Flunked Courses: Turning Them Into a Plus

Sometimes you bust your hump in the classroom trying to keep your head above water in a class that’s kicking your ass, and despite your best efforts, you flunked anyway. You’re vanquished. Defeated by (insert malevolent course here).

That’s what happened to Meghan — twice. Even worse, one of the classes was required for her major and the other was required for her minor. How do you bounce back from that? Turn it into a positive. Here’s Meghan’s plan:

Judge Josh,

I just finished my junior year of undergrad as a marine biology. My spring semester did not go so well and I failed two courses that will not be offered again until the spring of 2012.

Yep, probably won't see a lack of marine biology jobs anytime soon.

Doh! Shake it off and get back in the game, Meghan.

One of them is required for my major the other one for my minor in environmental studies. I have been considering double majoring in biology with a fisheries conentration. Doing this will mean an extra year of undergrad but would provide me with more job opportunities.

OK, sounds good.

After I failed the classes in the spring I started to think about the double major more. I have two potential options. The first is dropping my minor which takes care of the first class I failed and I can substitute another course for the major requirement I failed. This plan has me graduate next year on time. The second option would be staying the 5th year and getting my double major. This plan would give me the chance to retake both failed classes and improve my GPA.

Well, I don’t think the lack of a minor is that big of a deal, especially when it’s sort of a generalist minor like environmental studies (or anything ending in the word “studies,” for that matter). I think it’s probably unlikely that the environmental studies minor would give you a tipping-point edge over other job candidates, especially since there’s some inherent environmental studying going on in a marine biology major anyway.

The question, as always, is whether the additional cost and time that you incur by taking on the double major and the extra year of school will pay you back over the course of your professional life.

I don’t have any way of verifying or denying that double major in biology will improve your employment prospects, since I really don’t know what you want to do for work after you graduate — although, generally speaking, a biology major is no slouch course of study and without knowing the details, I’d be inclined to agree with you.

I should mention that I go to an out of state school and my pa rents and I each pay for half of my schooling. I’m leaning more towards the double major but my time to make the decision is getting shorter!

I also don’t know how much that extra year of school is going to cost you out of pocket, but whatever it is, I guess it’ll be cut in half since your parents are paying the other half. So, take your half of the cost and then weigh it against the increased job prospects the double major will give you.

Let’s get completely arbitrary for a second and say that it’s $10,000. Will the double major end up paying you more than $10,000 over your professional life? I’m inclined to think that it would. In the grand scheme of things, $10,000 isn’t very much money. I’d support that line of reasoning given that you’re in the environmental field, which should continue to be a pretty healthy market so long as the likes of BP keep spilling oil into the oceans and natural gas companies keep polluting the mother-loving hell out of the air and groundwater via hydraulic fracturing.

(By the way, if you haven’t seen GasLand on HBO, check it out — I’m no radical environmentalist by any stretch, but when you see video of people with tap water so polluted they can light it on fire right out of the faucet, it’ll scare the hell out of you).

So anyway, if I had to guess, I’d say that double major isn’t a bad idea. Now, no more flunked classes! 🙂

That’s all for me today. I took a sleeping pill way too late last night and woke up zombified, and much closer to lunchtime than breakfast time. What about you all — what do you think Meghan should do? Let us know in the comments below.

13 thoughts on “Flunked Courses: Turning Them Into a Plus”

  1. Paula Witthaus

    Meghan should see if her school has grade “forgiveness” policy. If they do, it would allow her to take the class again and replace the grade she has for one she wants. If they don’t-well, nevermind.

  2. Megan keep both your minor and your major. It’s better to graduate with a good gpa plus if you decide to attend grad school you will be a better candidate with a major and minor. If you graduate with just your major and that failed class lowers your gpa it can hurt your chances of grad school or possible a job if they ask for your gps since your a recent graduate.

  3. What if Meghan could take a semester off an do an marine biology internship at an aquarium or other marine research facility at home? She might save on tuition and housing costs, gain valuable work experience and graduate with a beefed-up resume, upping her chances for a job right after graduation.

  4. You may also want to consider adding a major in marine chemistry or biochemistry instead of biology. Having worked and studied in both fields, I must admit the chemistry is harder. However, with the abundance of recent bio grads that did not get into med school, there is greater demand for chemists. The pay is often better and marine chemists do much of the same environmental work as marine biologists. As a scientist, I don’t think that anyone will think much of adding biology to a marine bio course-load. Any employer will expect you to know your bio cold anyway just because of your major.

  5. I think that she should continue to double major. She has already put the time into the work it and stopping now would have made it all for nothing. If she has to stay one extra year and needs more money then I believe then she will find a way to make it all work out.

  6. Before you start spouting out bull crap about natural gas companies and hydraulic fracturing that some wanna be Michael Moore made up, know this: hydraulic fracturing occurs at 6000- 15000 feet in depth. The depth to the water table is 150 feet. They pump in sand and water into the borehole primarily with little mud to keep the equipment working. My creditials: I’m a geophysicist working for a major oil and gas company. (not BP). I would never defend BP, but don’t try and associate BP and their stupidity with the rest of the energy industry.

  7. I know failing classes can be very disheartening and depressing. But you sound like you would like to continue in a double major. I think, you should make a list of pros and cons as to the benefits of keeping/dropping the double major. If it ends up that you have to stay in school an extra year, then you might as well take less courses/semester to maybe boost ur GPA.

    You could also check into Comm. Colleges / other schools if you don’t like your school or want to move closer to home. Also, you could take a year off, really think about what you want to do. Don’t feel you are stuck in a program. You are not in any away out of options. Time goes by fast, before you know it, you will be done.

    Good luck !

  8. If she has an idea of what companies or agencies could hire her out of graduation, I would look up job openings on those websites and look at the degree requirements if possible. They will usually tell you what is required, what is recommended and what is strongly preferred. Then, make her decisions based on that! =)

  9. This is my first year of college, and I failed my math class back in May. I was really upset at first, but after awhile I began to look at it as a chance to make a higher grade in that class. I repeated it this summer and I am pleased to say that I passed with a pretty good grade; a lot better than the grade that I made before. Meghan should look at it as an oppurtunity to do better. When mistakes are made people can do nothing more but learn from those mistakes. I am sure that Meghan will work extra hard when she gets the chance to repeat those classes.

  10. It depends when you fail the class, and then what you do after to make up for it, really. For example, I failed my U.S. History class junior year and not only did it give me a great essay topic for getting into colleges, I was able to remedy that failing grade with an A in summer school. Sometimes you need that bad grade to knock some sense into you and let you know what you really need to be working on. If you put in the effort now, whether it is taking that extra year to double major or just re-taking the course for “grade replacement” – it should end up being worth it.

  11. I believe you should do a 5th year. Like you said it will improve your GPA and you’ll get your double major. I believe it’s worth to stick it out 😀 Be blessed!

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