M&M Rounds: You Got an F

During M&M rounds, we will examine some fictitious cases and evaluate the facts and consider some solutions to these problems.

Melissa is a 19-year-old Caucasian female presenting for receiving an “F” grade in Physics I.  She intends to go to veterinary school and is concerned that this mark on her transcript will prevent her from being accepted.

Melissa’s history is that she was in her second semester of college when she took Physics I.  She was also taking Chemistry II, Biology II, English Composition, and Eastern European History, for a total of 18 credits.  Melissa was a good student in high school, easily earning a 3.85 GPA, and took a couple of AP classes during her senior year.  Her first semester of college was relatively light, and she decided to increase her class load for the second semester, with a goal of applying to vet school after her second year of undergrad.

During her second semester, Melissa struggled with the course load, fulfilling responsibilities for a few clubs she was in, and spending time with her friends.  Before the second exam in Physics I, her high school boyfriend broke up with her and she got an “F” on the exam.  Before the final exam in Physics I, she was diagnosed with COVID and had to quarantine, which dramatically affected her happiness and motivation, and she got an “F” on the final.

The treatment is fairly straightforward: Melissa will have to retake Physics I.  Possibly during the summer, when she is not taking other courses, or during a semester when she has a relatively lighter load.  Having had the experience of a relationship ending and getting sick, next time she will be a little more resilient and be able to keep up her studies in spite of personal tragedy OR come up with mechanisms to manage the situation, e.g. talking to the professor, making use of university resources, seeking professional psychological help, or taking a medical withdrawal.

I see students on the APVMA Facebook group worry about this scenario a lot.  As an evaluator, I don’t think much of a single “F” on a transcript, as long as the rest of the coursework is laudatory.  I figure Something Happened to the student during that course (or semester).  Maybe they didn’t get along with the professor.  Maybe they slept through the final.  Who knows.  A single “F” isn’t a disaster by any means in my mind.

I think there are several lessons to be learned here.  One: Shit Happens.  You cannot control everything in the world, and sometimes things will happen to you that affect your life.  You get into a car accident.  Your parents die.  Life happens, and is unpredictable.  Two: A single “F” is not a problem.  Three: Just because you did well in high school doesn’t mean you’ll do well in college.  Four: When you have bad things happen, reach out for help.  You are never alone, there are people who can help.  Use that support.

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