he says grad schools don't look at transcript that closely. at least in my field, they're very important just like some good LORs are. if you try to stroll into grad school having taken like a semester of analysis and a semester of algebra and that's it, you can gtfo. I'll have taken 7 grad courses by the time I apply and even I feel like I'd be wasting my time sending the top few schools an application.
(honestly, it is kind of frustrating that there are a bunch of gooks taking phd level differential topology their freshman year of high school, wrecking the curve for the rest of us. so it goes. no offense to any asian readers, but just try to tell me I'm wrong if you've ever walked into a PDEs class.)
as for grades, again at least in my little realm, they look for indicators. outside of that, they don't give a damn that you got a C+ in modern history or an A in theology.
Posted: January 27, 2010 (10:56 AM)
Bluberry isn't wrong, but neither was my advice to you a falsity. The thing is, a great personality and drive to succeed will trump a couple flaws in your grades. Even if you DO have great grades, the winning grad school positions go to those who show up in person with energy and eagerness to show that they really care about their school choice.
Of course, it does depend on the school and the field. Harvard is notorious for turning down people "because they can." And engineers have a tough time with grades and grad school applications.
The thing is, from all of WQ's posts, I get the sense she is more or less set as far as grades go. If she shows up with a W on her transcript no grad school* will shake their head and say, "sorry, nope, we don't take W's here."
Posted: January 27, 2010 (08:40 PM)
yeah, isolated fuck-ups are fine, and breadth is better than doing really well in one or two courses. the rubric is really just that they want to figure out who will succeed, and from there it's just what affects their judgment on that. if some kid proves the Riemann hypothesis then it'll say a lot more to schools about his research ability than if he got a B- in knot theory; I'm sure analogous examples apply everywhere else.
Harvard is notoriously capricious. other schools have their ups and downs too, despite an incredible math department UC Berkeley is notorious for admitting more students than they ever plan on graduating for cheap TA labor.
besides, it's not like the school itself matters that much, it's the department and (in PhD fields) your advisor. NYU is the #9th school for math, but it's big on analysis and applied math. if you're interested in topology, you'd be a fool to go there over lower ranked schools with dudes on staff who've really contributed to that sub-discipline.
sorry to nerd it up with my examples, but I'm sure you can see how they generalize. replace analysis with macroeconomics or ancient history, etc.
Posted: January 28, 2010 (06:17 PM)
Heh. Well, thanks guys. I'll keep all this in mind. Good to know about Grad school. It'd be neat to apply / go one day, but I doubt I'll go right after college. Too many loans and things that I can't afford to push back any longer.