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Old 01-24-2020, 02:57 PM
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Do you think colleges have flunk out classes?


My mom is convinced that state universities have so-called flunk out classes where they weed out a lot of the freshman class. I didn’t find this to be true, none of the required classes were particularly difficult. Still, she’s insistent that classes like the mandatory English composition classes are designed to fail a percentage of the students who got in with just a certain GPA and SAT score.

Now, I can certainly understand if you get an F in Calculus I, it might be time to reconsider that engineering major, but I don’t think the school would have you out on your ass the day after finals. But, the required calculus and statistics courses were certainly reasonable for non STEM
majors and I doubt anyone failed that showed up to class sober.

It was my opinion that the freshman English classes could be passed by anyone who could fog a mirror. In fact, in the second composition class, I was allowed to skip the last paper because I already had gotten A’s on every other paper so that would be my dropped paper.

What’s been your experience? My guess is that my mom really struggled with freshman English and math and is still sore about it to this day.
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Old 01-24-2020, 03:05 PM
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Supposedly organic chemistry was the flunk out class for pre med students.
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Old 01-24-2020, 03:12 PM
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My college did. There were no options besides engineering. They took a bunch of kids who were A students and freshman chemistry averaged a 60% on the first test. In fact their goal for for the freshman class across chemistry, physics, and calculus was basically a D. Then they would see about a 60% drop out rate freshman year.

Not everyone fails and in my graduating class of 2005 my department graduated the first person ever who graduated with a 4.0 in 100+ years. The teachers and staff were pissed and went after all of us to try to make sure he didn't get a 4.0. Since a 4.0 means you were perfect and there is no such thing as a perfect student.
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Old 01-24-2020, 03:13 PM
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Back in the antediluvian days of the early 1950's, I went to the an engineering college with the delightful name of the "Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy". It was unofficially known that the flunk-out courses were freshman chemistry and sophomore physics. And they certainly were, too. Lots of aspiring engineers decided that engineering wasn't for them after taking one of these classes.
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Old 01-24-2020, 03:18 PM
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Supposedly organic chemistry was the flunk out class for pre med students.
Yep, I took about three weeks of orgo and just said, fuck this, med ain't for me.(Got through calculus II & III and accelerated chemistry just fine, though. I just wasn't in the right headspace for orgo my sophomore year. Physics also had a reputation as being a tough slog.)

There definitely were classes with a reputation as "weed outs" in the STEM fields. Students wouldn't so much "flunk out" (like get a literal "F" and have it affect their GPA) as they would drop the class before the grade affected their academic record (I believe we had something like 6 weeks to drop a class.) Typically, the first major test of the semester (well, trimester/quarter in my case) was scheduled before the official drop deadline for this reason. Some teachers may sneak two in there before the drop deadline, depending on their testing philosophy (several smaller tests or two big tests.)

Last edited by pulykamell; 01-24-2020 at 03:22 PM.
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Old 01-24-2020, 03:19 PM
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I can certainly say that in any hard science, most of the hardest classes are towards the beginning of the program, and that a lot of students do drop out (usually into easier majors) after them. Whether that's the deliberate intention, I can't say, but it's certainly the effect.
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Old 01-24-2020, 03:19 PM
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They don’t have to be “flunk out” courses. In my university, we had pre-engineering classes in the freshman year then we applied to the various engineering colleges. In my year 110 students were admitted to sophomore engineering then 100 were allowed to actual become EE majors in our junior year.

Physics for engineering, calculus for engineering and chemistry for engineering were the weed out classes where students who didn’t have an aptitude for engineering would face reality.

In the “old” days people could retake classes again and again until they got a grade high enough to make the cut. The other departments got sick of marginal students clogging up the classes so they instituted a policy that a class could only be repeated once.
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Old 01-24-2020, 03:19 PM
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It depends on what classes are offered. My university has a lot of older students returning to study after a long break from high school. It might have been 8 to 10 years since graduation.

They need to retake their college prep courses in math and English. The university offered intro to Algebra and English Comp I & IIclasses when I attended.

Now the University refers the adult students to a two year school for those classes.

I know it must be discouraging.

Last edited by aceplace57; 01-24-2020 at 03:22 PM.
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Old 01-24-2020, 03:20 PM
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Supposedly organic chemistry was the flunk out class for pre med students.
I'm not sure if it was actually a "flunk-out" class, but Organic Chemistry was certainly a "weed-out" class for pre-engineering and pre-med students when I was in school (University of Wisconsin, 1980s). In my experience, it created a lot of liberal arts majors.

Also, IME, what served as "flunk-out" classes were whatever classes that met early in the morning, especially on Fridays; those classes were good at identifying students who were in school primarily to party.
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Old 01-24-2020, 03:22 PM
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As an engineering student in the late 80's, we had certain classes that "weeded out" students that should be in something less math-centric. The two 200-level physics, the 100 and 200 level calcs, and the 200 level engineering courses that were in your field (statics/dynamics for CEs, circuits for EE, etc). At least that is how we all felt at the time.
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Old 01-24-2020, 03:22 PM
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Still, she’s insistent that classes like the mandatory English composition classes
Freshman English?
That is not a difficult, "flunk-out" course.
It was (way back in the 1970's for me) just a remedial class for people who had never written anything in their lives and had zero idea how to put together 3 paragraphs in coherent order.
I helped my roommate with it, and was appalled. I edited his first couple assignments. Then I started making excuses to avoid helping him, because it was too awkward...I would have had to tell him to his face how incompetent he was. He wrote like a 10 year old. But he still passed the course,

Now, there were a few courses which had a reputation as "flunk-out" courses.But they weren't designed to be intentionally difficult---they were just a standard college course, which were often taken by sub-standard students
Organic chemistry was one such course. Lots of newly enrolled kids who thought it would be fun to be a rich doctor suddenly discovered that they had to change their plans. .

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Old 01-24-2020, 03:23 PM
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Also, IME, what served as "flunk-out" classes were whatever classes that met early in the morning, especially on Fridays; those classes were good at identifying students who were in school primarily to party.
This part was also true at my school. A lot of the "weed out" courses met during the first period. And these were classes that you had to show up if you were going to pass.
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Old 01-24-2020, 03:26 PM
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I know it must be discouraging. Adult students typically have jobs and familys. They attend night classes.

It's a burden to take catch up classes at a different school.
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Old 01-24-2020, 03:32 PM
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True for my chemical engineering program, in the sense that the first ChemE course was a requirement before any of the other ChemE courses could be taken. The average scores on the exams were low, the eventual drop-out rate of the class was well over 50%.

That being said, I never felt that first class, while challenging, was substantially more difficult than a majority of the subsequent classes. My grade in that first class was on par with many of my grades in subsequent core ChemE classes (my grades were mediocre in college, generally). So I don't think it was so much a "weeder" class as it was that my program was probably accepting too many people that they really shouldn't have been there in the first place.
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Old 01-24-2020, 03:32 PM
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Freshman English?
That is not a difficult, "flunk-out" course.
It was (way back in the 1970's for me) just a remedial class for people who had never written anything in their lives and had zero idea how to put together 3 paragraphs in coherent order.
Yeah, for me, Fall 1993, it was not a remedial course, but not a "flunk-out" course, either. It was required of all freshman in the college of arts and sciences to take it to fulfill a writing requirement. I believe its main purpose was to identify students who may need additional help in transitioning from high school to college and the level of writing and English proficiency expected of them but it was, in general, a fairly easy course if you have any semblance of basic writing and rhetorical skills.
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Old 01-24-2020, 03:38 PM
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Also, IME, what served as "flunk-out" classes were whatever classes that met early in the morning, especially on Fridays; those classes were good at identifying students who were in school primarily to party.
Shit I never thought of that. I always wondered why Physics II had a class at 8am on friday.
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Old 01-24-2020, 03:42 PM
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The average scores on the exams were low, the eventual drop-out rate of the class was well over 50%.
The accelerated chemistry class I took was crazy. I remember after the first test being so bummed out and feeling I had taken the absolute worst test of my life, only to find out the next week that the curve was so high that anything over 40% on the test was an A. This teacher just ratcheted up the difficulty levels for the test so high that I don't think any of his tests anyone scored higher than maybe 60%. It was impossible to get a sense of how well you did on the test, as every single test felt like failure, and would have been failure in a non-curved context. I finished that class with a B+, but, Christ, after that first test, I thought for sure I was going to fail the first class of my life (hell, I hadn't gotten any grade less than a B in my life until that point.)

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Old 01-24-2020, 03:56 PM
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Another engineer checking in and I am going to agree with the masses. There were classes that were brick walls for some people but they certainly weren't intentional flunk out classes. They were all more or less necessary to understand if you were going to be an engineer. Very few people who started out as freshman wanting to be engineers ended up getting an engineering degree. It's just to damn difficult and way too much work for them or, in some cases, they found something that they enjoyed more. Mostly, they couldn't hack it though no matter what they told you.

ETA: The is no way that Freshman English is a weed out class.

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Old 01-24-2020, 04:07 PM
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When I was a grad student in CS, I was a TA for a flunk out class, except we hardly flunked anyone. It was the first class CS majors took after CS101. Structured programming was new then, so we gave them an assignment in Pascal and graded the hell out of it. Two reasons - students who got scared by that were not likely to be good CS students, and this was an Assembly class, and if they didn't write structured assembly code they'd get lost.
Grades for this program were low. We had a late drop date, so those who couldn't hack it had ample time to drop.
We dropped this grade when computing the final grade, since if someone screwed up that program and learned from it, they shouldn't be penalized.
Relatively few people failed the class, and they had to work at it.
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Old 01-24-2020, 04:17 PM
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I rather doubt ENGL101 or ENGL102 is anyone's flunk out class unless someone's writing ability is so abysmal that they can't even pass that - then yes, they have no business being in college.

But fields like engineering are expensive, and medicine is high-stakes - patient's lives depend on it. You can't have any half-assed students in there. Either they can do it, or they can't. You don't want to waste time training engineering students who can't hack the math, nor med students who are going to accidentally kill patients by not being up to par. The sooner you weed out the wannabes, the better.
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Old 01-24-2020, 04:21 PM
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Although not the same thing, I recall from James Herriot's memoirs that he would often take new veterinarian students (or wannabe vets) out on visits with him to farms where they would see just how besmeared he became in foul cow feces, etc. in the course of his day's work, as a way of weeding out all the people with a rose-tinted notion of what a vet's job was like.
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Old 01-24-2020, 04:25 PM
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In forestry and natural resources every school I've seen has a dendrology/plant identification class early on. I assume the classes are all pretty similar and realistically boil down to memorization. You do learn a good amount valuable stuff but I really think they're just testing your commitment. Are you willing to walk around with 90 flash cards and study them 3 or 4 times a day, if not, go home.
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Old 01-24-2020, 04:28 PM
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Some departments at some universities mount giant undergrad courses, taught by untenured instructors and grad students, to get large enrollment numbers, which let the department argue for more tenure track hires. These courses are often difficult and badly taught, or taught very impersonally and rigidly, to drive students out. That lets the tenured profs teach small upper level classes. It is, IME, and IMHO, very cynical and immoral. Looking at you, ECON 101!
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Old 01-24-2020, 04:38 PM
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I went to an arts and communications school; you had to really try hard to flunk out. But there was an honors program that was tough to get into for graduating high school students and incredibly demanding during freshman year, so much so that a significant percentage--at least ten, maybe twenty--dropped out of the program at the end of the first year. This meant there were openings for rising sophomores to apply, which was an incredibly sweet deal; it was much easier to get in and you skipped the hard work of that first year. Honors students got half off tuition every year they were in the program, so getting in as a sophomore was still a substantial discount, and a much better ratio of compensation to effort than those who got in as freshmen but dropped out. In retrospect, it kind of seems like a loophole that shouldn't be there, but I was happy to take advantage of it at the time.

It's also kind of an open secret that lower-tier law schools, at least in California, fully expect a third or more of their students to drop out after the first year. It's pretty easy to predict which students will drop out based on their LSAT scores, which raises the question of whether the practice of admitting these students in the first place and collecting $40-60k in tuition is exploitative. Part of me thinks it is; part of me recognizes that there are a handful of folks out there with artificially low scores due to circumstances, or who are capable of more than you'd think due to sheer grit, who deserve the chance, and that the risk is theirs to take as adults.
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Old 01-24-2020, 05:03 PM
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I was a Computer Science prof. In the late 80s and 90s the demand among students to be a CS major grew at astonishing rates.

At one place I was at half of the incoming class said they wanted to get into the CS program. One wee problem, we didn't have an undergrad program! PhD only. To handle a fraction of that number of students we would have to had at least 10 times as many faculty. And guess how hard it was to hire a ton of PhDs in CS at the time.

The one "big" place had a general rule: 50% drop out of the major first year. 60% drop out of the first course (Data Structures) in 2nd year.

And we still had way too many completely unqualified people reaching the upper division classes.

Out of 200 or so graduates per year, maybe about 40 of them know what was what. Of those less than 10 were actually good.

And yet they all got jobs right away. You want to know why there's so much crap software out there? Not enough incompetent people getting strained out and the idiots at companies hiring them, sometimes despite explicit warnings. (We've even had companies complain about students. We just point out we warned them and they still hired them.)
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Old 01-24-2020, 05:05 PM
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We definitely had "weed-out" classes at my undergrad. Were they intentionally designed to winnow the wheat from the chaff? I don't know. But they were hard enough for the average student to fill that role.

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Old 01-24-2020, 05:13 PM
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As an engineering student in the late 80's, we had certain classes that "weeded out" students that should be in something less math-centric. The two 200-level physics, the 100 and 200 level calcs, and the 200 level engineering courses that were in your field (statics/dynamics for CEs, circuits for EE, etc). At least that is how we all felt at the time.
If it weren't for the EE, ME, and CE weed out classes the industrial engineering department would have had no students.
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Old 01-24-2020, 05:18 PM
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Having taught many, many sections of freshman English (at one state flagship university and two not-especially selective smaller universities, one private and one public), I can pretty much guarantee you that nobody is using freshman comp as a weed-out course. The pressure on faculty very much runs the other way, toward passing as many students as possible.

This does not mean it can't be a difficult course. It often is, for students who have inadequate high school preparation and / or are unable to adjust to the amount of personal responsibility involved in being a college student. Both of these are common situations, since there are plenty of high schools where students have not been asked to do any significant amount of writing, and freshman comp tends to be a course that demands a lot of responsibility on the student's part. Grades are primarily based on out-of-class work, so simply showing up for the exam isn't good enough; students are expected to plan ahead and meet deadlines. Also, there's usually a lot of group workshopping of papers involved, so the attendance policies tend to be stricter than other college courses. For a certain subset of students -- the ones who have just realized nobody is going to MAKE them go to class, but haven't yet realized this means THEY need to make themselves go to class -- this means they can get sucked into a failure spiral very quickly.

But universities, in general, are not trying to weed out students from their student body as a whole. Why would they? More students usually means more revenue (even public universities are more tuition-driven than not these days, and besides, state funding formulas are usually based on enrollment). The university nearly always has an incentive to recruit and retain as many students as possible. Individual programs, on the other hand, sometimes do want to weed out students. If half of your incoming freshman class thinks they want to major in nursing, but you don't have enough nursing faculty to teach them all, and besides your program's reputation is based on how many of them are able to pass a standardized licensing exam, so you don't want students who won't be able to succeed -- then it makes sense to have some fairly strict weeding-out courses early on in the program. But those courses aren't going to include ones that are required for all students, like freshman comp. What the university wants is for all of those would-be nursing students to transfer to other majors, not flunk out of college altogether.
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Old 01-24-2020, 05:33 PM
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Supposedly organic chemistry was the flunk out class for pre med students.
Oh, it wasn't that bad.

On the other hand I am one of the the tiny minority who managed to get an M.D. degree despite nearly flunking Bio 101 in college (I managed a C only through intense cramming for the final).*

*it would've helped if I'd gone to class.
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Old 01-24-2020, 07:08 PM
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Back in the early 70s we had them; and unluckily for some people which was which changed now and then. Which meant graduating seniors got nailed in some intro-level class you almost couldn't pass but where they needed the credits for distribution of studies requirements. 99% of the time those over the "rank" of sophomore knew which were what, often by the choice of professor, but every so often you had this massive withdrawal of upper class-men or a lot of petitions for credit/no entry.

I, on the other hand, as an ignorant freshman, ended up in one and nailed it. Which made me an instant Rising Star in the psych department.
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Old 01-24-2020, 07:17 PM
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When I went to college there was a freshman prerequisite science class that had a reputation that no freshman ever passes it on their first try, to the point multiple faculty and advisors told me to not take it my freshman year since I'd just have to retake it after.

Deciding to accept the challenge I went through the class and ended with a D. Wound up retaking it next semester with a B+. Honestly don't know why it was so hard, I just found it super hard to concentrate since the material was so dry.
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Old 01-24-2020, 07:39 PM
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I'm not sure if it was actually a "flunk-out" class, but Organic Chemistry was certainly a "weed-out" class for pre-engineering and pre-med students when I was in school (University of Wisconsin, 1980s). In my experience, it created a lot of liberal arts majors.

Also, IME, what served as "flunk-out" classes were whatever classes that met early in the morning, especially on Fridays; those classes were good at identifying students who were in school primarily to party.
Oddly enough, the smartest guy in my organic chem class was not pre-med, but pre-chiropractic. He said it was the best career path because your patients never die, but they never get better either.

It was a funny curve in that class, we were a very small class, but had a full fifty percent who finished higher than the 85th percentile on the American Chemical Society final exam for Organic Chemistry II, and we also had two students whose final score on the ACS final (70 multiple choice questions) was worse than random.
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Old 01-24-2020, 08:08 PM
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lots of engineering students switch to an easier major after freshman year. My son went from Chem Eng to environmental science and graduated with honors. He could have stayed in Chem Eng grade wise but he did not like it. He took calculus , chemistry and physics 2nd semester freshman year - that weeds out a lot of Engineering kids.
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Old 01-24-2020, 08:42 PM
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I went to a large state university in the 1980s, and I didn't get the impression any of the classes were deliberately designed to flunk students out of college. The university wanted their tuition money, and bouncing students out was not part of the game plan. There were some very difficult courses, but primarily in upper division classes. Organic chem wasn't too hard for me, but physics could be a struggle, and a comparative anatomy and physiology course had the reputation of being one of the most difficult classes in the school, primarily because the prof was a hard ass and made the tests so difficult. He graded on a curve, though, and like a poster upstream mentioned, the percentage scores could be really low though the grade high. I got something like a 60% on the first test in comp A&P, and it was one of the highest in the class. I ended up getting a very very difficult B in the class.
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Old 01-24-2020, 09:02 PM
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My mom is convinced that state universities have so-called flunk out classes where they weed out a lot of the freshman class.
Speaking as someone who's been teaching at colleges and universities for the last 10 years, in the context your mom says this it's absolutely not true.

Yes, within individual faculties (especially "professional programs") there are "flunk out" courses like organic chemistry. Although in my experience they are not really "flunk out", but rather grade threshold courses ("you must get over 80% to apply to med school"). The objective is to give the students a dose of reality and get the less bright students out early and have them transfer to a different major, not to flunk out.

This is true:
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I can pretty much guarantee you that nobody is using freshman comp as a weed-out course. The pressure on faculty very much runs the other way, toward passing as many students as possible.
For every school I've been at the pressure is to pass students and limit the "flunk outs". Schools do not want to have students "flunk out" of uni in first year and lose that revenue stream for the next 4 years. Universities and colleges are businesses, that makes absolutely no sense.

This is also a reason why schools "bell curve" grades. Where I've taught, this is done to limits "flunk outs" to 5% of the total class, regardless of actual marks earned. I've had students pass my course with an actual average of 27%, they were bell curved to a "D".
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Old 01-24-2020, 11:53 PM
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I'm not sure if it was actually a "flunk-out" class, but Organic Chemistry was certainly a "weed-out" class for pre-engineering and pre-med students when I was in school (University of Wisconsin, 1980s). In my experience, it created a lot of liberal arts majors.

Also, IME, what served as "flunk-out" classes were whatever classes that met early in the morning, especially on Fridays; those classes were good at identifying students who were in school primarily to party.
I took general chemistry at a community college, with a tough but excellent teacher, and THAT weeded out a lot of pre-whatevers right there.

As for O-chem, which I took at a university, the lecture and half of the lab sessions were at 7:30AM.
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Old 01-24-2020, 11:57 PM
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Another engineer checking in and I am going to agree with the masses. There were classes that were brick walls for some people but they certainly weren't intentional flunk out classes. They were all more or less necessary to understand if you were going to be an engineer. Very few people who started out as freshman wanting to be engineers ended up getting an engineering degree. It's just to damn difficult and way too much work for them or, in some cases, they found something that they enjoyed more. Mostly, they couldn't hack it though no matter what they told you.

ETA: The is no way that Freshman English is a weed out class.
Pharmacists too!

Over the decades, most of my colleagues who started out majoring in something other than pharmacy started out in pre-med (more likely women) or pre-engineering (more likely men) and found that, especially in the latter case, they just couldn't handle the higher math needed for those majors. We did have to take a semester of calculus, but it was an "easier" version designed for people who needed to have calc under our belts but the "official" calculus wasn't really needed later on.
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Old 01-25-2020, 01:26 AM
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University of California Davis certainly had weed out classes. Take Chemistry 1 with 500 classmates, labs often taught by folks with English as a 2nd language, and if you couldn't hack that then it was obvious you shouldn't take any science class that required Chemistry. And that wasn't even the entry Chem class for science majors, which was a whole nother level. Ditto for calculus. These fundamental classes were to weed people out from being science majors.

There was also "bonehead" English class. You only got half credit, and if you couldn't pass this or retake and pass, then you really shouldn't be at the University of California. After my time, bonehead English was a zero credit course, in that you had to take if test scores, written test, whatever bar wasn't good enough. And instead of 4 credits, it was zero and if you didn't pass that was it for your time at a UC school. Not sure what the bar is now a few decades later.

Maybe a better way to characterize it as an "up or out" system. If one couldn't go up the ladder towards graduation, then you were guided/forced out of the university. While harsh, I think you can argue for a "sink or swim" approach to State subsidized Universities. That said, it's a world of difference to a nice private university where as long as you can pay tuition, there is a support group that's trying to get you to graduation versus culling the herd. Freshman or sophomore year can be hard for multiple reasons, many of which are non academic, and with a non "up or out system", many students can get over the hump and respectfully graduate.
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Old 01-25-2020, 01:36 AM
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This is also a reason why schools "bell curve" grades. Where I've taught, this is done to limits "flunk outs" to 5% of the total class, regardless of actual marks earned. I've had students pass my course with an actual average of 27%, they were bell curved to a "D".
MIT had a curve, and so did Illinois where I TA'ed. But I then went to a southern state school, where I was an instructor one term. I was teaching data structures, and gave a pretty hard test. The kids freaked out. They were used to absolute grades, and if I were grading that way, most of them would fail. The fault was mine, since I was testing on concepts not memorizable facts. I used a curve, and the next test i used some multiple choice.
The thing is, they needed the students not to drop out more than the other two schools. I think it might be tradition.
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Old 01-25-2020, 04:57 AM
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It's pretty easy to predict which students will drop out based on their LSAT scores, which raises the question of whether the practice of admitting these students in the first place and collecting $40-60k in tuition is exploitative. Part of me thinks it is; part of me recognizes that there are a handful of folks out there with artificially low scores due to circumstances, or who are capable of more than you'd think due to sheer grit, who deserve the chance, and that the risk is theirs to take as adults.
I was at university a long time ago. In the Engineering courses at the schools that were hard to get into, 3rd year was the toughest year. In some of the American schools at the time, it was common for students to plan to spread 3rd year out over 18 months: that wasn't an option at Melbourne University.

Medicine was a bit different (as it always is). I don't know which year was the toughest, but, in the two medical schools in my city, after first year there wasn't much thinking involved. If you found thinking more difficult than studying, then perhaps 1st year would have been the toughest.

Anyway: referring to the quotation I've given: one of my professors studied engineering intake selection. Scores on any available test were not very good predictors of 4 year completion. On his numbers, the best predictor was by asking the students high-school teachers how they thought the student would go -- and that prediction wasn't improved by using any of the available tests.

Last edited by Melbourne; 01-25-2020 at 04:58 AM.
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Old 01-25-2020, 08:22 AM
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Re: organic chemistry


I wonder how many students who take it as a prereq for some post-graduate program (e.g. med school) end up not applying. They don't necessarily flunk out of the class or their major (if it requires organic).

I don't think my school had anything with a high fail rate, but it's hard to know how many people changed intended majors (we didn't declare until the end of second year) or future plans.

I recall hearing one guy complaining that the CS department wouldn't accept him because he hadn't gotten an A in the intro CS class way back in his first semester. I get the impression it was a crowded department.
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Old 01-25-2020, 09:52 AM
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This is from 25 years ago, but at the school my brother was in as a freshman Computer Engineering student there was a push to increase the diversity of the student body, and they de-emphasized SAT scores and prioritized class rank. So that if you were #1 in your very bad high school, you got in, even with very modest SAT and even if you hadn’t taken the max AP math and science classes in high school.

By the time my brother was a senior they had put in some support programs to help the underprepared freshman. But it still seemed like a battle between Administration and faculty was raging.

The first year had a number of xxx for Engineering classes. By sophomore year the racial and socioeconomic diversity had been blown away, and the program was back to white and Asian students from relatively well off areas.
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Old 01-25-2020, 09:54 AM
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I wonder how many students who take it as a prereq for some post-graduate program (e.g. med school) end up not applying. They don't necessarily flunk out of the class or their major (if it requires organic).

I don't think my school had anything with a high fail rate, but it's hard to know how many people changed intended majors (we didn't declare until the end of second year) or future plans.

I recall hearing one guy complaining that the CS department wouldn't accept him because he hadn't gotten an A in the intro CS class way back in his first semester. I get the impression it was a crowded department.
I took organic chemistry as an elective. I was what is now called a non-traditional student. I didn't attend college out of high school, and wasn't in what were college preparatory classes in high school, but a few years out of high school started taking college classes in my spare time, a class or two here and there.

I didn't meet the prerequisites for general chemistry, so in order to take CHM 111 I had to take bonehead chemistry (CHM 103) with the nursing majors first. To the best of my knowledge I was the first student with credits in bonehead chemistry to finish two semesters of organic chemistry and quantitative analysis. I also got through two semesters of P-Chem but I had to go to a different college for that.
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Old 01-25-2020, 10:00 AM
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OH yes, but I say the weedout classes are in the math and science fields not English. When my daughter was on her college tour we stopped at Mich Tech for an appt with the Technical Writing dept, and the dept head expressed a little surprise we were there because all of the students in that program originated from the Engineering disciplines who couldn't cut it and landed in tech writing.
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Old 01-25-2020, 10:54 AM
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I didn't meet the prerequisites for general chemistry, so in order to take CHM 111 I had to take bonehead chemistry (CHM 103) with the nursing majors first.
Wait wat? Please tell me more about prereqs for genchem. This is alien to me. 👽

IIRC our prereq was being enrolled.
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Old 01-25-2020, 11:16 AM
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Yeah, it should be stressed that nobody's making courses difficult specifically to flunk out students. Differential equations and organic chemistry and the like are just inherently hard, but the students in the relevant programs still need to understand them. One way or another, a physics or math major is going to have to take DiffEQ eventually. The decision is just when to put that course in the sequence. If a lot of students are going to flunk out when they eventually take DiffEQ, then better for everyone if they do so early.

I don't, however, think that time-of-day scheduling is done to weed out students. Scheduling is hard enough as it is, without adding extra unnecessary constraints. Some classes are just going to end up in annoying time slots, is all.

The worst timeslot I saw was for an astronomy class offered over the summer. The laboratory session was from 10 PM to midnight (it had to be that late, since Montana summers don't get dark until that late, and part of the lab was observing), with the corresponding lecture at 8 AM the next day. I'm certain that that wasn't done deliberately, and that course inherently couldn't be a weed-out course (because it wasn't required for anything specific).
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Old 01-25-2020, 11:17 AM
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What’s been your experience? My guess is that my mom really struggled with freshman English and math and is still sore about it to this day.
Your mother is telling the truth. It is all about funding. What many of the colleges do, is they accept far more freshman than they will keep in their department. They use graduate assistants to handle the overload of courses with the intention to flunk those students out. Or they are told they don't like how they are progressing and are encouraged to change their major to another part of the college that needs more students in that major. With the promise they will get a job in that field. This helps them keep the high enrollment and pushes that funding to another part of the college for the less popular majors. They also like getting that big influx of cash the first term of the year, and then do their best to channel it elsewhere. They need the enrollment, they just want it in other majors where they have more empty seats in those classrooms.

I know this, because I've had at least two friends tell me about this when they were graduate students at a major university and they were instructed to only teach specific freshman classes that would only be needed for the first term, because they were told many of those students would be flunked out. So they wouldn't need them to teach the second part of those courses the next term. So the attitude was that they shouldn't spend time trying to help those students because they weren't going to be there the next term. At the time, both of them told me it didn't really register in their heads what the college was doing, because they were young and not thinking about how funding works. This was definitely by design. It wasn't some sort of Darwinism being practiced, it was a scheme by the college to increase their funding from tuition.
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Old 01-25-2020, 11:25 AM
Bill Door is online now
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Wait wat? Please tell me more about prereqs for genchem. This is alien to me. 👽

IIRC our prereq was being enrolled.
The prerequisite for CHM 111 was having taken and passed high school chemistry. I was not on a college trajectory in high school. I think that's the best way to put it. In fact, when I graduated I was as surprised as anyone.
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Old 01-25-2020, 11:25 AM
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The grading scheme for English comp classes at Ball State was severe. We had to write two-page themes in class without notes or any references whatsoever. The "limiter system" worked like this- for the mechanics grade, one limiter (spelling, punctuation, or grammar mistake) meant one letter grade off, and BSU didn't allow Ds in English classes. On my first paper, I made two "everyone...their" mistakes and used one Oxford comma the teacher didn't like. That gave me an F on mechanics, which averaged with my C+ content grade to give me an F on that paper. Needless to say, I didn't make those mechanics mistakes again.

I spoke with the English chair at BSU a few years ago, and things are less Draconian there now.
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Old 01-25-2020, 12:24 PM
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I want to be clear that for me a "flunk out" class is one where students are filtered out of the major and therefore into a major more suitable for them. Not for flunking out of college. All the places I am familiar with go to some lengths to help a failing student stay in school. You pretty much have to ignore/avoid all the help to flunk out of those colleges.
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