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Making the Grade

Monday, Mar. 19, 2012

The best college student comment on "Making the Grade" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate.  Entries must be received by midnight, April 1.  Finalists are selected by likes, so get your friends to like your comment.  Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by email in the right hand column) for updates.

Alejandro is a junior economics major who wants to go into business. Right now, he needs to choose his classes for next quarter.  He’s interested in “Mathematical Economics and Optimization,” but it has the reputation of being a killer course. Instead, maybe he should take a class in Spanish, his native language. That would certainly help his GPA.

Should Alejandro challenge himself with the mathematical economics class knowing he will learn a lot? Or is he better off just taking the Spanish class, knowing he will get an A, which will help him toward his eventual goal of grad school or a business career?

Useful Resources

Framework for Ethical Decision Making
Does Your GPA Really Matter?
When the Tail Wags the Dog: Perceptions of Learning and Grade Orientation in, and by, Contemporary College Students and Faculty

Photo by Jose Kevo used under a Creative Commons license.

Comments Comments

Eugene Matthews said on Mar 21, 2012
Unless his GPA is suffering to the point it would negatively impact his near-term academic intentions, Alejandro will benefit significantly more now, and in the future, by taking the more challenging course. Along with expanding his knowledge, he will also benefit through expanding his professional and academic network into his chosen career field. IMHO it would be a better use of his resources to learn something he needs, rather than show something he knows. - Like - 4 people like this.
Deepti S. said on Mar 23, 2012
I think Alejandro would be selling himself short if he took the easy Spanish class. Sure, it might boost his GPA, which in turn might give him a better shot at a top MBA program. Still, it seems to me he would be defeating one of the primary purposes of college, which is to give students the opportunity to explore a variety of different things. Im not one of those one-track minded people who believe the sole purpose of college is to get into grad school/ prepare for my career of choice. Its not that I dont think college plays a significant role in preparing students for their future careers. It should, and it does, and students should use their time there to figure out what they want to pursue. But to take a class in which you probably wont learn anything? I dont think that does much in the way of giving you a clearer idea of your interests. College is the only time in our lives when we really get to test various waters, and to learn all kinds of different things. High school is much more structured. It doesnt offer many opportunities to explore varied interests. Grad school, on the other hand, forces us to pick one subject, rather than challenging ourselves to study many different ones. Given the fact that his college years might be the only time Alejandro might ever have to choose from such a huge and varied list of different classes, I think he would really be passing up an opportunity if he chose to take a class in which he might learn nothing. He would be the one losing out in such a situation. - Like - 4 people like this.
Cameron said on Mar 26, 2012
I have no ethical issue with Alejandro choosing Spanish over the economics class, so long as he works hard in Spanish to maintain his grade, rather than coasting along for an easy B, relying on his ability. I have Spanish-speaking friends who have earned Bs and Cs in Spanish classes, mostly because they dont think they need to do the work. As long as Alejandro works to his ability, I dont think there is a problem with taking Spanish. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Javier said on Mar 29, 2012
Based in his interests of learning new experiences or get a high GPA to finally graduate at the school of business, Alejandro has to decide whether one choice is better than the other one. But, you don't think that Alejandro would be better without excluding one of the chooses. If he excluded one of choices he would lost those specific benefits.From the other side if he take both classes he could withdrawn one and fail the other one. Now we are dealing with a new dilemma, the results or the consequences of our actions, if taking both choices maximize your level of happiness, satisfaction and desire Alejandro should take both classes, even though he needs more energy or efforts to finish them. - Like - 5 people like this.
Guirlens said on Mar 30, 2012
Every decision we make in our life has a future consequence, so before taking it we really have to analyze what is going to be better for us. In Alejandro's situation, is necessary to establish his goal first. He is almost graduated and his choice is hard due to the fact that he has to choose between two classes. One of the classes is going to be in Spanish, his native language, so it is going to be easier for him. It is not going to demand so much effort and he will graduate with a high GPA. But at the same time, this class is not going to provide him the necessary knowledge he will need as a future professional. On the other hand, the other class is going to be harder for him, it is going to demand effort, time, dedication but at the same time once he finish it and look back he will feel extremely happy and proud of himself. Every sacrifice gives you a good result and satisfaction in the future. Alejandro has the opportunity to choose to be a simple professional or to be a very well prepared professional. At that moment he'll notice his effort worthwhile.. - Like - 6 people like this.
Alexandra said on Mar 31, 2012
I think Alejandro have to choose Mathematical Economics and Optimization because he is interested in this course. Also, he can pass this course with a good GPA. All he can do is study really hard for it. Although this course has the reputation of being a killing course, maybe it can help him later. If he takes the easy way, he would not learn anything. But if he challenge himself and do everything to pass this course with a good GPA, he would learn a lot, and this course would be very useful for him. - Like - 5 people like this.
Alberto Silva said on Apr 2, 2012
I think Alejandro should take the killer course because the knowledge that he can take from that course will be very helpful for him in the future. If he really hopes a good result in his career, it is not a good idea choosing the easy way. I think facing difficult times it is what brings to you the maturity needed to be a succesful person. undoubtedly alejandro should take the famous killer course. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Miriam Schulman said on Apr 3, 2012
We really appreciated the efforts of the people who commented this week, but we didn't feel that any one of the comments was quite strong enough to win the gift card. Please keep posting. You can get some ideas about how to frame your comments in ethical terms with the Framework for Ethical Decision Making linked at the bottom of the case. - Like
Ashina Sheni said on Jan 28, 2014
I think Alejandro should still take Spanish as a course no matter how much knowledge he can gain ?Mathematical Economics and Optimization". Yes, this knowledge can be very useful but it does not mean that he has to in fact risk his own future. He can get this knowledge later, when he won't have to choose. Well-fixed future should be his priority. If the challenging course makes his GPA fall significantly this will put a negative impact on his chances of being admitted to the university where he truly can gain a lot of useful knowledge. Taking challenging course will give him knowledge at the beggining but at the end it will actually ruin the quality of knowledge he gets as he will have to go to the university where he won't knowledge he rally needs. The education in the university anyway will be more significant than education in high school. - Like
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Tags: grades