Editorial: Weed-Outs are Whack

Editorial 9/10
Taylor Nguyen
Weed-out classes affect students across campus often causing them to stay an exta year or switch majors.

Ask any chemical engineering student about their worst required class, and most will readily relay the horrors of CHEG 112. This notorious weed-out course has forced many from the major. Those who fail the course and still want to obtain a degree in chemical engineering often have to tack a year onto their projected graduation date.

Weed-out classes, however, do not only affect chemical engineering students. Students across campus, in majors ranging from communications to mathematics, fall victim to weed-outs. Although the concept of weed-out classes are not completely flawed — we do need standards, after all — they often have a profoundly negative effect on students. This holds across colleges, majors and campuses. Despite the ubiquity and seeming necessity for these classes, the university should relay a better concept of any given major to incoming students before they are forced to fully rethink their academic trajectory.

While some freshmen are quick to brag that they excelled in honors courses throughout high school, those same students may find themselves struggling to adjust to college. Most students have no clue how demanding their early college courses can be, and an online math placement exam — where internet answers are readily available from the comfort of your living room — hardly predicts student success in college calculus.

Additionally, students are given an incomplete idea of major-related demands during new student orientation and before add/drop is over. It is unfair for underclassmen to be shuttled into an immobile schedule without first being given a taste of what a weed-out course will entail.

When weed-out classes are only offered one semester per year, it causes some students to fall a full year behind schedule. If the sole purpose of a class is to weed-out unfit or mediocre students, the class should be offered every semester. Then, students forced to retake the class would not have to pay an additional year’s worth of tuition in order to graduate with their intended degree. At new student orientation, advisors should encourage students to achieve the largest possible breadth of classes in their first-year schedule, giving them some mobility if engineering or biochemistry turns out to not be their thing. Also, students should be warned before enrollment that failure in a single course could lead to an extra year of school.

And, while the university of course profits off of fifth-year seniors and students prevented from graduating early, these courses also allow the university to sneak in some extra profit early on. Engineering, nursing and business majors, due to a policy announced last year, must now pay higher tuition. First-year students, when declaring these often rigorous majors, have little awareness of what the course load actually involves. They may find that, while taking their first semester prerequisites — only tangentially related to the actual degree — that the major is not right for them, or they might fail the class.

The tuition hikes should not kick in until after a student takes, and passes, the necessary weed-out classes. This financial burden is especially unfortunate when considering the stigma around dropping an engineering major. Students are being forced to stay an extra year to complete an engineering degree that they do not even want.

Although it is ultimately up to the individual to make the grade, students should be empowered to do well instead of being cornered into a difficult curriculum. The university should not rely on weed-out classes to make certain majors smaller or more exclusive. Rather, there should be more resources available to struggling students who want to remain in their chosen major after failing a weed-out class. Of course, a student should know their limits and choose their major based on their strengths, but it is a disservice on the part of the university to push smart and dedicated students to stay an extra year — or two — in order to be qualified for their dream profession.

Editorials are developed by The Review’s editorial board, led this week by Editorial Editor Alex Eichenstein. She can be reached at aeichen@udel.edu.

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