College Advisor Role

Although the particular case which aroused so much comment would seem to be settled, I think perhaps there are three general issues still to be faced.

One is the differences among colleges in grading scales, in the present example between those that use plus and minus grades and those that don't. In the C range case discussed, it would seem advantageous to take courses at a school which did not use the +/- system. On the other hand, for students whose grades are often in the upper ranges of a grade interval, the +/- system would carry an advantage for some.

Opening another can of worms, in theory using grades "objectively" assumes that an A, is an A, is an A. Anyone who has ever been a student or has ever worked in Academe knows this not to be true. There is no such animal as a national, uniform, completely objective scale of grading, invariable from college to college, department to department, course to course, instructor to instructor. Even within single departments, one instructor's criterion for A may differ from another's. Thus, grades too are judgment calls. I won't belabor the point further.

The third issue is that of having rigid cutoffs, i.e., C-, although passing, as not acceptable. Being someone who looked at everything in a student's academic record such as pattern of course choices each semester, other demands on a student's time,
responsibilities, unexpected contingencies, etc., and recognizing that high grades alone are not necessarily the best measure of intellectual competence nor of suitability for becoming a health professional, my evaluation and support level was never based on rigid categories. C- is not a good grade, but it is passing, and a single C-, maybe even two, in an otherwise good record should not necessarily be ground for non-support. And all the more so if there are otherwise very positive aspects of a student's candidacy for a professional education. Belief that context is important in evaluation, I always tried to look at and present a whole picture.

Although it is expensive, time consuming, a drain on human resources and not always effective, I believe that the US system (especially requiring letters and the interviewing of applicants) for selecting students for admission to medical school is appropriate. We
hear often enough that we want to turn out more than technically competent physicians. In my opinion, for that goal to be achieved we must begin with more than technically (read academically) competent medical students.

Judgment calls everywhere. The downside: 'Tis with our judgments as our watches, none go just alike, yet each believes his own.     Alexander Pope: Essay on Criticism

Dan Marien

Physician Workforce Studies

Education - the entire pipeline