Students who switch majors should not be punished for their past performance. Yet, that is exactly what happens for some when cumulative GPAs are calculated.
As we all know, cumulative GPAs at Virginia Tech are calculated using all qualifying courses taken at the university. This policy is common among almost all universities.
However, it is nonsensical and particularly unfair to internal transfer students wishing to pursue graduate studies. These students usually attempt to attain advanced degrees in their new fields, not the old ones they switched out of.
It is no secret that GPAs reflecting a less-than-stellar performance in your original major makes you less attractive to graduate admissions programs.
For example, top law schools try to admit applicants whose GPA and LSAT scores will not hurt their median or percentile numbers.
When a former-engineering major like me wants to apply to law school, deans of admissions will take my decent cumulative GPA into account. My in-major GPA, which is much better, will not be the number factored into median GPA statistics for law schools.
What I advocate is a policy change where performance in your former major is not as detrimental to your job or graduate school prospects. Such a policy change will only have positive effects.
First, it will increase the number of Tech students going to good graduate schools, because their cumulative GPAs will reflect the performance in their new majors.
Second, it will give Tech a competitive advantage because most other schools do not have fair GPA recalculation policies in place.
The most pragmatic reason school administrators should embrace this policy change is that, as a result of Tech alumni receiving excellent graduate education and better job placement opportunities, they will be able to donate more to Tech in the long-run.
What could people see wrong with such a policy change in GPA calculation?
One might argue that this would give students the option of switching to “easy” majors to boost their GPAs. While this is a possibility, administrators should not assume this.
A more likely scenario is a student in a difficult major, does poorly, and transfers into a different major to get better grades.
If better grades are obtained, it means the student’s skills and interests were a better fit for that new major. This student will enjoy a successful career in his or her new field.
Another scenario is that a student transfers into a new major and then does terribly. In this case, the student’s recalculated GPA will also reflect a poor performance. This seems very fair and encourages students to perform better in their new major.
And what if students transfer majors repeatedly? The best solution would be to limit students to only one GPA recalculation. If a student switches majors twice, for example, GPA recalculation would not take place and the cumulative GPA would reflect all courses taken at the university.
Another argument against GPA recalculation is that there are so many ways to implement it, and not everyone will be satisfied with what is adopted. While this is certainly true, any discussion of the topic will lead to a better policy than what is currently instituted.
One of the few universities with a GPA recalculation policy, the Rochester Institute of Technology calculates cumulative GPA based solely on the courses required for the new program. I advocate something along these lines, with an exemption for CLE courses. These could not be excluded from GPA calculations.
I am passionate about this issue, and I hope others feel the same way. This policy must be changed for the benefit of our students and the university.