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Two Fs in my final quarter???


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Hi Everyone,

I am in a pretty terrible situation and I would appreciate any advice that anyone could offer.

I am a graduating senior and I am doing an independent research paper, but my department is very small and disorganized, so there was no real structure for me to do a senior thesis or anything like that.

Instead, I took two consecutive independent study courses, and I was assured that there would be no complications arising from this.

Lo and behold, I am now facing complications that could severely jeapordize my future.

I got a scholarship to start another program that started two weeks before my last quarter ended. I cleared it with all of my professors so that I could take my final exams early. The research project on the other hand, was going a little rough and I likely would have asked for an extension even if I didn't have to leave early.

I discussed it with my professor, with an administrator at the registrar's office, and with my department's administrator, and they all said that they could work with me and that I just needed to do some paperwork after I finished and got a grade.

Checking up on my other grades today, I noticed that my previous incomplete turned into an F (I was told that it would remain an I until my grade was completed) and I got an email from my degree auditor saying that my degree would not be awarded unless I sorted out these two classes withyin 10 days. My advisor is out of the country and there is almost no way I can both finish the project and get a final grade from him and turn in all the paperwork to change the garde within 10 days.

This is just what I need months before I begin my graduate application process.

Obviously I am scrambling to deal with this issue but I would like to ask the good people of tjhe Grad Cafe:

1. In the worst case scenario, how badly would two Fs destroy (in the last and second-to-law quarters, in my major, in independent study courses) destroy my chances for grad school? My GPA was 3.85+ before this disaster; now it's possible that I may not even float above 3.5. Be brutally honest in your answers, please.

2. In the best case scenarios (my grades come through), is there any explaining this in my applications? Even if I got the grades corrected/changed, would this set off red flags in admissions?

3. My advisor is out of the country and not responding, the administrator from the registrar is practically feigning amnesia (claiming he never said certain things to me) and my department's adminstrator is new and seems to not know much about how this would work. Anyone have any immediate advice on how to deal with this, plus the graduation audit?

Thank you all in advance. I would sincerely appreciate any advice that you all could give me.

I had such high hopes for PhD programs, but now it looks like I might get automatically dinged from anything I ever apply to unless I sort this out quickly.

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Yikes! It might not be so bad though, because the grades are for independent study/research courses, and it sounds like you got a F because the system automatically assigns Fs to "incomplete" grades after some deadline? I mean, obviously it's still not a good thing, but it would be a lot worse if these grades were from traditional courses! It's stressful short-term but I guess your only long-term worry would be that this might reflect poorly on your ability to get work done on time / by a deadline (no offense, just an honest assessment of how others might view this problem down the road).

Most schools have a system in place to appeal grades, but it usually must start within some timeframe of final grades being assigned (30 days?) So even if your supervisor does not return within 10 days, you can probably try to appeal it. Most rules at a University can be bent, even those that seem unbendable! Sometimes it might help to have more face to face interactions with people in the registrar's office and put a more human touch to the problem. In my experience, I found that most people really do want to help students and despite the bureaucracy, they want the best for us but they have to make sure they don't break the rules (and get the right permissions to bend them). So, maybe you can try to convince them to give you more time to get in touch with your supervisor. If not, then you should look up/ask them for grade appeal procedures so that you are on top of it ASAP.

I guess it really depends on your supervisor too -- I'm assuming that he/she thinks you are doing great work and just need a bit more time to finish. If this is the case, based on past experiences with people I know, your supervisor might do one of two things to help you: (1) he/she might just assign you an arbitrary grade without seeing the completed product because they are confident in your ability -- it probably won't be an A but it would not be a F, or (2) your supervisor might just decide to grade what you have now -- not all independent research projects actually get fully completed and the point is to develop research skills and experience, anyways! If you get a good result, it's just a bonus. I would NOT ask the supervisor for any of these options though (maybe option 2 if you are really desperate), I'm just letting you know what you could expect to happen.

I am a little confused about your timeline though -- at first I thought you were starting grad school this fall. But it sounds like this year is your last year of undergrad and you're starting another program (grad school? masters? something else unrelated?) right now and then you're going to apply this winter for Fall 2013?

By the time you apply, your grades would probably be finalized. I am pretty sure that if your transcript is changed due to a mistake, it would not reflect this. In my first year, one of our final exams was marked out of 80 but when the prof entered the grades, he thought it was out of 100 so everyone's grades was much lower than it was supposed to! 2 months afterwards, the faculty of science "investigation"/review decided that anyone who wanted to review the marking could see the prof during certain times and we all filled out the formal grade change forms -- most people got a 10% boost. My transcript doesn't show the old grade at all. It makes sense -- if the grade was officially changed then the old value was invalid so it shouldn't show.

So, hopefully for you, by this winter, the grades will be changed to something not a F. I also don't think you have to worry about it affecting your GPA because most schools wouldn't count independent study courses towards a GPA (after all, many places mark it as pass/fail). As long as it's not a F (so that you graduate), you should be okay. A strong letter from your supervisor should also clear up any doubts about your ability as a researcher due to this grade. I wouldn't even discuss it in the applications unless your grade below a B. But to be brutally honest, since you didn't say there were any reasons why you couldn't complete the required work on time, your supervisor may end up giving you a grade that is a fair reflection of your work. That is, you shouldn't expect to get a A or a B if you don't feel you actually did A or B quality work. I'm not saying/implying that you are expecting this, just stating a fact that even though research courses may be more flexible in grading, the grades still need to be earned.

That was long! Summary: You should work with your supervisor to get the grades changed from Fs to something that accurately reflects your work. You should find out about grade appeals processes ASAP in case you can't get this done within the next 10 days and can't get an extension. If your grades are changed successfully, you should have nothing to worry about when it comes to grad school applications. Assuming that you did good work in the past year and your supervisor is happy with what you've accomplished, your supervisor would probably be able to find a way to give you a grade even for an incomplete project, but you have a lot of administrative type stuff to do! Good luck :)

Edited by TakeruK
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If those two F's do stay on your transcript when it comes time to explain them, dont pussyfoot around with these "personal reasons" that people like to trudge out - detail it plainly that you screwed up, things got a bit out of hand, but this is not at all reflective of the previous academic excellence you have demonstrated (as your LOR will also attest to).

That being said ". . .previous incomplete" - where did this come from? And how does one Incomplete turn into two F's (usually one is given at least a year before an incomplete can turn into an F). One usually only gets an incomplete if you do not complete certain requirements for a letter grade that are beyond your control; but there is still the expectation that at some point you will make this up.

In any case, even if the grade turns to an F, your advisor will be back before you send off a single grad application. And so long as you are able to address this issue BEFORE August 2013, you should be fine - as I said before, simply explain the situation regarding the F's and if they truly are not F's that are a result of you turning in subpar work, grad. committees shouldn't immediately toss your file (though they may question how you were able to let this go this far).

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