I am currently taking a course where my final mark is determine by 2 papers worth 50% each. I really hoped to get at least a B on my first paper. Unfortunately, I got a B- (71%?). I worked for 2-3 weeks on this very short paper and got help from both my TA and the writing clinic. I am in my final semester of undergrad (have not applied to grad school yet) and now I am considering dropping this course. If I drop this course, I will not be able to graduate in June and will have to take a course in the summer. This also means that I will only have 3 courses on my transcript this semester (if I drop it). This is a philosophy course and thus there is no positive correlation between how hard one studies and their mark (professors have told my class this many times). I will need a B+ on my second essay. I want to graduate in the top 10% of my class and, in order to do that, I need at least a 75% in this class. However, I am not sure how possible this is no matter how much I study or how much help I get. My other marks on my transcript are good, especially the ones that relate to the program I am interested in doing graduate work in. I am not studying philosophy in graduate school. My cGPA is a 3.5 and my GPA for the past 2 years of study is a 3.6-3.7. Graduate schools usually require at least a 3.3 for the last 2 years and a 3.0 overall.

I am not sure whether or not to drop this course. Will a low mark (high 60s/low 70s) in my last year affect my chances for grad school?

EDIT: "Good" GRE scores will not be able to "make up" for an discrepancies in my transcript since I am not required to take the GRE (nor is it accepted by most places).

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    This is a philosophy course and thus there is no positive correlation between how hard one studies and their mark -- What is this I don't even – JeffE Mar 4 '17 at 15:58
  • @JeffE In philosophy courses that are essay-based (no final exam), often times someone can spend 3 weeks on an essay and get a poor mark whereas another person can write an essay overnight and get an A. It's all a matter of how well you form your arguments and not how well you know the topic. Our professors have told us this many times. Whereas in science courses, if you study hard for an exam, you will likely to well. – aspire94 Mar 4 '17 at 16:26
  • If you're applying to philosophy programs, the course matters. If you aren't, it probably doesn't matter much. And I recall there being an entire term specifically for people getting lazy and under-performing in their senior year (because they finally see the end in sight). I don't remember it, though. It was my last year and I wasn't really paying attention... – zibadawa timmy Mar 5 '17 at 2:25
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    It's all a matter of how well you form your arguments — Sure. But one can study and practice forming arguments, just as one can study and practice solving differential equations or cooking or playing basketball. If the class really does grade based on a skill that is impossible to improve, what on earth is the point of taking it? – JeffE Mar 5 '17 at 5:23
  • @zibadawatimmy Right, I understand that many people would slack off in their senior year. However, that is, by no means, me. If anything, I have actually worked harder this year as I know that this is not the end of my academic career and I need high grades for graduate school. – aspire94 Mar 5 '17 at 5:46

This is March. Isn't a little late to start applying for fall?

If you get a conditional acceptance somewhere, you should be able to satisfy the conditions with summer study.

For a PhD, grades are not the be-all end-all -- as long as you are not falling out of good standing.

As a PhD student, you'll need to take responsibility for your progress.

You could start preparing for your new role as a student by pretending that you are already a PhD student, and focusing on things that matter more than a letter grade.

Think: what other criteria can help you decide whether to drop a particular course?

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  • The program that I am applying to is an MSc that has a rolling application process. Meaning, I can start in any semester (as long as I find a supervisor). I plan to apply for the winter semester (2018). – aspire94 Mar 5 '17 at 5:43

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