Keene State College senior Rachel Lally has a grade point average (GPA) of 3.8.

When she got her grades last semester, she was surprised to find she hadn’t made Dean’s List, which requires students to have a GPA of 3.5 or higher. What Lally didn’t realize at the time was that there was more to the policy. According to KSC’s website, the policy for Dean’s List also states the requirement of having at least 12 graded credits.

What happened to Lally was rare, but legitimate. Lally is a psychology major who took an honors seminar and research course in place of other classes, and these courses counted as a pass or fail mark instead of a numerical grade. These pass or fail course do not count towards her GPA, meaning they don’t contribute towards helping or hurting her chances of being on Dean’s List.

Lally  explained, “I took 14 credits total, but since some of my classes are pass/fail, these credits don’t count, so I really only have 10 credits. If I had taken more graded classes, I would have made Dean’s List,” she said. That might have proven difficult for Lally, as she works 10 to 15 hours a week for Monadnock Family Services and has her honors course in addition to other coursework. One could say her schedule is a full one.

Samantha Moore / Art Director

Samantha Moore / Art Director

Amidst all this, Lally made the grades and passed her courses, so when she didn’t make Dean’s List, she was confused. “I knew I had the grades, so I didn’t understand why I hadn’t gotten notified,” she said.

She emailed the registrar’s office, where they confirmed she hadn’t made Dean’s List and explained why. “I was disappointed, you know, it’s a big deal and it’s nice to post it on Facebook and have other people congratulate you. My mom had asked about it and I had to explain it all to her,” Lally said.

However, she decided to remain optimistic. “Just knowing it for yourself and knowing that things may not always work out made me feel better,” she said. “You can’t let it get to you too much.” Lally suggested that perhaps people could let her and other students in her predicament know before heading into it unknown. “I was never warned about this,” she said. However, she was quick to admit she didn’t know if for this particular situation, that might not have changed things. “I don’t know if I would have done things differently,” she said. “Ultimately, I do do what I can and try to be passionate about it.”

Another student’s story 

KSC senior Allison Sonia went through a similar experience as Lally. “I was in the same [Honors Seminar and Research] class as Rachel. It was a four credit class, but didn’t count towards my GPA because it was pass/fail.” Sonia said that while it’s not a huge deal, she was frustrated about hearing about it only after the fact.

She said she took the class after it was promoted as an insightful option to another course. “I was thinking it would enrich my education more to take this class. Now, it feels like I’m being penalized for taking that extra step,” she said.

Sonia said like Lally, it would have been nice to have known, but that it probably wouldn’t have made her change her schedule. Ultimately, she said she just feels short-changed. “I guess I just feel like I’m paying a full-time student [tuition], so I should get the benefits of a full-time student,” she said. “But again, it’s not the end of the world.”

Another situation with same outcome

For KSC junior Max Cucchi, he dealt with not making Dean’s List because his final grade wasn’t in on time. “So I’m a member of the Morris-August Honors Program at Keene State. All of the students within the program are required to take a course that features a two week study abroad following the end of the spring semester. The final assignment of the class was essentially a reaction paper on our experience abroad,” he said.

“Since the trip and the final assignment extended two weeks beyond the end of the semester, we were all given temporary incomplete grades, which basically rendered all of us ineligible for the Dean’s List that was published last spring.”

Cucchi said this was frustrating, especially since in order to go on the trip, a student needs a 3.5 which is the same GPA required for Dean’s List. “…the fact that furthering your education through the school’s honors college simultaneously limits your academic achievement within the college is aggravating. That’s the only time all of us didn’t make Dean’s List so far if I recall correctly,” he said.

Regardless of this, Cucchi said the trip was well worth it. “Oh, the experience definitely outweighs being on Dean’s List that one semester, but still upsetting to lose out on the perfect record. We all had a discussion with our professor and she said she would try to give us all an A because she also felt bad for us, but I think the program director ultimately was not for it.”

The program director Professor Robert Kostick could not be reached for comment at time.

Possible solutions for not making the cut 

KSC Registrar Tom Richard said that cover letters can address the situation. “That’s the beauty of a cover letter; you can do whatever you like in a cover letter. You can feature whatever aspects of your life you’d like to.”

He said that often, people think they need to be defined by achievements they’ve received more so than activities they’ve participated in.

“I think sometimes people get a little hung up on labels. Some students think it’s impressive to have minors or multiple minors. I don’t think anybody could answer that question. It really depends on the eye of the beholder. Some schools require all their students to have a minor, so what does that prove? Everybody’s the same,” he said.

Richard said the reason why the Dean’s List has such requirements as having 12 credits is because it’s intended to provide a distinction between a full-time and part-time student.

“So think about that for a moment. How is it fair for you to take four or five courses versus someone who is taking one course?” he said. “Basically, they wanted to make Dean’s List a full-time student’s issue, not a part-time student’s.”

However he acknowledged that it does affect the full-time students taking pass/fail courses. However, he didn’t see it as a hinderance. “I believe strongly in any kind of practical experience that you can get [such as] internships, volunteering, these sorts of things because people I think are looking for some sort of evidence that you have some understanding of what it’s really like to work in that field,” he said.

He explained that this is the reason for such courses as student teaching or research seminars, to give a student ample practice for the real world.

The benefits of non-traditional courses 

KSC  Professor of psychology Susan Menees teaches one of these research seminars. She said there’s a reason why a numerical grade isn’t given for these particular courses.

“It’s really if you make it, you’re getting a pass, if you’re not, you’re getting a fail. So we don’t really want to sign a letter that your projects an A project, but your project’s a C,” she said. “They have to meet certain criteria. If they met it, they pass.”

Menees said that students should know these type of courses won’t count towards their GPA. “It’s listed in the catalog, we tell them ‘You know if you don’t meet the criteria by the 11th week, you have to drop it,’ so we don’t generally fail them. We tell them they have to drop [it], but that doesn’t happen that often,” she said.

She said personally she finds that a student successfully having this experience far outweighs making Dean’s List. “The value of our honors program for our students, especially the ones that are in it and who are looking towards graduate programs…is to be able to tell graduate programs, ‘Gee I’m doing this intensive research experience that sort of mimics a mini master’s type of experience,’” she said.

“They’re able to talk about their research and the evolution of their research over the course of a year rather than a regular course per say.” She continued, “They’re getting the credits and I believe it’s on their transcript when they graduate college that they have honors psychology when they have completed it. The value in it is the process.”

Dorothy England can be contacted at dengland@kscequinox.com