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How bad is a C in grad school?


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Er, how bad is getting a C in grad school? Although my cumulative GPA will be above the requirement, this stupid class really hit me in the face... Ugh.

It doesn't matter as long as your department considers a C to be a passing grade and that it is able to be counted toward the total. I'm not sure of the exact rules of my department/university but I think that it is something convoluted such as you need at least a C for it to count, but that your total number of grades C or lower can't exceed 2 or you go on academic probation. Or something like that. You should consult your grad student handbook to see if there are any rules at your university/in your department about it.

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In the humanities (or at least, in my department) we have grade inflation, so a C is unheard of. The profs in my department use the A- and B+ to send you a message about the quality of the work you're doing (i.e., step it up!).

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Depends on the school/program. In my program, a single C puts you on academic probation, and can be grounds for dismissal (although that almost never happens). Most other programs in Chemistry that I know of are similar- a B+ is sending you a message, a B- is the lowest grade you can get without other consequences.

:edit:: I just checked our handbook for specifics:

One B- is possible probation, two B- grades is automatic probation/possible dismissal, 1 grade any lower than a B- (C+ or below) is automatic probation with the possibility for outright dismissal.

Edited by Eigen
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if you are worried about it, talk to your advisor or department chair... i was in the same situation and i was freaking out because other students were telling me that a C meant academic probation. i talked to one professor who scared me even more by telling me that it was unacceptable and that i should re-take the class (but also that i would have to have a C AVERAGE to be on probation). then i talked to the department chair and she told me it really didn't matter because this class is simply a requirement for everyone in the department but has no direct bearing on anything i plan to work on.

if your department is anything like mine, everyone (including professors!) has all different ideas about these kinds of things. the only way to know for sure is to talk to someone who should really know.

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Guys, thanks for all the input. I just talked to my PI today, who is also the department chair. He said courses with C's won't be able to count toward degree requirement, but I should still have my funding if I maintain my cumulative GPA above the requirement. The class I received a C for (pathology) is not related to my field of research at all (biophysics), I initially signed up for it as a requirement for working with a prof, who does research in my field, but he is only affiliated with pathology. My cumulative GPA is still above 3.0 (thanks for the rotation grade), and I was freaking out because I just wasted one semester doing a class that I don't really need anymore and FAILED, now everything gets tight. Thankfully my PI was very understanding and said "now exercise your good judgement, pick another class that you'll do well in next time".

Looking on the bright side, as a Biochemist I knew nothing whatsoever about Pathology. I could have gotten an F or something.

Edited by Tall Chai Latte
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I'm glad to hear it worked out... Graduate classes outside of your area can be really hit or miss.

My work is all in biological chemistry, and I took a graduate quantum mechanics class my first semester... It was quite a stretch! The difference between undergrad classes and first tier graduate classes can be huge sometimes, and really emphasize those slight differences/weak points in coursework that really weren't that big at the undergrad level.

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Eigen, that was actually something that scared me off from applying to a couple of chemistry programs. I'd have had to pass a sort of proficiency exam in the major areas, including physical chemistry, or take the class. Undergrad p-chem was bad enough--I'm not sure I could do either of those things!

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Eigen, that was actually something that scared me off from applying to a couple of chemistry programs. I'd have had to pass a sort of proficiency exam in the major areas, including physical chemistry, or take the class. Undergrad p-chem was bad enough--I'm not sure I could do either of those things!

Most of the entrance exams aren't that bad. Our school had them, but it wasn't "pass or take the class", but rather "if you don't pass them, you can't jump straight into a graduate class in that discipline".

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You're screwed! I have heard that in Grad school, an A- is an F, which is a load of crap if you ask me. When did grade inflation get this stupid!?!?!?

glasstothearson, I am sorry that grad school hasn't worked out for you. I am not saying my experience is more/less awesome compared to yours, and perhaps not every single grad student is happy with where he or she is at, but on this forum we are trying to look on the bright side and help each other out. If you want to leave with a masters, leave with a masters, and do so professionally. You are ruining your own reputation by throwing comments like this, not the fact that you are leaving grad school. The world is yours to do with it, why are you still here?

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I found this description in a psychology graduate student handbook at a highly regarded public institution. Hope it helps.

"Work in Graded Courses. The standards are:

A+ Distinguished (rare: one student in three or four years).

A Outstanding.

A- Superior.

B+ Typical and solid performance.

B Competent, but a little below expectations.

B- Weakness (a message to the student that s/he needs to perform at a higher level if a Ph.D. is the goal).

C Failure (not at graduate level).

IN Incomplete."

Edited by Bison
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  • 2 weeks later...

I've never heard of a place where an A- was an F. There are some places where an A- signals that you didn't do what the professor expected, but that's because an A was the standard and anything below that was regarded by them as subpar work.

I think most places are more or less on the scale Bison posted, with a C being a failing grade, indicating a need to retake the course (if it is required) and possibly meaning academic probation. Here a B- is the lowest you can get without some discussion of your standing in the program.

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