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The consequences of an F


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Hello All,

 

It's been encouraging to see such supportive responses to recent (courageous) posters talking about mental health in grad school. Way to go gradcafe! 

 

So let me get to the question: What are the consequences of an F in a phd program? I'll leave the details aside, but essentially a mental health episode coincided with finals, I never turned in a final, and didn't bother (read: debilitating anxiety) to do the paper work and wade through the university bureaucracy to get an extension. Now I have a permanent F on the record. Some questions:

 

1. I know the end goal in my field is publication, so grades don't matter. But will my transcript hurt me when it comes to grant applications or fellowships? I'm a second year, so I haven't done too many grants yet to know what's normal.

 

2. Say I end up dropping out of the program for whatever reason. What are the odds of me getting into another phd program a few years down the road with an F or two on my grad transcript? I have a very strong UG record, but now these dark spots on my grad record. I could make a case that it was a health matter, but does that work? 

 

3. Any other potential consequences of an F I haven't foreseen?

 

Many thanks all!

 

 

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I really think you should get a note from your doctor and talk to your graduate program head. Maybe there's something they can do.

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If your GPA is under a threshold they will put you on probation, and perhaps even kick you out of the program. I have never heard of anyone asking for anyone's transcripts for postdocs/jobs, but fellowships are sure GPA based. The fact that you got an F should cause alarm in the department: It is rare for a grad student to get a C/B let alone an F.

 

Talk to the head of your department, swiftly. This is not a joking matter. 

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1. At least some grants (I want to say most, but it might depend on the field) and pretty much all jobs will not even want to see your transcript. Some competitive fellowships might. An F won't exactly help, but it's probably not going to immediately disqualify you, if the rest of your application looks good. It's going to be important to have strong letters of recommendation that will attest to your abilities and ease any doubt anyone might have. 

 

2. Getting into a program after dropping out of another graduate program is difficult. You will definitely have to address the fact that you dropped out and explain what happened. You could say it was a health issue (I wouldn't give too many details) but the important thing schools will worry about is whether the problem, whatever it was, has been taken care of and is under control. Schools invest a lot of resources in their students and there is always a worry when you admit someone with a track record of failing that they'll just do it again. You'll need to address that head on and assure them that's not the case. Here, again, it will be extremely helpful if you could get letters of recommendation from your current institution. If you can show that your professors still support you in spite of having dropped out, that will go a long way. 

 

3. There are more immediate consequences to worry about. If your GPA drops below a certain average you may be put on probation or lose your funding. You should look into that and make sure you are not in any trouble. More generally, it'd be good if there was someone you trust in your program who you could confide this health issue to, who would be willing and able to assist you if you ever find yourself in this situation again. Specifically, someone who can follow up with you to make sure you are doing alright, and who can take the initiative to take care of paperwork for you to get extensions or any other help you need so you don't end up with an F again. I'm sure your school has procedures in place to help students with anxiety issues. 

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Thanks for the feedback all. 

 

I hadn't thought about the probation thing. Good to note. I have A's across the board in everything else and otherwise a positive reputation in the program (so I think), so I don't think I'm in immediate risk of flunking out. But I should look up the policy, nonetheless. A related issue is that I don't get credit for the F, and my tuition remission only covers the precise number of credits required, so I may have to pay out of pocket for 4 credits. That will hurt. Anyone have experience with this?

 

So to your knowledge, things like the NSF Dissertation Improvement Grant don't ask for GPA? I looked quickly at the page for my discipline and saw no mention. 

 

Any other feedback or advice is most welcome!

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So to your knowledge, things like the NSF Dissertation Improvement Grant don't ask for GPA? I looked quickly at the page for my discipline and saw no mention. 

 

I have a NSF DDIG and I was not required to submit a transcript with my application. I am pretty sure my LORs said good things about my research abilities, and I don't think they mentioned my grades at all. In fact, having been on the job market this year, only one application (for a competitive fellowship, not a tt-job) asked for a transcript. No one else seemed to care about my grades.

 

(I have no experience with having to pay for classes but here again I would think that your department might be willing to help if they knew why you got that F. You are the best judge of whether or not it'd be a good idea to share the details of your situation with someone, though.)

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Generally speaking, what does a "competitive fellowship" mean? As in a post-doc? And you got the sense it was unusual? 

 

Thanks!

 

I meant university-wide awards such as a Mellon postdoctoral fellowship or a Young Scholar award (those things have different names and different official status at different schools, but you get the idea). The kind that you compete with everyone (or everyone in the Humanities/Social Sciences/STEM/etc) to get. For those ones, you usually propose a project and write research statements like you do for tt-jobs. This contrasts with "normal" postdocs where you apply to work with a PI, usually on a grant that they have, and they don't make you jump through as many hoops. I applied to about 30 different jobs and postdocs this year, and only one wanted to see a transcript, so that was unusual. I think this hold true for jobs in the US in general (with the usual caveats, what do I know..). Things might be different in Europe or East Asia, but I don't have any first hand experience with that.

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I'll just say that I was on the academic market this past year and I had multiple (more than 10) job applications that asked for copies of my graduate transcripts. You'll also need them if you apply for competitive nationwide dissertation write-up grants (ACLS/Mellon, Newcombe, Ford Foundation, etc.).

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Yeah I would try to get it changed to an incomplete or something like that. Or if it's possible to retake it and have the new grade overwrite the old one, that would be a good option. Better to remove an ugly F than sit back and hope that potential employers don't discover it.

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