The Sad Truth About Registration

As you all know, the course listing are out for fall 2013 classes.  As I backpacked my required classes for my major and minor, I found myself frequently accessing the professor’s review on Rate My Professor…not necessarily for a review on the professor’s overall excellence, but to see whether an A is achievable. There is such a pressure to graduate with the highest possible GPA that often, I am discouraged from taking the class with the brilliant but impossible-grading professor and I instead take the mediocre (boring) professor whose class I know I will do well in.  It bothers me that I do this because I do value my education (and stimulating education).  Still it seems, the promise of a good grade often outweighs the promise of a B+ with an amazing professor.  It’s a horrible way of going about education.  I wish I was able to thoughtlessly select the tougher professor whose class would push me outside my comfort zone instead of the professor who would help boost my GPA.

9 thoughts to “The Sad Truth About Registration”

  1. If it makes you feel better, you’re not alone. Actually, far from it. While I genuinely believe I’ve made a much more thorough effort over the last year and half to avoid this line of thinking and choose to take classes that presented the best package to me in terms of both subject matter and professor proficiency, I’d be lying if I said that I’ve completely separated myself from taking the easy way out on occasion.

    I think the biggest reason why people such as our brilliant selves fall into this inexplicable trap is due to that fact that seemingly everyone else is doing it. As the old saying goes, “if you can’t beat them, join them”. In this case meaning, if you can’t find a way to stay “ahead” of the system and achieve strong grades relative to your peers because they are taking easy, meaningless classes, you might as well hop on board with this “bullet-proof” strategy. Only, at the end of day, we’re only cheating ourselves. Grades are crucial, there is no doubt, but I think we all cut ourselves short of what we’re truly capable of as UM students. Either that, or we’re just lazy. Regardless, if we truly value our education, we should take classes with subject matter of strong intrigue and captivating professors.

  2. I’ll second this- you’re not alone! Semester after semester, I’ve gone through the same debate: the interesting class with the tough professor, or the easy A. Some semesters I chose the easy A, and other times I chose the interesting class. I want to get the most out of my education. I want to take challenging and stimulating classes. But when it seems like everyone around me is filling gaps in their schedules with “GPA boosters” it’s hard for me not to join in (especially when I know that these are the same people who I’ll be competing with when applying to graduate school). I guess in the end I’m as much of the problem as everyone else. This week I’ll register for my classes for my senior year. I’m determined make the most out of my last year at Michigan, and take classes that interest me, not ones that promise a good grade. With registration around the corner, this post is a great reminded of where, as Michigan students, our priorities should be. Thanks!

  3. Thank you for your responses Benji and Matilda. I suspect that many other students also feel torn between the tough teacher and the A. In terms of long-term benefits, I wonder what is the best option. On one hand, learning skills in a stimulating environment should pay off in the workplace…but to get that job, we have to maintain exceptional GPA’s.

    Do you think there is any solution? Obviously I’m not suggesting an entire educational reform…but are there any ways you can think of that this problem can be mitigated?

  4. I do this to an extent as well. However, my general thought process is to choose classes I am interested in because then I will want to try to do well because I enjoy the content. Every semester I choose what I think will be an “Easy A,” especially in classes I’m only taking because I’m required to. This, though, is a double whammy. I already don’t want to take this type of class, but then I’m also adding the problem of not even wanting to take the specific class I chose. For me personally, this is a recipe for disaster. If I am taking a class that I am by no means interested in, I am doomed for failure. This will be that one class for the semester that I completely ignore until the very end, when I realize I haven’t done any work for it yet because I hated every assignment. If I like a class, then regardless of how hard an assignment is, I will at least attempt to complete it. At the end of the day, I’ll probably end up doing better in the more difficult class that I’m passionate about than the “easy A” class that I want nothing to do with.

  5. I confess, I do use Rate My Professor, but not necessarily to see if a class is an easy A. My main concern is whether or not the professor is good. There was one class that I was considering taking (I forget what it was), but then I read the professor’s review. It said that she wasn’t really interested in hearing points of view that were different from her own, and pretty much, you parroted back what you learned in class. I decided not to take the course based on that. If a review says that a teacher is tough but worthwhile, I take a risk and sign on for the course. I can understand not wanting to wreck your GPA, though. It’s really important, and I admit that I’m a grade-chaser.

  6. Since I initially commented on this post, I’ve been thinking about a way the University could go about reforming the system so that this didn’t happen. The only suggestion I’ve been able to come up with is a universal grading curve. Most of the time, when I’m looking for that “easy class”, I’ll go to and look at the grade distribution for a particular class. If I see that a large percentage of students are awarded an A or A-, I’ll consider taking the class. All of the science classes (at least all the ones I’ve taken in my 3 years here) are curved to a B-. Half the class does better, half the class does worse. And because of this, there really are no easy classes. I think if all the departments were to have the exact same grade distribution, than there wouldn’t be any class where you could earn an easy A. This is definitely not a perfect solution, and not one that I would even support, but it’s just an idea about how the system could be changed to potentially help this problem.

  7. Carly,

    I do this every. single. semester. *sigh*

    You can’t help it though. Med schools/PA schools/Law schools/*insert every other type of grad school that require you to compete with 6,000 other kids for 30 spots* put so, so much emphasis on how much your GPA and standardized test scores matter. I hate the system and wish more than anything it could change. I’m a horrid test taker, I actually have test taking anxiety and no anxiety when it comes to any other aspect of my life other than academics. I could explain thoroughly everything covered from an entire semester of a biology course, but get to the exam, freak out and end up with a C in the course. When I read a review on Rate My Professor for a class I’m interested in and there’s awesome things said about the professor and class, but “impossible exams” – it’s game-over. I don’t think your GPA is indicative of how smart you are and it honestly frustrates me how many deserving and incredibly gifted people I know haven’t been able to get into grad school because they have between a 3.0 – 3.5. So, again, I think so many of us have the tendency to do this simply because we know that’s what’s gonna be the difference between you and the 6,000 other kids on paper. And I hate it.

    Oh and it’s awesome that I’ll be a senior in the fall and STILL can’t get into classes that I need to take to graduate or apply to grad school (or even those really cool classes that you just want to take) because they’re full by my registration date. Way to go, UMich!


  8. Cortney, I am the exact same way. I fully admit to being the worst test-taker ever. It’s not that I don’t study the material for hours on end, I just somehow always get stuck between two multiple choice answers- answers that look merely identical, but one or two words are tweaked. ARGH! And then I choose the wrong answer, of course, thinking the question was trying to play some mind trick on me.

    Sooo, to answer your post Carly, I guess choosing between grades and the professor never poses a problem for me. I always go with a genius professor, even if he’s a hard grader…because I just know I’m doomed when it comes down to tests. All I can do is try my hardest (Thank you Mom and Dad for instilling that life lesson in my head).

    As Cortney said, I don’t think one’s GPA reveals their intelligence level. It is unfortunate that grad. schools and jobs pay a lot of attention to them, however I really do believe that many of them also care about you as an individual. I think that explaining in an application essay or to a job interviewer about that one incredible, but challenging professor (no matter the grade you received in the class) really shows a lot more about you and who you inspire to be. We go to Michigan for a reason. I believe that if we wanted the easy way out, we could have gone somewhere else. But no, we chose here. So why wouldn’t we take advantage of the incredible professors and opportunities Michigan gives us?

  9. I must be the only person who doesn’t even look at “Rate my Professor” when decide what section or even class to take. I usually don’t have much of a choice because I have a major and two minors, so my pickins are slim, but I think I’ll check that site out now as my enrollment date starts tomorrow at 5:15PM. Can’t hurt right?

    Thankfully, I can’t recall a single professor that I felt was especially “difficult” or “boring.” Every single one I’ve had, especially the ones in the film department, have been fair and extremely entertaining and passionate about the subject matter. Best of luck to you all as the enrollment dates roll in…

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