2 years ago
Admissions Advice

I'm concerned about the impact failing a course will have on my college chances as a senior.

I'm a senior in high school with a pretty strong GPA, really Strong Extracurriculars, and what I think to be an overall good application, but I'm about to fail AP Calculus AB on my retake as a senior. It's a weird/outlier situation in my opinion but here's the backstory:

I had an extremely strong depressive episode over quarantine during my junior year causing me to fail a history course. At the same time I was taking AP Calculus AB. My teacher was about to retire and decided to try Sal Khan's approach to grading and education, with the idea being learning first. He gave everyone an automatic A, didn't check attendance for zoom meetings, and never did any tests, saying that the AP test was our assessment for the course. Considering the mental state I was in during quarantine, I did nothing in terms of work for that class. Come spring this year I was filling out my course request and opted to retake calculus, in hindsight, a bad decision. Regardless I thought it was good at the time because I do plan to go into software engineering in college and my counselor and parents both said that it was a good idea to retake. I was excited because I thought I could actually try the whole learning first model in person, as I enjoy the course material of calculus and wanted to learn the material.

At my school, when you retake a course you don't receive the credits for the course and the grade you get will only affect your GPA if it is higher than the grade you previously received in the class. (Say I took a class and failed, if I where to retake and pass it effectively would replace the failing grade in the gpa calculation with whatever my passing grade is). Furthermore, the schools that I've applied too so far, they have a rule about if you are to recieve a grade below a C in a course, or fail to receive credit in a course than you have to email the schools about your grade.

And this is where my problem is, on paper, I've passed the course, and am retaking as an elective/for personal growth in the subject, and 'm failing during the second quarter of the class on this retake, (I'm on a 4x4 schedule so a term of an AP course is one quarter for us). Since this is a retake, and I've already received credit, and passed the course I feel like I am in a bit of a gray area as to what I should do. My councilor at school says I should probably let them know, but if I don't have too than obviously I'd rather not, and If I do in fact have to write the email, how badly can this affect my chances to go to the schools I'm shooting for? (namely uMich, USC, Penn State, SDSU, Cal-poly SLO, and alot of the major UC schools)

PS. also, I maybe able to get the letter grade shifted to a credit/no credit in the grade-book, and if I do I wonder how that would affect the situation. If anyone is an admissions officer, or has experience in how the process works, I'd love some help

PPS. I have also put my SAT score in the tags but I've already read all about how the tags don't really affect much of anything for the application process.

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2 answers

2 years ago[edited]

Question please. What happened to the (F) in history? Do you still have an (F) on your transcript? If you still have an (F) on your transcript, then that is a bigger problem than the AP Calc A/B problem in my opinion. How are you able to explain the history mark?

I'm confused about the marks you already received. You got an A for AP Calc A/B for the first time around. Now in the first quarter of the retake you passed (with a C? D?) and in the 2nd quarter you have an (F)? Correct. And you are not sure if you should report this to the schools because you are supposed to report failing grades as part of their policy? But aren't they going to inevitably find out on the 1/2 yearly report your HS counselor has to submit in Mid February anyway?

My recommendation is that you write a clear and accurate essay in the add'l info section of your Common App and explain that your good intentions backfired because AP Calc A/B is actually a difficult class you and you can't recover from being "over your skis" so to speak. Since you intend to go into software engineering, it's imperative that you correct this prior to matriculating. So I would offer a suggestion to them to correct this mess. I would tell them that you will enroll in an online Calculus course over the summer and earn a B or better so that takes the doubt out their minds that you can actually understand and master the content. In the meantime, do whatever damage control you can with your school and ask them if you can drop the course without a grade or credit.

Options for that would be community college, online college, or something like Outlier.org which is a excellent online platform to learn complex subjects like Calculus. I took Calculus on Outlier and earned an A during the summer of Junior year.

Good luck.

2 years ago

Hi, thank you for asking your question! It's an interesting situation that you are in and here are some recommendations that I have that can hopefully provide guidance.

1) I agree with @CameronBameron in that for the applications that you are still working on you can use the additional information section of the Common App to arise the schools of your situation.

2) For the schools that you have already applied for, I would recommend sending them a notice, however, make it a quick email (1-2 paragraphs in length) explaining your well-meaning intentions for taking calculus. Don't mention that you did not try as hard in the same course a year ago. It is okay to mention your mental health and how that has affected your in-class performance.

3) Ideally, you can move this class to a credit/no-credit option. This way you can avoid emailing your school altogether because you will essentially be passing, and are not required to tell your schools that you have applied to.

4) I would check out this blog post for more information about how much grades matter in senior year, TLDR; its not a huge factor as long as you still show academic potential and care about your studies. From what you have told me so far, it seems you do.

Best of luck!

What are your chances of acceptance?
Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
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Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

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